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Heroic Safe Mode

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Katara: What's going on with you? In the desert, all you cared about was finding Appa, and now it's like you don't care about him at all.
Aang: You saw what I did out there. I was so angry about losing Appa, I couldn't control myself. I hated feeling like that.
Katara: But now you're not letting yourself feel anything. I know sometimes it hurts more to hope, and it hurts more to care. But you have to promise me that you won't stop caring. C'mon, you need a hug.
Aang: Thank you for your concern, Katara. [walks away without returning the hug]

Heroism is hazardous work for both the body and the mind: it's fairly common for heroes to end up facing at least one emotionally, mentally, or psychically charged event capable of causing a Heroic Blue Screen Of Death that temporarily renders them catatonic. Of course, this wouldn't be a gripping New York Times Best Seller if it didn't happen at the worst possible time to ramp up the tension as the audience is left hoping the Side Kick can protect the hero until he or she snaps out of it.

Keeping the computing metaphor, some heroes have a heartier Operating System than the norm, which when faced with the Heroic BSoD instead enters Heroic Safe Mode. During this period the hero "shuts down" non-essential thought processes and focuses entirely on "fight or flight", hoping that when the danger is over they can "restart" in safety. Especially strong-willed heroes who go into Safe Mode while loved ones are in danger will usually protect them to near-suicidal extremes. In other cases, they may wind up snapping at their own friends who try to push them out of Safe Mode. Luckily, these loved ones can usually push the restart button with a Cooldown Hug. They will (at best) talk in monosyllables, become either completely emotionless or absolutely enraged, but they will always, always terrify friend and foe alike with an unfiltered Death Glare. When a hero fully reboots from this mode back into their standard operating procedure, Post-Victory Collapse usually kicks in, or the full-on Heroic BSoD may kick in after the direct danger to the hero and/or their companions has passed. It is often seen as the good counterpart of a Villainous Breakdown.

Where this gets interesting is if the hero has a Split Personality or Adaptive Armor that is not normally in the driver's seat. With the hero "out to lunch", the passenger may decide to take survival into his, her or its own hands (neurons?) and control their body until the hero is well again. This varies depending on the nature of the Split Personality. For example, a soul-bound Empathic Weapon might default to Attack! Attack! Attack!, while a more evil Enemy Within might decide it's a good time to unlock the hero's Superpowered Evil Side.

Once they reboot, they may well regret having not helped save someone, run away, or killed many dozens of mooks... but as friends will remind him, at least he (and they) are still alive.

This is Truth in Television to a greater degree than a lot of Split Personality Tropes. Many traumatized people deal with their pain by creating a kind of secondary self who is less bothered by the pain because this self is just observing while "that other self" is actually experiencing the pain. This function may be one reason for the existence of the Real Life, non-Hollywood Psychology phenomenon of people who have a Split Personality. And people who are multiple in real life and usually operate as a Split-Personality Team may find that in a high-stress situation, some calmer or more competent individual may shove their way to the front and remain there for the duration.

In a less extreme form, it is considered a healthy coping mechanism. People using this strategy to deal with dangerous or otherwise overwhelming situations will often say to themselves something like, "I have to focus on survival right now. I'll deal with these feelings later." This is different from repression because the person is not trying to forget or suppress emotions, only to delay dealing with them until it's safe to do so. People capable of shifting focus away from their own emotions, without suppressing them, are often very resilient; so this is a trait often seen in characters whose professions often take them into emotionally charged situations — soldiers, emergency workers, spies, police, superheroes, and similar.

See also Superpowered Alter Ego, Defense Mechanism Superpower, and It Never Gets Any Easier.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yami usually takes over whenever Yugi is in trouble in the early manga and anime. Later on, Yami appears more often because Yugi is more conscious of him.
    • Subverted when Yami himself appears to have a safe mode - when journeying through his soul room in the late manga, the gang finds a door where Yami has locked his most painful memories so he can block them out and keep going.
  • Judai seems to live in this mode in Season 4 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX after crossing the Despair Event Horizon last season. His last bit of Character Development throughout this season is finding enjoyment in the game after Dueling with the world at stake.
