Chris Sonnack on ''Threaten vs: Fear''
From Chris Sonnack
Subject: Threaten vs: Fear
Been turning over in my idle mind (when such it is) the minor
question, "Why do I dislike the word 'threaten' so much." Here's
what I've finally decided:
Here's the punchline first: In my contexts, "threaten" speaks of fears
that are outside, whereas my prefered word, "fear" speaks of that which
is inside. I hit upon this as I studied the various ways in which the
word "threaten" is used, and compared them to the usages of "fear".
1) //I// appear to be //threatening// to //you//.
2) What do //you// find so //threatening// (about //this//situation//)?
1) Are you //afraid// of //me//.
2) What are you //afraid// of?
Generally, "fear" can be used alone or with an object. "Threaten" is
almost always used with some object. Consider the first sentences in
the examples above; the "I" in the first example appears to control
the sentence -- it's almost impossible to restructure the sentence
(in a natural way) to make it resemble the second example. The that
example, the "me" is subordinate (to my eye) and what seems to rule
the sentence is "you afraid".
Even saying "What do you find threatening" inplies the requirement of
//something//out//there//. "What are you afraid of", to me, does not.
(That's why I hit a "speed bump" when you asked me what threatened me.
This is important to me because of my belief and understanding that I
cannot change external events (particularly other people), but I can
affect how I relate to things and how I feel about things.
It is also important to me because a bedrock principle of mine is the
belief that life is slightly different for each of us -- a matter of
perceptions and preconceptions. Dealing with fears, to me, is about
dealing with ones personal approach to the world. Dealing with things
we find threatening MAY lead us into trying to impose our morality or
ethics on others (cf. the Gulf war for an example of ultimate threat).
In closing, I wonder if this ties into our discussion about how women
supposedly view reality in relational terms. Is a women more likely
to relate her fears to an external object and therefore select a word
which hints at that? (This is a wild speculation based on very little
data, BTW.) I don't believe I've oft heard men talk in terms of things
that are threatening, but it's a common word among women (again, scant
data). Or do women exist in a world were feeling threatened is common
coin (which ain't generally so for men)? Thoughts?