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Saturday, 09 October 2021

How realistic is Lucid Dreaming in Behind Her Eyes? (thorough analysis with spoiler alerts)

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How realistic is Lucid Dreaming in Behind Her Eyes? (thorough analysis with spoiler alerts) Associative picture from Unsplash

Let‘s be frank there are not as many TV series or movies created about the topic of lucid dreaming as we would like there to be. When something new is released, passionate lucid dreamers are bound to get deep into the weeds with the analysis. Yet books and movies are one of the all-embracing sources enabling the enlargement of the conscious dreamer community.

The psychological thriller limited series Behind Her Eyes are, to say the least, is one of the most representative (it can be debated to which extent) series about conscious dreaming and digs even further – astral projection. This article focuses, however, on the presentation of lucid dreaming. It will give a thirty-thousand-foot view of the series and how the idea of consciousness while sleeping is carried to us through the series. These issues are addressed by experienced lucid dreamers, namely, beginners. Hence, they are to be articulated to broader audiences who have not been familiar with the world of lucid dreaming, adding to the fact about the series, having had received diverse concerning criticism. Nonetheless, if you are interested in more than the sole concept of lucid dreaming you are welcome to read about the creation of limited series and the book that inspired the adaptation.

1. Synopsis

2. Behind the Series

3. Adaptation

4. Differences (Series vs. Book)

5. Representation (of Lucid Dreaming)

6. Approved by Lucid Dreamers

7. Fruits of Imagination

8. Reviews

9. Overall Conclusion


A secretary and a single mom Louise goes out to a bar one night and starts bonding with a flattering gentleman David. Little does Louise know that the upcoming morning she will be introduced to her new boss David, the same guy she had met in the bar and is commencing to have a crush on. At the same time, unassertive Louise entangles herself in a friendship with Adele, David‘s wife, who is new to the town and seeks to have someone to lean on. But there is something mysterious and odd about David‘s and Adele‘s marriage, in which they do not seem to be passionate or happy for each other. The more Louise is involved with David and Adele, the more she discovers about their obscure past.

Behind the series

The Netflix original series, which has received enormous success in February 2021, is based on Sarah Pinborough‘s best-selling novel published on 23 January 2017. The readers labeled the book with the hashtag #WTFthatending. Therefore, the storyline is prone to have left quite a similar impression to the public backlash after the mini-series. Sarah Pinborough, the author of more than 25 novels, was, in fact, inspired by another best-selling thriller book-to-movie-adaptation Gone Girl when she decided to write Behind Her Eyes. The author immediately knew what genre she was going to choose. Sarah wanted to write a psychological thriller about an affair, and as the accompanying element for the story, she went for lucid dreaming. Therefore, when it comes to criticism, we should pay attention to the fact that lucid dreaming was not the axis of the thriller but rather an element to keep it more outstanding and intriguing. Although in one of her interviews, Sarah Pinborough claims to be a ‚massive dreamer‘ she does not mention practicing conscious dreaming in particular.


In several of her interviews, Sarah Pinborough has mentioned that producer Steve Lightfoot has stayed ‚very faithful to the book‘. Steven Lightfoot has paid attention to the details and brought the story to the screen with some minor changes in characters and their lives. However, the writer herself has stated that by now, she would not have imagined the series they were created other way, though remaining curious about the way the series would have turned out if the adaptation was more modified.

Differences (Series vs. Book)

Louise. In the book, we learn that the main character, Louise, who embodies low self-esteem, is slightly more overweight than the actress Simona Brown and is presented as not as good-looking as Adele. Her low self-esteem reflects in her bad habits of excessive drinking and smoking. In an interview with Washington Post, Sarah tells, that Louise in the book, was portrayed as ‚a dumpy blonde‘, contrasting with this ‚beautiful woman of color‘. In retrospect, the mini-series reveal other more complex low self-esteem issues. They are more profound, and the author responds to that positively as her description of Louise does not correspond to today's feminism.

Adele. According to the author, one of the most dramatic aspects in the book that she is content about not appearing on the screen are Adele‘s pregnancy and abortion (alongside other scenes, for example, Adele killing the cat). When Rob swaps bodies with Adele, the latter is pregnant. Once he finds out that he is in a pregnant woman's body, Rob instantly has an abortion.

Ambiance. Adele‘s and David‘s house in the series is pictured more spacious than in the book, whereas the psychiatrist's (David's) office is more modern than the author had imagined while writing the book.