  • This is what Ultra Instinct essentially is in Dragon Ball Super. Whis describes it as a Don't Think, Feel state where the user reacts entirely on instinct and reflexes. This ends up being subverted, however, as Mastered Ultra Instinct can think (i.e. speaking, gauging how hard to hit someone, etc.).
  • Shuro in Delicious in Dungeon has gone into one after Falin's loss, neglecting food and sleep in his single-minded efforts to save her.
  • It's revealed in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V that Reira is so emotionally damaged he lives this trope 24/7. Himeka prefers it that way, but there have been hints that Reiji is trying to change this.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Hallelujah Haptism tends to take over when Allelujah is impaired, or otherwise unable to complete his mission.
  • As a suit of biological Powered Armor, the Guyver has this trope as a safety feature. If the owner receives catastrophic brain damage, psychic attack, or emotional trauma, the suit goes into a killing frenzy to protect them while it restores their grey matter. Poor Sho though, has this happen while fighting his Brainwashed and Crazy dad.
  • Bleach: Hollow Ichigo comes out whenever Ichigo is too injured to suppress him, first during the fight with Byakuya Kuchiki and later during a fight with Ulquiorra. During the latter fight, Ulquiorra puts a hole in Ichigo's chest which would normally kill him outright, but Hollow Ichigo surfaces instead. Good news: "Wasn't there a hole in my chest?" (It healed.) Bad news: "Did I do that?" (He's skewered his ally, Ishida.) Can be seen as a Call-Back with a Downer Ending to his fight with Byakuya; Ichigo calls the fight unfair and does the final blow against Byakuya. However, when his hollow surfaces in his fight with Ulquiorra... Ulquiorra dies before Ichigo can get his fair fight, even if it would mean he would end up crippled to get one.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • The eponymous Index has a literal safe mode installed into her, that activates anytime the main consciousness goes down. The computer analogy is quite literal. The safe mode even shouts out status messages.
    • Touma in his fight with Vento, in which he was being thrashed around up to the point where they were next to one of the people he wanted to keep safe. When one stray shot that would have killed a few dozen civilians was blocked by the person he wanted to protect, we discover that he was worried sick about collateral damage and wasn't fighting at full capacity.
    • At the same time, Accelerator was fighting Amata Kihara. In the course of that fight, Accelerator was left without the collar that enabled the use of his powers and should've been rendered a brain-damaged wreck. Instead, he kept getting up, attacking, and woke to even greater power than he'd had before to finish Kihara.
  • Zone of the Enders. Dolores is generally a ditzy Humongous Mecha, but danger reverts her back to her factory settings as an amoral, ruthlessly efficient killing machine. Jehuty is the opposite: She starts out with factory settings when Leo falls into the cockpit, but gains personality as the story progresses.
  • Ranma of Ranma ½ starts acting like a cat when overwhelmed by his fear of cats. While this is usually Played for Laughs, it is also dangerous because he retains his old strength but doesn't care about pulling his punches anymore.
  • Delf of The Familiar of Zero is of the Empathic Weapon variety, and can do this for his wielder, Saito, using magic he has absorbed to forcefully move his body when he is too injured to move on his own.
  • Akemi Homura of Puella Magi Madoka Magica goes into a long-lasting one of these after seeing all her friends die horribly and/or destroy the world, repeatedly. She only acts emotionless because she doesn't want a Heroic BSoD to get in the way of protecting Madoka from Kyubey... That and Heroic BSODs usually lead to worse things in the Madokaverse, especially if you're a Puella Magi.
  • In Berserk, Guts goes into heroic safe mode after he accidentally kills the Count Julius's son Adonis during his assassination. After he stumbles into the sewer when he gets away from the guards, he's "rebooted" back into the Heroic BSoD.
