That was the first sensation I had when I heard about the demonstrations in Burma/Myanmar, because I felt that the junta would be moved to violent repression just like they were in 1988. I was too anxious about the possibility of more deaths and disappearances to get obstreperated: that gnawing dread effectively drives out hot anger leaving grey desperation.
The instillation of grey desperation is of course another reason why terror, such as the junta is now inflicting, is such an effective weapon in the battle to keep a populace passive. Terror is not just about making people fear in the here and now, it is about instilling dread of future recurrences. Simple fear might make people lash out in self-defence, but make them live with dread and they become anxious and passive instead.
It’s worked for the junta before. It’s worked for plenty of other tyrants before.
Edited to add:
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”
– Daw Aung San Suu Kyi