views updated May 08 2018


As with many concepts a tentative definition of danger is based on its use in ordinary language: it signifies either a situation or set of circumstances that compromise the security or existence of a person or thing. Aside from the past or present, it can include future situations, that is, threats or risks having a high probability of realization. This definition likewise concerns threats to the operation of the mind.

The term "danger" appeared for the first time in Freud's writings in an article entitled "On the Grounds for Detaching a Particular Syndrome from Neurasthenia under the Description 'Anxiety Neurosis"' (1895b [1894]). Freud used it to define an external situation likely to provoke emotional and structural reactions. The danger forces the psychic apparatus to ensure the stability of its organization by implementing defensive measures intended to avoid a catastrophic disturbance (psychic trauma).

There are two dimensions to the concept: (1) In terms of clinical treatment and theory, it implies the existence of two spaces, an external space with its own reality and an internal space that is part of what Freud named psychic reality (related to the later concept of reality-testing). (2) It entails the need to consider temporal differences, quantitative aspects, and specific effects. "Danger" refers to a situation that may have been accidental or contingent, consciously experienced, or unconscious.

This picture was later refined in Freud's work, but it retained its initial features. Situations involving danger came to be viewed as more internalized and more specific: the dangers of separation and object-loss, of castration, of uncontrollable drives, of threats from an internal object. With the development of the second theory of anxiety, the concept of danger became more ambiguous, almost completely identified with the anxiety that signaled its presence. However, it is essential to distinguish clearly between the affects of anxiety (Angst ), fright (Schreck ), and fear (Furcht ), each of which reflects a specific relationship to danger.

The notion of danger still has to be used with caution, especially in view of the inevitable and necessary evolution of psychoanalytic language, which now emphasizes psychic envelopes, the therapeutic setting, or a topography of "interfaces"rather than the older metapsychological models. There is also a risk of confusion with concepts from cognitive psychology and neurobiology (such as the concept of "stress," for example).

Claude Barrois

See also: Animistic thought; Annihilation anxiety; Anxiety; Castration complex; Darwin, Darwinism, and Psychoanalysis; Ego; Ego function; Envy; Fright; Id; Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety ; Negative transference New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis ; Fear; Projection; Suicidal behavior; Symptom-formation; "Uncanny, The".


Dayan, Maurice. (1985). Inconscient et réalité. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Freud, Sigmund. (1895b [1894]). On the grounds for detaching a particular syndrome from neurasthenia under the description "Anxiety Neurosis." SE, 3: 85-115.

Laplanche, Jean. (1980-87). Problématiques. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.


views updated May 14 2018

153. Danger

  1. Geiger counter radiation detector named for inventor. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 12]
  2. Mayday international radiotelephone distress signal. [Maritime Hist.: Misc.]
  3. Perils of Pauline cliff-hangers in which Paulines life is recurrently in danger. [Am. Cinema: Halliwell, 559]
  4. red alert final alert; attack believed imminent. [Military: Misc.]
  5. red flag symbol of peril. [Folklore: Jobes, 413]
  6. rhododendron symbol of approaching pitfalls. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 177]
  7. rhubarb symbol of approaching pitfalls. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 177]
  8. Scylla and Charybdis rocks and whirlpool, respectively, opposite each other in the Strait of Messina. [Classical Myth.: Zimmerman, 59, 235236]
  9. skull and crossbones alerts consumers to presence of poison; represents death. [Folklore: Misc.]
  10. SOS Morse code distress signal. [World Culture: Flexner, 359]
  11. Symplegades Clashing Cliffs at the entrance to the Black Sea, said to crush vessels. [Classical Myth.: New Century, 1043]
  12. Syrtes quicksands off the coast of northern Africa; any part of the sea dangerous to ships because of natural phenomena. [Rom. Myth.: Zimmerman, 251]
  13. sword of Damocles signifies impending peril; blade suspended over banqueter by a hair. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 297]
  14. thin ice universal symbol of possible danger. [Folklore: Misc.]
  15. Yuck, Mr. pictorial symbol denoting poison; grimacing face with tongue sticking out. [Am. Culture: Misc.]

Darkness (See NIGHT .)


views updated Jun 11 2018

dan·ger / ˈdānjər/ • n. the possibility of suffering harm or injury. ∎  a person or thing that is likely to cause harm or injury: infertile soils where drought is a danger. ∎  the possibility of something unwelcome or unpleasant.PHRASES: in danger of likely to incur or to suffer from: in danger of extinction.out of danger (of a person who has suffered a serious injury or illness) not expected to die.


views updated May 23 2018

danger †power of a master, dominion XIII; †liability to punishment, etc.; †hesitation, reluctance XIII; liability to injury XIV. — AN. da(u)nger. OF. dangier :- Rom. *domniārium, f. dom(i)nus lord, master.
So dangerous †difficult to deal with or please XIII; †reluctant to comply XIV; fraught with danger XV.