The Uncanny is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange.

Because the uncanny is familiar, yet strange, it often creates cognitive dissonance within the experiencing subject due to the paradoxical nature of being attracted to, yet repulsed by an object at the same time. This cognitive dissonance often leads to an outright rejection of the object, as one would rather reject than rationalize.

The state is first identified by Ernst Jentsch in a 1906 essay, On the Psychology of the Uncanny. Jentsch defines the Uncanny as: "doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might be, in fact, animate", and expands upon its use in fiction:

“ In telling a story one of the most successful devices for easily creating uncanny effects is to leave the reader in uncertainty whether a particular figure in the story is a human being or an automaton and to do it in such a way that his attention is not focused directly upon his uncertainty, so that he may not be led to go into the matter and clear it up immediately.
by Daemone Darker March 3, 2009
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Freud specifically relates an aspect of the Uncanny derived from German etymology. By contrasting the German adjective unheimlich with its base word heimlich ("concealed, hidden, in secret"), he proposes that social taboo often yields an aura not only of pious reverence but even moreso of horror and even disgust, as the taboo state of an item gives rise to the commonplace assumption that that which is hidden from public eye (cf. the eye or sight metaphor) must be a dangerous threat and even an abomination - especially if the concealed item is obviously or presumingly sexual in nature. Basically, the Uncanny is what unconsciously reminds us of our own Id, our forbidden and thus repressed impulses perceived as a threatening force by our super-ego ridden with oedipal guilt as it fears symbolic castration by punishment for deviating from societal norms. Thus, the items and individuals that we project our own repressed impulses upon become a most uncanny threat to us, uncanny monsters and freaks akin to fairy-tale folk-devils, and subsequently often become scapegoats we blame for all sorts of perceived miseries, calamities, and maladies.

i'm sure you can think of your own uncanny experiences.
by Daemone Darker March 3, 2009
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