What is this strange feeling and why?
November 28, 2011 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Why do I find this image (SFW, not disturbing to most people) incredibly repulsive?

I was browsing Reddit the other day, and came upon a post of the above image. I found myself disgusted by it, but in ways I couldn't articulate. At the same time, I was weirdly fascinated and kept looking at it. After thinking about it, I realize that I feel a similar sense of disgust toward other things with abnormal holes. It's not really a fear, but a combination of fascination and disgust.

Is there any explanation as to why someone would have this reaction to things like this? Is this a phobia? Are there any theories about the development of weird phobias, so to speak, such as this one?
posted by Pope Xanax IV to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about this post?
posted by lalex at 8:26 PM on November 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

To my mind it sort of looks like one fetus that has enveloped another.
posted by dfriedman at 8:26 PM on November 28, 2011

The lighting is stark. It's a close up of a toilet and a deformed roll of toilet paper. Do you have any issues with deformity/ toilets/bodily functions relating toilets /germ phobia? It's also, to a degree, the lighting, it's a close up taken with a flash, guaranteed to be less than flattering even for toilet paper. The fact that you can see the shadow but it's almost entirely hidden by the roll means your point of view is roughly the source of the light, not a normal POV in daily life unless your a miner.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:36 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Abjection. That toilet roll is outside the normal order and you are somehow traumatized by looking at it (because it is outside the normal order of things). It's no corpse, but it is disturbing in that weird, abject way.
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:38 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know someone who has irrational anxiety over silly things, such as imperfections in pancakes and other types of deformities. I think she'd probably keel over and die if you showed her a picture of a deformed baby. doctor_negative has already hit on this a bit, but I guess it's not terribly uncommon to be unnerved by things being out-of-the-norm.
posted by erstwhile at 8:39 PM on November 28, 2011

Your facial recognition hardware is parsing it as a face. A very upset face and your natural human empathy is responding by making you feel upset/repulsed.
posted by ccoryell at 8:41 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I think it's taken with a wide angle lens, so the roll appears bigger than it should in relation to the toilet. So it's obviously deformed and then more subtly, too.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:43 PM on November 28, 2011

What bothers me about this...thing...is that it reminds me of a vanishing twin.
posted by malocchio at 8:59 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wasn't bothered in the least by the picture, until I noticed the squished cardboard tube in the smaller hole. Instant heebie-jeebies. I can't explain it, but you're not alone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:02 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

The smashed tube looks like poo.
posted by fshgrl at 9:06 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

For me, lalex has it. The squished tube is out of the ordinary, it's not supposed to be there, it's an abnormal hole/airspace. It squicks me out like worm or larva holes.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:09 PM on November 28, 2011

Was coming in here to post the link that lalex did. I'd be very surprised if it's not a similar phenomenon.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:12 PM on November 28, 2011

I'll clarify: it seems to especially trigger trypophobia because of the lighting and angle. The inside of the squished tube, for whatever photographic reason, seems to be larger on the inside than the hole where it leaves the toilet paper - it seems cavernous, which is one thing that triggers that fear for me.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:15 PM on November 28, 2011

Yeah I was going to say trypophobia as well. It personally doesn't set off the full bore alarms for me, because it's only two holes, but it sorta makes the spidey-sense tingle a little, and not in a good way. So I can appreciate what I suspect bothers you, although it's nothing as horrifying as some of the wormy-wood or perforated patterms in the trypophobia post to me.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:52 PM on November 28, 2011

Arghhh! lalex that post gave me nightmares the first time around.

Yeah, Pope Xanax, check out lalex's link to a Mefi post. The term for the 'fear of holes' is Trypophobia. I won't link 'cause I don't want to see the images, but a quick google will give you lots of repulsive examples.
posted by barnone at 10:14 PM on November 28, 2011

Wow, it's awesome finding out things like trypophobia have a name. I remember cringing while watching documentary in eighth-grade science class that included footage of surinam toads and their offspring. It's very bizarre. I also think the phobic reaction to the linked image was aggravated by the things doctor_negative and mrfuga0 brought up.

Thank you for the wonderful answers, everyone.
posted by Pope Xanax IV at 10:43 PM on November 28, 2011

I don't suffer from trypophobia, but this question was a reaction to the post I linked above, and the answers may help soothe your nerves.
posted by lalex at 11:16 PM on November 28, 2011

icck. It's that gross squished extra cardboard tube. Why is it in there?? I and a bunch of people I know are bothered by trypophobia. Not so much in a "have to stay inside the house to avoid the holes" way, but just a visceral reaction to them.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:46 AM on November 29, 2011

Whoa. I wished someone had warned about doing a Google search on trypophobia. That which has been seen cannot be unseen...
posted by fuse theorem at 4:51 AM on November 29, 2011

Also, sometimes the feeling of toilet paper and the tube, especially when you are at the end of the roll, make my teeth hurt. That dusty-cottony paper stuck to the dusty-cardboard, eek. I thought of that when I saw the image and got the achey-teeth.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:23 AM on November 29, 2011

All I can think is that something has gone terribly wrong. The squished tube is not only not supposed to be there in the first place (why is it there!) but it's squished which makes me feel slightly ill at ease and the tiniest bit sad. The fact that this is an ordinary item like toilet paper only lends to the feeling for some reason. There's the fact that there is likely never going to be an explanation for this toilet paper roll which begs all kinds of questions. As well, is not reassuring. It's a minor mystery which I find are the worst kinds of mysteries (if mystery stresses you out). Most of all, it makes me wonder what else might go wrong at the toilet paper factory and if someone will get hurt (or has already gotten hurt) due to systems breaking down, etc.
posted by marimeko at 8:37 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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