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How Stranger Things Shows the Destructive Results of Our Subconscious Mind’s Desire to Keep Us Safe at All Costs

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most throughout the indefinite pause of the pandemic is the return of Stranger Things. Like most, I finished season 3 hungry for more and have been craving my favorite quirky characters and ’80s nostalgia for what feels like a lifetime. Before I go any further, I should mention that I still haven’t watched season 4 as I write this. Not because I’m no longer interested, but because I’m re-watching the first three seasons with my husband, who hasn’t seen any of them.

I can rewatch only a handful of shows, and Stranger Things is one of them! Others include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Schitt’s Creek, and The X-Files. These shows not only stand the test of time, but they always reveal something new with each revisit.

We’re on Stranger Things season 2 this week, and a fight scene from episode 4: Will the Wise, struck me in a profoundly unique way.

In this scene, Eleven explodes at Hopper when he attempts to punish her for breaking the only rules he set for her: that she never leaves the cabin, especially alone or during the day when she can be seen.

How do Hopper and Eleven Represent Aspects of Ourselves?

I love analyzing fictional characters. The best ones touch on ancestral archetypes we all relate to at some point in our lives. Witnessing their journeys can help us understand ourselves and provide hope for challenging times. The same goes for symbols in tarot cards, but I’ll let you read more about that here.

As I watched the fight scene shown above for the third or fourth time, something new struck me hard. An ah-ha moment, if you will.

Hopper is acting like the subconscious mind, while El is the conscious mind trying to expand and enrich her experience.

Before this video clip begins, El defends her actions, claiming she only snuck out of the cabin because she felt trapped there. “Nothing ever happens!” she yells. Then, Hopper becomes more angry and controlling, limiting Eleven’s freedom even further because he’s trying to keep her safe.

Think about it. How many times have you felt frustrated or even stuck in your own life? Maybe you talk about wanting to make changes — whether it be a new career, ending a toxic relationship, or breaking a habit that negatively affects your health — but something keeps getting in your way.

If you practice techniques like meditation, affirmations, and EFT, you might already know the answer: It’s you.

You’re the one stopping yourself. You’re the one getting in your own way. But it’s not because you don’t really want this thing or because you’re not trying hard enough. It’s because your subconscious mind is trying to keep you safe. 

All your subconscious ever wants is to keep you safe.

The Cabin Fight Scene as a Metaphor for Our Internal Struggles

Let’s say you want to make a change in your life. Maybe you want to stop drinking. I’ll use this example because it’s a major change I’ve made in the past couple of years.

Maybe alcohol is harming your health, career, and relationships. You aren’t so addicted to it that you require medical support to stop drinking. You don’t even drink daily, yet your obsession with alcohol is slowly and steadily consuming you. (I’m talking about myself here).

You want to stop drinking, so you do. You feel great and look radiant! But for some reason, you keep falling off the wagon.


Because early on in your life — probably in childhood — you learned that you need the warm, fuzzy numbness that alcohol offers. Maybe it helped you cope with a painful or difficult experience, or maybe one of your caregivers used alcohol this way. Your subconscious mind forms a belief that you need alcohol to keep you safe from pain, emotional distress, or whatever that negative experience entailed.

Even though you want to make a change to improve your health, your subconscious wants to protect you from feeling those emotions that alcohol drowns out. It wants to keep you locked up in that cabin. However, El hits on a disturbing truth about staying in that “safe” place:

Nothing. Ever. Happens.

In Stranger Things, Hopper lost his daughter, a deeply painful experience that leads him to associate the outside world with pain and cruelty. Because of this learned association, Hopper is overprotective with El, his second chance at fatherhood. He justifies placing unreasonable restrictions on her life to keep her alive and out of harm’s way.

He’s not a bad guy. He’s just confused. So is your subconscious.

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How Eleven’s Explosive Anger Signals the Danger of Our Limiting Beliefs

We understand that Hopper is just trying to keep El safe, but she doesn’t see it that way. She’s fed up with living within Hopper’s limits, and this frustration releases itself in a destructive rage.

Likewise, we can get pissed at ourselves for seemingly failing at the changes we’re trying to make. Anger can manifest in many ways. Maybe you break things like El, or perhaps you direct your fury inward with self-criticism no one else can hear.

The lesson is that real harm can come when not all parts of yourself are on the same page.

If you think of your mind as a computer, your subconscious is the operating system running in the background. If techy analogies don’t do it for you, consider your conscious mind the captain of a ship. It decides where it wants to go and comes up with a plan to get there. However, your subconscious mind is the ship’s crew, pulling the oars below the deck. 

If your subconscious isn’t on board, the ship ain’t gonna budge.

How Do We Get Our Subconscious and Conscious Minds to Work Together?

Aligning your subconscious and conscious minds takes work. That’s why we usually don’t bother unless the perceived reward is worth the effort.

It’s a complex process unique to each individual, but I’ll attempt to break it down.

First, you determine exactly why and how your subconscious is trying to protect you. This can take some digging. Once you pinpoint this, you’ll know. It’ll feel like a breakthrough or a lightbulb flash in your mind.

Then, acknowledge your subconscious’s role in blocking change and thank it profusely for trying to keep you safe. It’s essential to love, accept, and forgive all parts of yourself, even those seemingly holding you back.

Finally, you have to convince your subconscious that it’s safe to implement the changes you want. The fastest way to do this is to get into a state of gratitude. To amplify this, express gratitude for the things you want as if you already have them.

Returning to our alcohol example, you might start with a list of things you’re grateful for, like your health, a safe and comfortable place to live, and supportive friendships. Then, take this a step further by exploring how much better your life could be if you stopped drinking. You’re healthier and more fit than ever. Your blood pressure went down without medication. You had the energy and focus to remodel or redecorate your home exactly how you’ve always wanted. You have a tight circle of ride-or-die friends you can count on.

It’s helpful to phrase future desires in the past tense as if they already happened.

Of course, achieving desired results takes practice, practice, and more practice. But I can assure you it works!

Why This Approach Doesn’t Work for Stranger Things

Could you imagine the above scene if Eleven had calmly thanked Hopper for keeping her safe, then enthusiastically explained how they’d all benefit from her leaving the house every so often to see her friends?

It’d be horrible TV!

She would’ve likely gotten what she wanted faster without all the conflict. Boooooring.

Unless you’re trying to entertain yourself by starring in your own drama, I recommend taking the aligned approach.

If you want to get on the fast track to discovering and removing limiting beliefs so you can step into alignment with your highest self, I invite you to check out my 6-week transformation program, Excavate and Activate

Thank you for reading!

Cover image via Pexels

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