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Fright

FRIGHT

Fright, a state of sudden, extreme fear, is provoked either by a situation experienced as an external danger or by the feeling of a high probability of danger. Situations capable of causing fright are often associated with a risk of physical or mental death.

The term fright appeared in the Freudian corpus for the first time in the "Preliminary communication" (Breuer and Freud, 1893a) to the Studies on Hysteria (1895d). In this paper Freud evokes the links between certain forms of hysteria and traumatic neurosis, combined in the term traumatic hysteria. Unlike the physical expression of hysteria, the affect of fright is mental trauma.

In a clinical context, fright is accompanied by a state of shock and stupor or, more rarely, by disordered agitation. But ever since Freud, psychoanalytic clinical practice and theory have always emphasized the passivity of fright and total lack of preparedness of the subject in the face of the situation, which are due as much to the totally unforeseeable nature of the event as to the potential for concrete danger. It is in this sense that fright must be differentiated from fear (a concept implying a definite object) and anxiety (a central psychoanalytic concept connoting the anxious expectation of an external or internal danger that needs to be confronted). As with many concepts, this distinction between internal and external is primarily metaphoric. For example, "sexual fright" designates a cataclysmic eruption that has a disorganizing effect on the subject's mental life. Fright is associated with the splitting of the ego, the castration complex, and the perception of reality.

In light of the distinctions above, the concept of fright deserves a place in modern psychoanalysis, for it allows psychoanalysts to accurately assign theoretical and clinical categories and to avoid terminological ambiguity.

Claude Barrois

See also: Castration complex.

Bibliography

Barrois, Claude. (1988). Les névroses traumatiques. Paris: Dunod.

Freud, Sigmund. (1923d [1922]). A seventeenth-century demonological neurosis. SE, 19: 67-105.

. (1926d [1925]). Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety. SE, 20: 75-172.

. (1940c [1922]). Medusa's head. SE, 18: 273-274.

Freud, Sigmund, and Breuer, Josef. (1893a). On the psychical mechanism of hysterical phenomena: Preliminary communication. SE, 2: 1-17.

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fright

fright / frīt/ • n. 1. a sudden intense feeling of fear: I jumped up in fright. ∎  an experience that causes one to feel sudden intense fear: she's had a nasty fright I got the fright of my life seeing that woman in the hotel. 2. a person or thing looking grotesque or ridiculous. • v. [tr.] archaic frighten: come, be comforted, he shan't fright you. PHRASES: look a fright inf. have a disheveled or grotesque appearance. take fright suddenly become frightened or panicked.

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fright

fright sb. OE. fryhto, var. of fyrhto = Goth. faurhtei :- Gmc. *furχtīn, f. *furχtaz afraid, repr. by OE. forht, etc. No known cogns. outside Gmc.
So vb. terrify. OE. fryhta, var. of fyrhtan = OS. forahtian, OHG. for(a)htan, furihten (G. fürchten), Goth. faurhtjan. Superseded by frighten XVII. See -EN6.

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fright

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