    • He's pretty much locked into heroic safe mode (if not an actual Heroic BSoD) after the horrible toll that the Eclipse took on both him and Casca. After spending two years on a bloodthirsty vendetta against Griffith, the bastard responsible for it all, he becomes obsessed with finding a cure for Casca's post-Eclipse insanity, even after he's warned that she may not want to be cured.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, it is Zenitsu's sleeping trance mode, his method of temporarily eliminating his inner conflict esteemed from self-hatred: the extreme fear of dying fighting against demons on the front lines, but his sincere loyalty towards the few people who like him at all prevents the boy from running away; thus Zenitsu developed his sleeping trance, a way in which he can fight without fear, almost a Split Personality but in actuality it is the ideal hero version of himself Zenitsu doesn't have enough confidence to become quite yet, in the trance mode Zenitsu can fully commit to being a brave demon slayer without hindering himself, and when the trance wears off Zenitsu isn't aware of what just transpired, disassociating himself from the danger he wouldn't want to be placed in normal circumstances.
  • Yu from Persona 4: The Animation goes into this in ep 23 after Nanako's death. Seeing the normally calm and gentle Yu wearing this expression while being both figuratively and literally inches away from killing the guy responsible by tossing him into the TV world is terrifying to say the least. It's only after everyone calms down and goes home for the evening (save for Yosuke) that he finally breaks down crying.
  • In Sword Art Online II, Kirito gets approached in Gun Gale Online by a player who has a Laughing Coffin tattoo, which triggers memories he had repressed of killing a couple of Black Coffin members back in SAO. He briefly shuts down, but he's in the middle of a tournament so he has to move. In his next several fights, he charges straight at his opponent without much apparent thought.
  • Potentially deconstructed in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. After Kamina's death, Simon enters a somewhat berserker state in battle, done in an attempt to channel Kamina and attempting to function as a person and moving on. However, delaying in coping with his grief is unhealthy, taking a severe toll on his physical and mental facilities (it's implied that he has been neglecting sleep and not eating as much while also acting more aggressive). The lack of help from any of the team makes it worse. Simon ultimately worked through the grief thanks to Nia's help and eventually finds the confidence to move forward once more.
  • In Tomodachi Game, Guile Anti-Hero Yuuichi goes into this during the Friend-Sin Trial arc, where he's just been released from the hospital and immediately has to get to work saving one of his friends in the next round of the Deadly Game. He's in incredible pain and at his wits' end the entire time, and his other friends are terrified by the ruthlessness he displays.
  • After he loses his first Buddyfight and Tenbu is killed, Gao of Future Card Buddyfight manages to get back to being his usual cheerful self, but after his next Buddyfight, he makes a speech about heroes that makes it clear he's lost confidence in himself.
  • Both the titular Inuyashiki and main villain Shishigami have safe modes built into their robotic bodies, allowing them to act autonomously if they're ever rendered unconscious. In one instance, Inuyashiki is knocked unconscious in a room full of angry Yakuza, only for his body to rise into the air and start firing precision lasers all over the room to cripple every single yakuza in the building, rendering them all quadriplegic. During the final battle, both Inuyashiki and Shishigami knock each other out at one point, only for their safe modes to kick in and continue fighting each other.
  • Matsuri of Ayakashi Triangle has trained himself to be his Childhood Friend's bodyguard from a young age, which made his usual attitude much more serious and stoic. Although his default demeanor becomes much more cheerful and expressive early on, any sign of danger sends him into a hyper-focused mode where he's ready to fight. This shift is frequently played for laughs in sexual situations, where Matsuri sharply swings between being horribly flustered by slightly suggestive things and undisturbed even by frontal nudity.
  • Shion from No. 6 has two moments like this.
    • In the novel/manga, after Nezumi is about to be killed by Rashi in the correctional facility. Shion remains cold and expressionless as he shoots and kills Rashi. It's only after he realizes what he's done and tries to kill himself.
    • In the manga, Shion has a second moment like this after Nezumi is mortally wounded. After a breakdown, he becomes all business. He calmly asks for the keys from Rikiga and Inukashi so he can drive the car through a burning wall in order to get Nezumi to a hospital. Inukashi remarks how his eyes are so cold and unlike him.

  • In the final issue of The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius Barry's friend Sara is killed when the group is Trapped in Another World. After returning to their own, Barry stoically uses a prototype Time Machine that he acknowledges could kill him to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, speedruns the entire adventure alone in the Year Inside, Hour Outside dimension, and comes back to offer his friends snacks before they even notice he left. After he ensures everything is ok, he sneaks off to the kitchen, lays in a fetal position, and cries piteously over the massive amount of emotional trauma he experienced.
