Netflix’s Behind Her Eyes limited series is a fantastic paranormal romance whose main plot device – astral projection – follows an indeterminate set of rules – here’s how it works. This psychological thriller stars Simona Brown as Louise, Eve Hewson as Adele, and Robert Aramayo as Rob. Each of these characters uses astral projection to varying degrees and for various purposes, though in Rob’s case, those purposes are of the nefarious kind. Through intense character portrayals as well as the employment of astral projection itself, Behind Her Eyes delivers a consistent, tense feeling of suspense throughout its 6 episodes, leading up to a surprise twist. However, despite the series’ dependence on astral projection as a plot device and its eventual involvement in Behind Her Eyes‘ twist ending, the rules of astral projection aren’t as clear as they can be.
In Behind Her Eyes, astral projection is a secret, paranormal tool used by an exclusive set of characters to accomplish their specific goals. In real life, there are many versions of astral projection, though most involve the idea of some kind of a soul or spirit that exists within the human body and that contains that person’s essence. Since Behind Her Eyes doesn’t specifically tie itself to any one particular version of astral projection from real life, the version of astral projection that it does employ can be seen as a non-committal conglomerate of any combination of the various real-life versions. Despite the fact that the true origins of the astral projection Behind Her Eyes‘ characters use are never revealed, the show does actually provide at least a partial description of its unique version of astral projection.
In real life, astral projection (aka astral travel) is less of a phenomenon than it is an esoteric concept that involves so-called “intentional out-of-body experiences.” For the most part, the rules of astral projection in Behind Her Eyes are very similar to the rules of astral projection in real life, especially regarding the mind/body duality of being. However, whereas astral projection is almost definitely a superstition in real life, it is definitely not a superstition in Behind Her Eyes. In real life, astral projection has very little basis in science and has often been compared to the more realistic phenomenon of “lucid dreaming.” Lucid dreaming is a way of maintaining awareness while in a dream state that may give the impression of experiencing what is commonly understood to be astral projection. In Behind Her Eyes, astral projection is definitely distinct from lucid dreaming, as Louise has the ability to do both.
In Behind Her Eyes, astral projection is used as a plot device more than anything. The power of astral projection drives the characters to do what they do in the story. In some ways, it’s even a character itself, being slowly developed over the arc of episodes. Astral projection in Behind Her Eyes is used exclusively by three characters: Adele, Rob, and Louise. Each one of them uses astral projection in their own way, revealing the rules as they go along: Adele uses astral projection as a form of escapism from her tragic life, similar to how she uses drugs. She teaches it to Rob, who ultimately learns how to use it against her.
Rob uses astral projection to literally escape his tragic life as a hopeless and impoverished drug addict. He uses it to commit crimes, including murder, in order to steal Adele’s body and thus her life and her lover, both of which he has always secretly coveted. Rob, masquerading as Adele, teaches Louise how to perform astral projection in his plot to keep her away from Adele’s husband, David. Rob later uses astral projection to steal Louise’s body, just as he did with Adele; Louise, who already has a talent with lucid dreaming, first tries to use astral projection as a way to relieve her nightmares. She later uses it to help Adele, who she doesn’t realize is actually Rob.
In Behind Her Eyes, through each character’s specific use of astral projection, the rules of the phenomenon are slowly revealed in each episode. The six major rules are: one, the mind and body are distinct forms, which can operate independently; two, there is more than one plane of existence, including the purgatory-like astral plane where the astral form can travel; three, the astral form can only travel to places it has seen in corporeal form; four, the astral form can move from one body to another when the target body is empty; five, the astral form can spy on the actions of corporeal people; six, astral projection can be learned and practiced by chanting and performing a pattern with the fingers.
The limitations of astral projection in Behind Her Eyes have yet to be clearly defined, but it is clearly a powerful tool, one that many in the show would likely kill to possess. A second season would potentially clear up these lingering vagaries as well as questions like “Is Louise really dead?” Although it seems that Rob did kill both Louise and Adele, it’s entirely possible that they were able to astral travel even in their drug-addled states. There is no precedent in Behind Her Eyes that proves they could have done so, but there is also no evidence that completely rules it out. That said, while Adele’s body is no doubt a goner, Louise may be able to reclaim her own body if she was able to escape Adele’s body before it died.
As previously mentioned, astral projection in real life is more of an idea than it is a verifiable phenomenon. And although some form of astral projection is found in various cultures throughout history, it is most likely the result of profound meditative states or lucid dreaming. Despite the importance of astral projection in Behind Her Eyes, it is never fleshed out and direct comparisons to real-life cases of astral projection are weak at best, perhaps the clearest evidence that the phenomenon is merely a plot device in the show, and not meant to convey any meaning about its realities.