The gist of the trope is when a character in a mentally vulnerable state similar to sleep (usually actually sleeping) when another character whispers in their ear in the attempt in order to influence their dreams or thoughts.
The whispering character says something pleasant which makes the sleeper feel reassured or calmed, maybe even delighted.
The whispering character attempts to trouble the sleeper's dream by plaguing his/her mind with troublesome thoughts and worries.
The whispering character chants some sort of command or mantra so as to subliminally influence the sleeper's behavior when they wake up.
For example: Alice and Bob are sharing the same bed, and Bob wakes up when he overhears Alice's muttering in her sleep due to a bad dream, visibly upset. Bob tries to whisper in her ear some sort of encouraging message or mantra for which to calm Alice down while she is completely unaware of Bob doing this.
Compare Crashing Dreams
(that's about dreams and real life coinciding, like dreaming you're kissing someone while being licked by your dog in real life, this is a Mind Manipulation
trope about manipulation by suggestions given to a sleeping subject) as well as Sleep Learning
and Subliminal Seduction
Anime and Manga
Film - Animated
- Oruchuban Ebichu. (3:15 to 4:15. NSFW) Ebichu does both Pleasant and Troubling. He does Pleasant to her beloved master (normally depressed and desperate "Christmas Cake") who ends up waking up the next morning feeling completely refreshed and in good spirit. Soon after, she tries to do Troubling to said's master undesirable boyfriend by pretending to be the boyfriend's boss at work and calling him useless and all that. This attempt is subverted by the fact that the target was actually awake the entire time and hiliariously beats Ebichu bloody.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Watch it here. Kenichi's martial artists masters use the Command version of this in the attempt to convince Kenichi to accept the Training from Hell they want to give him to prepare for an opponent he was having trouble with. The actual attempt doesn't work though.
- In The Slayers Perfect (Slayers the Motion Picture), it's played for laughs as Lina awakens and sees the King and the Queen chanting too loudly at her. The laughs are made even more potent by the fact that Lina already has mysterious dreams, but this one turns to be a fake.
Film - Live Action
- On Dumbo, Timothy whispers in the ringmaster's ear while he's sleeping to plant the idea of using Dumbo on the elephant pyramid routine.
- In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Blofeld is using this to brainwash the women at his clinic, so he can use them as couriers for the deadly virus he's developing.
- In The Sixth Sense, the protagonist does this to his wife in the end.
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People. While Michael McBride and Katy O'Gill are asleep, King Brian talks to them to influence them into falling in love with each other.
- The villain of the first Hellboy movie did this to Liz, resulting in Liz burning the entire asylum.
- In Brave New World, this effect is called Hypnopaedia. A combination of Pleasant, Troubling and Command (especially Troubling and Command) is used to condition children according to their place in the caste system.
- In The Centauri Trilogy (novels in Babylon 5's Expanded Universe), while Emperor Londo has a Drakh Keeper controlling him, the Drakh used a more benign (less coercive) variation of a Keeper known as a "Dreamweaver" to implant dreams in Minister (and eventual Prime Minister) Durla during his sleep, encouraging and guiding his ambitions for empire that the Drakh planned to use with the Centauri.
- The song "Pet" by A Perfect Circle. The singer/narrator is trying to get their child back to sleep, but all the lyrics are sinister Nightmare Fuel.
Lay your head down child
I won't let the boogeyman come
Count the bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
- Mares are supposed to be supernatural creatures that sit on a sleeping person's chest and cause her or him to have nightmares.
- Homestar Runner, "A Jorb Well Done". Coach Z keeps mispronouncing the word "job", and all Homestar's attempts to correct this fail. Eventually, Strong Sad loans Coach Z a tape of himself saying "job" hundreds of times, and tells Z to listen to it as he sleeps. The next morning, Coach Z has no trouble saying "job"... but he can no longer pronounce Homestar's name.
- Wilma and Betty tried this on Fred and Barney on The Flintstones.
- The Garfield and Friends episode "Jukebox Jon" had Jon trying to hypnotize himself in his sleep into not biting his nails with help of a special device in order to appeal himself to a comic book executive who despises said habit. However, it backfires when Garfield accidentally breaks the record that was playing on the device, so he substitutes it with some Spanish records and old 50's records instead. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Simpsons episode "Duffless" opens with Principal Skinner awarding Bart first prize at the school science fair. The phrase "first prize" echoes until the scene transitions to reveal that Lisa was saying this into Bart's ear while he was dreaming because she was "just screwing with [his] mind."
- In Adventure Time, "Ignition Point," after Finn and Jake retrieves Flame Princess' scented candle from the Fire Kingdom, they give it back to her while she's sleeping and lit the candles with her hair. Her father, Flame King, appears and starts whispering "evil" into her ear to make such she remain evil after discovering Finn wants to convert her to good. But Flame Princess wakes up surprising him and herself and he quits for now.
- Kid vs. Kat: In "I'm Okay, You're a Kat", Coop discovers a self-help tape in the House of Swap and uses it to make himself far more cheerful by playing it while he's sleeping. Kat gets annoyed by how Coop's optimism makes it much harder to annoy him and edits the tape to make Coop pessimistic, making him scared of his own shadow and literally cry over spilled milk. Afterwards, Kat uses another self-help tape on Burt to brainwash him into his servant. When Coop finds out, he decides to use a self-help tape to become a tough guy, which turns him into a thug and he almost drops his entire family in a pool of electric eels before he is snapped out of it.
- In the episode The Dream of a Lifetime from Donald Duck, uncle Scrooge is being sleep brainwashed by his three grandnephews so that he would change the dream setting to fight off the Beagle Boys who have invaded his dream to steal the vault lock combination.
- In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, the culprit disguises himself as the Dreamweaver in order to manipulate his victims in their sleep to do criminal acts in order to have them arrested or be humiliated in public.
- Spongebob Squarepants: In "Fear of a Krabby Patty", Spongebob needs therapy after hallucinating of Krabby Patties. The psychiatrist hypnotized Spongebob to sleep and goes on to do this. Being Plankton in disguise, he subliminally tries to tell Spongebob to explain the recipe of Krabby Patty. But it fails, since Spongebob instead gets a dream where he regains his resolve to make patties again.