  • In the Batman RIP storyline, the hero was a victim of a psychological attack but survived because he had auto-hypnotized himself into having a "backup personality" — named the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh — that would take over in such a case. Talk about being Crazy-Prepared. To extend the computer metaphor, the Zur-En-Arrh personality is so single-mindedly focused on crime-fighting that it has been described as "Batman on DOS." We also do see a bit of Bat-Mite so it is wondering how sane this Batman is (though given what Bat-Mite said, there is possibly no one right answer.)
    • In Knightfall, Jean-Paul Valley enters this with The System after the Scarecrow douses him with Fear Gas. However, there's one small problem: it stayed on afterwards and drove Jean-Paul mad.
  • Spider-Man has gone into these on several occasions. One implied example is in the classic issue #33note ; at one point, Spidey lets himself get beat up so that he can gather his strength, then unleashes a flurry of hits on a bunch of thugs who are attacking him. He eventually realizes that he's no longer hitting anything and that everyone's knocked out. This kind of thing only happens when one has entered into Heroic Safe Mode.
  • Iron Man's is built into his armor. The AI takes over when Tony becomes unresponsive and pilots the armor to safety. It is also capable of fighting.
  • Although it's usually a very literal Berserk Button, X-23 once weaponized the trigger scent in this manner: During the "Not Forgotten" arc of X-Force, X was recaptured by the Facility and severely tortured. She was rescued by a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, but the two were surrounded by soldiers. Laura was short an arm (Kimura hacked it off with a chainsaw during said torture) and could barely even stand due to severe shock, blood loss, and emotional stress, much less fight. Since the trigger scent removes all her inhibitions, eliminates her conscious thought processes by putting her on autopilot, and turns her into a whirling ball of adamantium-bladed death that will. Not. Stop. until everything marked with it is dead, she reasoned her best chance of survival and escape was to flood the entire complex with it. It worked.

  • In Memento Vivere, a Final Fantasy X fanfiction, Rikku runs into this when she realizes she’s landed in the Bevelle of the past.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Kyril is capable of manifesting signs of this trope in a less extreme way, hardly surprising for an experienced Shell-Shocked Veteran who persevered the Night of the Hunt by being Conditioned to Accept Horror. The following are two of the best instances that showcase this.
      • Chapter 16, original version: As Kyril and his apprentices (minus Soren) are fending off the myriad of mutants, the readers get a glimpse of Kyril's P.O.V. regarding how he feels about killing these Elite Mooks who are Tortured Monsters at the same time. On one hand, he regrets having arrived late to spare them such a fate. On the other hand, he opts to focus on the task at hand, leaving the Mangst after the fighting.
      • Chapter 2, remastered version: In the face of an orc ambush, Kyril is surprised, yet doesn't shrink from the sudden assault. Instead, he immediately extends his Saw Cleaver, not even thinking of drawing anything else, and surges forward in a lone countercharge to cut down the orcs. The action is so sudden that it looks like a Leeroy Jenkins from an outsider's perspective, except that he can react to sudden situations that fast. This is not getting to how he remains expressionless even when bodies around him are being mangled and maimed by his cleaver, as well as how he merely looks around for any remaining threats with a Death Glare after the ambush is over.
    • During Chapter 2 of the remastered version, Alicia enters a "fight or flight" mode as she and her knights are met with an orc ambush. After the ambush is over courtesy of Kyril slaying orc after orc, she reboots from this mode and suffers a Heroic BSoD, slowly registering the grim situation around her: Kyril's butchery, as well as the fact that only a handful out of twenty of her knights survived the encounter.
  • In the Bleach/Fairy Tail crossover fic Protector of the Fairies, this happens to Ichigo after he unintentionally kills someone for the first time. Gildarts later runs into him on the way back to the guild, and he's still minimally responsive.