Adele and David. In the original story, their relationship dates back to their childhood, when they were little kids, and David handed Adele a book about dreaming as a gift. We also learn that her family takes a dim view of their relationship because of the disparity in financial-social status.

The differences may not be crucial, but overall, we should acknowledge and agree with the author, that the book is far more intense and drastically presented than the series, no matter how obscure the latter may have appeared. Undeniably, there is no better way to tell a story more thoroughly than writing it down, but some of the horror-amplifying details, in this case, are to be missed in the series intentionally. From a cinematic vs. literary perspective, it is a question of personal taste.

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Now, we can come back to discussing the book and its adaptation from a lucid dreamer's perspective. Indeed, there are plenty of details in these series to be not overlooked: starting with the ease of fast learning to perform astral projection and ending with a primitive image of a wonderland within a dream. However, there are some particular features and methods that indicate the practice of lucid dreaming. Our question is: how well are they presented?

Reality checking. Adele‘s friend, Rob, who introduces Adele to lucid dreaming, teaches her how to generate such practice. He mentions one of the most prominent methods – reality checking: 'pinch yourself every hour and tell yourself "I am awake", count your fingers, look at a watch or a clock, imagine a door...' It is a solid example of what is a reality check, and the transmission of the concept to the screen is attained. However, for experts, perhaps not to the fullest extent.

Dream diary. In the series, we see that Rob kept a dream diary. Just like in Gone Girl, he used this diary as a tool to manipulate others and mess with our minds, the minds of the viewers. The dream diary has a more fictitious and mysterious approach. Thus, it does not have to necessarily correspond to the way it should be used by lucid dreamers. Of course, this way, he can introduce Louise to the world of conscious sleeping, but we will talk about what empirically was wrong with this fragment of the limited series in the chapter Fruits of Imagination.

Astral projection. Probably one of the compelling bones of contentions revolves around this topic. What is that? Astral projection is an OBE (out-of-body experience) explained by some as a practice during which one detaches from his conscious state of mind (comparable to a near-to-death experience). Others describe it as a spiritual voyage when your soul can dissociate itself from the physical body. There is not much scientific evidence about astral projection and the methodology explaining how it should be performed, but some lucid dreamers claim to have experienced that. Therefore, it may sound unnatural or even ridiculous at first, and thereby, it is a matter of pseudoscience. In the series, we see that Adele is practicing astral projection, which she had learned from Rob, and is now teaching Louise to do it as well. Sarah Pinborough, in one of her interviews, has stated to have been anxious about the scenes where Adele‘s and Louise‘s spirits detach from their bodies. The production team gave a relatively ordinary view of how we imagine our spirits. If you have practiced meditating, you may have pictured this image of your soul as an accumulated substance of energy floating in the air. But once again, we should be lenient regarding the series and agree with the author that there had not been a better way to realize this idea.

Approved by Lucid Dreamers

So what is real in Behind Her Eyes? Is lucid dreaming possible? The answer is by all means. Even the techniques that are used to evoke a state of conscious dreaming are well-founded and justified: keeping a dream diary, reality checking, WBTB (Wake Back to Bed method, read more about it). As already mentioned before in the article, the author, Sarah Pinborough, is a massive dreamer'. With this in mind, she should have had at least rudimentary knowledge about lucid dreaming. When it comes to the series, throughout the filming cast was consulted and supported by experienced lucid dreamer Jade Shaw, who studied not only conscious sleeping but also astral projection. As someone who empirically discovered the concept of lucid dreaming at six years old, the consultant indubitably added up to shaping the way lucid dreaming and astral projection were depicted and presented to us, the viewers. The many criticisms claiming that the series was produced by a team who had 'clearly no idea about lucid dreaming' should be rebutted and reevaluated. Second of all, is there a way to utterly present the vividity of lucid dreaming? Perhaps. We do not have identical dreams. Our dreams differ, so as our subconscious minds. Some lucid dreamers underestimate the experiences of other lucid dreamers. You may hate Inception or adore it, but if it were not for the imaginary concepts emphasizing the supernatural conscious sleeping experiences, it would not be in the list among the highest IMDb ranked movies of all time.

Fruits of Imagination

It is needed to remind that the adaptation and the book are fictitious. Therefore, the psychological thriller, Behind Her Eyes, following an affair filled with secrets and jealousy, is not to be classified as a documentary or educational representation of lucid dreaming. Yet, the community of lucid dreamers after the debut of Behind Her Eyes has expanded. Meanwhile, some old members of the community were irritated and had some things to say.

