Diseases Behind your eyes: hallucinations in dreams that seem real

Behind your eyes: hallucinations in dreams that seem real


The night terrors suffered by the protagonists of the series “Behind their eyes”, the latest Netflix hit, are known in psychiatry as hypnagogic hallucinations. When believing that you are awake, the feeling of helplessness and a feeling of suffocation in the face of this situation is of the highest degree.

In the latest Netflix hit, the miniseries “Behind Their Eyes”, the protagonists experience hallucinations during their dreams that they live like real. When they go into wakefulness, they live terrifying scenes and are not able to differentiate the dream from the reality. It is a phenomenon known within psychiatry with the term hypnagogic hallucinations. Technically, hypnagogic hallucinations such as those experienced by the protagonists of “Detrás de tus ojos” are perceptions produced in the sleeping stage, in which the subject sees before him a figure – human or of another type – that carries a message and before which a feeling of total immobility arises. They are night terrors.

The clarity of that presence suggests that you are awake, but in reality, you are asleep, or in a kind of hypnotic state, in which images predominate, although commanded by ourselves from our unconscious. However, a number of questions arise in this regard.

What motivates these types of experiences? What psychic function do they fulfill? Are they disturbing or soothing? Are there common patterns? We explain it to you below.


At some point in our lives, we have all heard or experienced episodes of this type of sensation, although they have been very fleeting. The son-in-law who, in the face of the father-in-law’s absence from the funeral, says: your father visited me tonight, he was there, in front of me, and he told me that he is fine and not to worry about anything.

There is also who, after inheritance problems left by the deceased, sees his image appear saying: in this house there will never be a shortage of money. These appearances usually have a benevolent character, in which in some way, a desire is compensated and satisfied, lending a voice to a character with whom there are pending issues, but that would be resolved imaginatively.

In this sense, they follow the premises that Freud established for the formation of a dream. The fact of having left unfinished business during the day becomes the engine of dream creations. The fact that the body is at rest and the stimuli of reality are cut off, facilitates the loading of images.

But what happens with visits from the devil or some malevolent character by whom we feel persecuted and who are responsible for our immobility?

  • In these cases, we can venture that a guilt component is being added. The subject, through this phantom, is issuing a judgment of reprehensible value on himself. This intimidating presence is the representative of a social criticism of a moral, behavioral or failure of expectations that we make of ourselves.
  • The feeling of tightness in the chest and immobilization that they bring, are but the punishment that the sleeper inflicts on himself. His failure seems unforgivable to him.
  • If in a normal dream the disfigurement of the situations, speeches and characters allows us to conceal and attenuate the pending issues of our life, to the point of waking up when the story is too harsh, in the case of these dramatic hallucinations, the moralizing forces, and you feel you cannot escape them. It is the apparition that seems to have the power.


How is it possible that a person believes that he is in reality, but is asleep? And how is it possible that he does not realize the kind of spectrum in front of him? Let’s move, for a moment, to a hypnosis session.

The hypnotist, once the subject enters a trance through his words, introduces the hypnotized into a certain scenario. He tells him that he is on the beach on a summer day and that there is a boat with oars on the shore. Then he starts giving him orders. When I count to three, you will open your eyes, you will go there, you will put your towel on the sand and then you will see that there is a boat. Get on it and start rowing.

We can see how the subject, even with his eyes open, thinks he is on that beach and will behave exactly in the way the instructor has told him. The rower will not stop rowing until there is a new order to do so or until the hypnotist orders him to wake up. It would be useless for a viewer to want to get him out of the dream because he does not feel asleep. He believes he is in the reality of that other commanded scene. As if that were not enough, the hypnotized person does not see the real reality. It is there, but he does not perceive it.

The first appreciation that emerges is that there is a great difference between sight and gaze. The eye as an organ can see, but what is registered with it is determined by the gaze, that is, by what our mind organizes by choosing, highlighting or rejecting external and internal visual stimuli. The same is true of the ear. Our deafness or persuasion will be selective and will also depend on the auditory combinations that we allow ourselves to listen to.

So, if we go back to hypnagogic hallucinations, the first thing we can conclude is that, whether they are positive or negative, the hypnotist is ourselves. A part of our psyche is placed as a censor / agent in front of the feeling of failure that we have had in those days.


The emergence of a rarefied figure like a hologram point, on the one hand, to the degree of charge of the conflict it represents; on the other hand, the fact that our usual defense mechanisms against it have not worked, as it does in normal dreaming.

For this last reason, they tend to be exceptional phenomena in common humans, although when they take on a repetitive and invasive character, it is necessary to dig deeper to rule out that they are not hallucinations, properly speaking, of psychoses.

It means that either the subject passes into the ordinary state of sleeping and dreaming; or something wakes him up and connects him with real reality. In the Netflix series “Detrás de sus ojos”, which starts from the idea of ​​nocturnal hallucinations but is developed in fiction and suspense, the protagonists manage to control these images with a very peculiar method (we will not reveal more for those who do not have seen the series).

In real life, the best prevention will be to go to sleep with the maximum of pending accounts of the day resolved, or widely opened to the conscience. It will be in this way that we can unload the imaginary representations likely to become intrusive in our rest. Although they are not completely elaborated, we will have reduced their load and the psychological defensive system of sleep will have its task lightened.

MindFixes Staffhttp://mindfixes.com
MindFixes is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and advocating, educating, and serving all people with mental and substance use conditions. MindFixes is determined to persevere, learn, grow, love and laugh through our wellness journey and we invite all to join.


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