  • In A Teacher's Glory during her first real life-or-death situation, Ino blankly kills every enemy who resists. Afterwards, she nearly kills a prisoner who starts making noise about breaking free, then vomits once Sakura talks her down.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Super Minion, Tofu at one point suffers enough pain to make human.exe crash. This doesn't incapacitate him, however, it just causes him to revert to his original programming, which can still accomplish a lot even if it isn't as smart.
  • In Dragon Bones, Ward mentions that he acts like his (cruel, abusive) father in combat. It's a part of his playing different roles all the time. When he's fighting, he's his father. When he's giving orders and the like, he's his famous, heroic ancestor Seleg. Which causes problems, as Oreg, now Ward's friend, has been a slave to all of Ward's ancestors since castle Hurog was built, and was mistreated by Seleg. Oreg goes into flashback mode, because Ward's acting like Seleg triggers him, and accuses Ward of killing the dragons until Ward manages to snap him out of it. Somewhere inside, there's a scared boy who just wants himself and his siblings to be safe and happy, but that's not easily achieved.
  • Drizzt Do'urden the Dark Elf, of several different books... no unnatural factors, but while his normal personality is pacifistic and compassionate, he will — if pushed too far — turn into "The Hunter", a beastlike personality he developed from decades living alone in The Underdark, one of the most lethal, monster-infested areas in the world. While Drizzt is driven by morals and ethics, The Hunter is driven entirely by survival instincts — he'll attack anything threatening with all the strength at his disposal, flee from an enemy who proved too strong, and not care one whit about others... This is explained in all of the official materials that show the RPG mechanics of the universe the character is based in — he took a level in Barbarian during his time in The Underdark, a class that has Unstoppable Rage as one of its features.
    • Must be a retcon — Drizzt was conceived well before 3rd Edition, which was the first system under which that would have been possible.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age and The Phoenix Exultant, Phaethon uses his "emergency persona" — a high-speed unemotional persona developed by him for space accidents, but quite useful when he's under attack, too.
  • This is what certain characters in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series call "Assuming the Void." (or, alternatively, "The Oneness.") All emotion and feeling are pushed aside so the individual can focus on the situation at hand without being impaired by "minor" things such as taking a mortal wound or seeing someone they love get critically injured or killed.
  • In the story Eternal Champion, after Ekrose promises the Queen he will destroy all of the Eldren (whom he has come to respect far more than humanity), he becomes an emotionless, remorseless killing machine. Socially, none wanted to be with him, but all (humans) were glad to have him leading them in battle.
  • Gifted individuals in the Sword of Truth series can partition their mind, which allows them to protect the core of their sanity against unbearable agony while sacrificing everything else. In the first book, Richard Cypher uses this technique to endure repeated torture from a Mord-Sith, Denna.
  • Kiesha'ra: When Araceli takes away Andreios, Danica's reaction is described by Zane thusly:
    "Danica?" I touched her arm and felt trembling beneath my fingertips. She did not respond, not yet.
    Now Nacola hurried into the room and knelt beside her daughter. "Shardae?"
    Danica balled one hand into a fist for a moment, shaking... and then relaxed as with a conscious effort. She took another deep breath, and suddenly I felt her force back the grief that had been rising — force it back and lock it tightly away.
    As if I was suddenly struck blind, I lost her; she hid her soul from me even more carefully than she had when we had been enemies conversing for the first time.
    She lifted her head finally, smoothing her hair back with her hands. For a moment, her face was vacant of expression. Then I saw the blankness drop, and it was replaced by a casual facade that was even more disturbing.
    "Well," she said, without a tremble in her voice.
    She shook her head, cutting me off. "There was nothing we could do."
    This calmness frightened me more than any blade I had ever faced...
  • Tobias of the Animorphs is a boy living in the body of a hawk, and he experiences the mind of the hawk as well as his own. The hawk is much freer from the problems of anxiety and sadness than humans in general or the human Tobias in particular (even physical pain doesn't bother the hawk as much as it would a human), and the hawk mind is perfectly capable of carrying on the normal functions for a hawk body. So for Tobias, allowing the hawk to be the dominant personality is a highly useful coping mechanism. This proves especially useful when he gets captured and tortured.
