Psychology of Stranger Things

psycholog of Stranger Things review

We have previously reviewed Stranger Things, but it is time for the psychology of Stranger Things and a little exploration of the psychological themes that sit in the background of the show.

So what is there to say about an adventure series about some pre-adolescent kids and a couple of helpful adults? Well, a lot, actually. A lot of the psychological underpinning of this show comes from 2 places 1. Trauma 2. MK Ultra, Stargate and the intersection of Eleven. Given that there is such a massive amount of information to get through the posts will be split in several places. This post will look at the background government programs that are referred to in the show and the psychology behind it.

MK Ultra and Stargate were both experimental projects which attempted to manipulate physical and psychological factors for the gain of foreign intelligence. They both existed in times where the ethics and morals around research protocols were pretty loose and as a result corners got cut. There have been allegations of deaths, use of unwilling (or knowing) subjects and poor scientific practice in general. There is also limited information from each after they were closed, making it difficult to work out what is real and what is conspiracy. Without further ado, let’s look at the specific projects.

MK Ultra

A government project to work out how to make populations more pliable and increase the ability to extract information from people when necessary, must be a conspiracy right? Nope, that’s the CIA’s super secret project MK Ultra. There is some information out there (check the Wiki) on the project, however a lot of the documents have now been destroyed. Essentially MK Ultra tried to look at ways in which humans could be controlled through substances and circumstances, and then how this could be used for surveillance.

LSD was a favourite as it was believed to be able to change a person’s perception just enough to make them malleable, without harming them. The 60’s were a time of drug exploration, not just at festivals and love ins, but in the lab as well. The idea that LSD might ‘open up’ a person was not a new one and was how it became a staple of the project. Actually LSD is actually in some trials now for treatment of certain types of mental illness.

It became common for participants to be dosed and interrogated to see how they responded. Then the protocol got a little looser…My favourite line from the Wikipedia post is:

“..outsiders were drugged with no explanation whatsoever and surprise acid trips became something of an occupational hazard among CIA operatives”

Surprise Acid Trip is now the name of my new band. So you can see how seriously they took the idea of making sure that they had ‘real world’ scenarios in which to test their theories. The project even went as far as dosing unsuspecting members of the public and then monitoring. The project was shut down and documents destroyed in 1973, so the true extent of this project will never be known. MK Ultra is mentioned at several points during Stranger Things and sets the ground work for some of the most intense showdowns between the government and the ‘good guys’ Ultra is where things like sensory deprivation and shock therapy were used, which we see with Eleven, but it’s not until Stargate that we see the true extent of the weirdness of clandestine research.

The biggest revelation that has come from MK Ultra is the recognition that it did happen and that governments would fund some kooky shit in order to get an advantage on their competition. To me, Ultra is one of those confirmed projects that make the rational among us wonder what else is being researched and the irrational among us put on the tin foil hat and listen to Alex Jones.


Just a sidenote, Richard Dean Anderson is awesome…but anyway.. The Stargate project was what happens when someone calls in sick for the psych eval and it is never rescheduled and then that person works out a way to get Federal funding. A lot of what we see with Eleven is what Stargate was built for – remote viewing.

Remote viewing was the concept of ‘scientifically’ being able to view unknown locations and events without having seen them, and in some cases having clairvoyant experiences of events. So essentially, human drones, without the ability to wipe out a wedding. Truth be told is that if any of this was possible then the million dollar prize offered by James Randi should probably have been claimed by now. Reality is that, despite the ability to change perception through manipulation (ie MK Ultra) it is highly unlikely that humans have the ability for telepathy, telekinesis or rubbing their stomach and patting their head at the same time.

As can be expected, Stargate didn’t really work at all and the project was not only closed, but declassified at about the same time. Scarily enough Stargate was only de-funded in the mid-1990’s so it was hanging around up until only 20 years ago. De-funding and declassifying at the same time is almost like breaking your mum’s prized crystal and telling her straight away – accept the consequence now or look like an even bigger idiot later..

So this is essentially where we are left with Eleven, in the 1960’s through 90’s there are clandestine operations going on to try and get an advantage over the enemies of state. Unfortunately, these operations often didn’t follow correct protocols, and given the destruction of documents it is not known how many people were harmed, injured or killed during these experiments. There are no records of whether children were involved, but given the lack of oversight and poor overall ethics, it is not too unlikely to have occurred at all.

While Stranger things is a work of fiction, it merely extrapolates on the clandestine research of the era. Stranger Things asks an important question though – what if, in the suspension of ethics for a greater good, you release something that is far worse?

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