Although certain techniques used for lucid dreaming can be approved by experienced lucid dreamers, and scientists, we would not like to neglect the misinterpretations about conscious sleeping that appear in the popular Netflix series. Neither the series nor the book talks about the thorough and sometimes complicated process of attaining the state of conscious dreaming.

For example, a reality check is a valid method used by many lucid dreamers to approve the state of their consciousness, but the series scarcely demonstrate a grasp of this technique. Adele counts her fingers before falling asleep and immediately wakes up in a dream, where she performs the same practice, checking whether she is dreaming. Besides, we can discern one of the best-known techniques presented in the show - the WBTB method (read about WBTB), which Louise uses to experience lucid dreaming and pretty quickly switches to it after trying it once. What is wrong then with reality checking or WBTB in Behind Her Eyes?

First of all, the timing, everything that the main characters learn and do to become lucid in their dreams, turns out to be rapidly accomplished. However, in reality, it is not a matter of minutes. In a sense, we can see that Louise is improving day by day, but every time we can see that she is succeeding, whereas in practice, it takes days, weeks, and even months for many beginners to do a reality check.

According to other lucid dreamers and reviewers of the series, what also could be categorized as a fruit of imagination, is the way that dreams are depicted: they are vivid and express significant contrasts, but somehow lack complexity and naturalness, which are the features of common dreams. It may be more concerning lucid dreams exclusively as Louise‘s nightmares are more symbolic and convey the inescapable horror of her mother‘s death. The criticism attributed to the image of lucid dreaming from Louise‘s eyes is more legitimate. We all know that dreams have something personal and familiar to us and do not have to follow a logical order of events. If we dream about something extraordinary or intimidating, it usually has a connection with our subconsciousness. The accomodating environment in which Louise wakes up after learning how to lucid dream gives an elementary image of tranquility and a so-called happy place view: bright fields, sun, and a barbeque. It might be the standard image we would go for if we wanted to escape from a nightmare but even experienced lucid dreamers cannot always project the same ambiance every night. (And would agree with the idea of exploring the dream in a more adventurous and compelling manner).

So what is wrong with the depiction of the dream diary in Behind Her Eyes? We already know that its meaning plays a significant role in the story per se, but empirically, dream diaries have a purpose to record personal dreaming customs. One‘s memories and dreaming experience can barely cause the other person to experience lucid dreaming more effectively. If a beginner wanted to boost their conscious sleeping experience and take it to another level, handing your dream diary to him would be futile. Instead, what an advanced lucid dreamer would do, is to hand an empty dream diary to be filled by the beginner himself. Why is it so? Lucid dreaming is affected by our memories, subconscious mind, and the regular common dreams we experience every night. The purpose of a dream diary is to perpetuate and memorialize previous dreaming experiences to warn and prepare your conscious mind about the control of your dreams.

Last but not least, the visualization of astral projection has left most of the audience wondering how fictitious it was. Numerous lucid dreamers' were comparatively devastated from the narrow perspective of an unrealistic approach to astral projection: how unsophisticated and naive it was pictured when Adele would immediately fall asleep and start traveling wherever she wanted to as a spirit in a blue cloak.

The most translucent fruit of fantasy is at the ending and the peak of Behind Her Eyes, which subsequently did not circumvent criticism. Rob embodying Adele is a hardly digestible concept to anyone who watched the series or had read the book. However, when it intertwines with lucid dreaming – you rather despise it or embrace it, you rather judge it from a scientific perspective or look at it as a stunning culmination for the book or series. Of course, the astral embodiment is a fruit of fantasy and undoubtedly the most explicit one.

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7.2/10 IMDb

3.78/5 Goodreads

62%/100% RottenTomatoes

85%/100% Google

Overall Conclusion

In case you are still wondering whether you should read the book or watch the series, this article can help you. If you are keen on reading about elaborate heavy psychological drama with spicy elements adding up to it the further the story is advancing - you should read the book. If you like limited series and psychological thrillers, the Netflix series may not leave you disappointed either. Conversely, if you practice lucid dreaming and have a tendency of not seeing the wood for the trees, both the series and the book can leave you irritated.

Often we are just searching for easy vs. heavy series or books. This one is, without a doubt, rough, obscure, and nerve-wracking.

Overall performance of the series cannot be qualified and compared to such blockbuster as ‘Inception’. However, the uniqueness of the plot should not be dismissed either.