  • Vimes from Discworld has what he calls "The Beast", which is his instinctual sense of self-preservation writ large and leads to this trope. He spends most of his time trying to override it because he knows nothing causes Police Brutality better than someone in full 'fight' mode at a bad time.
    • The Beast gets a power-up later when Vimes becomes host to a Superpowered Evil Side called "the Summoning Dark", an entity of pure revenge, which causes Vimes to kill an army of attacking dwarfs wielding flamethrowers and battleaxes.
  • John Steakley's Armor has the main character create what he calls "The Engine" in order to survive being repeatedly dropped into combat where he is outnumbered thousands to one. As Felix puts it, the Engine "is a remarkable creature. It was a wartime creature and a surviving creature. A killing creature. The Engine is not me. It will work when I cannot. It will examine and determine and choose and, at last, act. It will do all this while I cower inside".
  • In Atlas Shrugged, Dagny does feel emotions at her core when she allows herself to, and takes a month-long vacation (her first in over 10 years) to cope with the hopelessness of the rail company she runs. When she finds out that a key tunnel in the transcontinental line has been destroyed, she spends the next day and a half shutting out every cognitive process not related to fixing the problem.
  • In Wolves of the Calla, the sixth Dark Tower book Jake goes into Safe mode after His friend is blown up by one of the Wolves. In true Gunslinger fashion, this translates in Tranquil Fury
  • In the Doctor Who novel Winner Takes All, the Doctor is forced by the villains to use Rose like a puppet/video game avatar without any way to ask for her consent. And worse, in order to save her and others, he has to physically hurt her and make his control over her body even more absolute. He gets really, really furious once he realises what he must do. More so than ever in the TV series. He punches the wall, throws things around. And then he simply shuts down, becomes calm and cold, and just does it — while being utterly terrifying in the eyes of the kid with him at the time. Then he proceeds to use the rescue plan to arrange for the entire military force of the villains to be atomized. And he doesn't give them any chance to reconsider. Not even one. note 
    • Technically, he's been in safe mode since the end of the war of time, which is why he always seems so happy-go-round; he also warns his to-be enemies (whenever he has a chance) to not mess with him- apparently he believes that at some point the evildoers will realize that messing with the greatest mass murderer the universe has ever known is a bad idea. They never learn.
  • X-Wing Series: Myn Donos of Wraith Squadron is stuck like this through most of the first book after his squadron was killed in an ambush. Other characters aren't afraid of him, but they definitely find him strange, and ones who knew him before are unnerved. Even Safe Mode can't protect him when his astromech — the only other being to survive — is destroyed. Fortunately, his squadron mates are able to break him out of the subsequent BSOD, and in a later book when he threatens to go into Safe Mode again he's called out on it.
  • In the second series of The 39 Clues, Amy, who had previously appeared to be better adjusted to the insanity going on around her than her younger brother Dan, goes into Heroic Safe Mode near the end of Trust No One. She even refers to the detached side as "Safe Amy" and the involved side as "Scared Amy." Last we see of her in that book, she literally takes off running away from her brother and friends, shocked after the revelation that the Vespers seek to build a doomsday device and that she had just given them the final piece they need to do it.
  • This is Mau's reaction to discovering the wreckage of his Doomed Hometown in Nation. He sets about blankly carrying each and every corpse — man, woman, and child — of everyone he ever knew down to the sea, performing the funeral rite and returning for the next one. Daphne, who washed up on the island in the same wave that destroyed the village, can't get so much as a sidelong glance from him, and Mau himself seems to be experiencing the whole thing as if it were a dream.
  • In The Immortals series, this is Daine's reaction to hearing of her teacher Numair's death. There's a resulting Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    Coolness trickled into her mind until her skull was filled with it. Her world seemed extra sharp and extra real. Part of her, someplace deep inside, wailed; that seemed unreal, as if she watched a crying baby from a great distance.
  • Part of the training of the Mobile Infantry in Starship Troopers, that pop out when Rico and some friends on a leave are attacked by civilians who hate the military and, after inflicting a Curb-Stomp Battle, he muses that they acted completely out of reflexes and the attackers were lucky that soldiers on leave weren't allowed to carry any form of weapons or they would be dead.
    • More accurately, that they might have been killed, as even unarmed the soldiers could have killed them. The narrator/protagonist points out that not only were the Mobile Infantry troopers not armed, but they were also specifically trained in disabling without killing, and it was *both* of these together that prevented a reflex lethal response.
  • In The Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe goes into great detail describing the ultra-safe mode that gripped him after his parents and the rest of their acting troupe had been slaughtered by the Chandrian. This event was so traumatic, it reduced a bright young boy of many talents to a shaggy street rat only concerned with immediate survival for three years, before some of his higher brain functions began to awaken again. Two-thirds of the narrative in, it is strongly implied that Kvothe has still not regained his full mental faculties, as his brain is still trying to cope with the trauma he sustained.
  • In the second half of The Wheel of Time, breaking Rand al'Thor out of this becomes the mission of many of his closest friends and more or less trusted advisers. Being able to feel empathy for the people suffering and dying in the Last Battle turns out to be the key to defeating the Dark One.
  • In The Spirit Thief, Eli goes into this when he has to give himself up to Benehime at the end of book four and is stuck in the safe mode throughout the beginning of the final book until he reaches his Rage-Breaking Point.
  • During the first Martian revolution in the Red Mars Trilogy, Nadia comes across a rebel town that's been immolated while her boyfriend Arkady was in it. She spends most of the rest of the revolution rebuilding things or searching for things to rebuild to keep herself sane. She finally breaks when she witnesses some of her friends get killed by a Phobos-based weapons platform, which she then deorbits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow. After Sara Lance is murdered, Oliver Queen shuts down his emotions during the hunt for her killer, despite a tearful Felicity Smoak trying to get him to unbottle his grief over a woman he once loved. It's too much for Felicity who decides to quit Team Arrow. At the end of the episode when the killer is still uncaught, Oliver finally cracks and breaks down in tears.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Buffy is in this state throughout "Forever," bottling up her emotions in order to deal with the grief over her mother's death. Sadly, Dawn mistakes this as Buffy not even caring that their mother is gone. At the end of the episode, the dam breaks.
    • In "Selfless", Buffy shuts herself down emotionally when faced with the prospect of killing Anya, a fellow Scoobie who's gone back to being a demon. Xander recognises the trope and calls Buffy on it.
  • Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly and Serenity (see above) has been in this mode after the ragtag Independents lost the war against the well-meaning but authoritarian Alliance.
  • Chuck is a little ambiguous on how the Intersect skills work, but Depending on the Writer, Chuck flashes and then the Intersect takes control of his actions until it has ceased.
  • Seen repeatedly on ER when the doctors and nurses go on autopilot to get through the latest tragedy.
  • In Doctor Who, the Ninth Doctor was prone to this kind of behaviour when shit was starting to hit the fan and people started dying. Especially in the beginning, as part of his implied war veteran characterization. At first, Rose the civilian had real trouble understanding the reason for his detachment and thought it was callousness - when actually, keeping a cool head and repressing his emotions was what he needed to do in order to get the job done. In the course of the series, he kind of eased up on this behaviour as part of his healing process - only to end up having a Heroic BSoD because of his emotional investment. The pair eventually came to share a steady supply of post-crisis Cooldown Hugs. Well, not so much "Cooldown" Hugs as "Thank God It's Over And I Can Safely Show How Worried I Was, Please Just Hold Me For A Sec" Hugs. note 
    Rose: Mickey! I'll have to tell his mother he's dead, and you just went and forgot him, again! You were right, you are alien.
    Doctor: Look, if I did forget some kid called Mickey —
    Rose: Yeah, he's not a kid.
    Doctor: It's because I'm trying to save the life of every stupid ape blundering on top of this planet, alright?!
  • In the iZombie episode "Patriot Brains", Liv eats the brain of a US Army sniper, enabling her to carry out a revenge killing in an emotionless, methodical manner. She's not a killer at her core, however, and her real personality manages to override the brain and stop her.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: The kindhearted, idealistic medical intern Emu Hojo always strives to achieve a state where everyone is alive, healthy, and happy, a complicated task considering the Crapsaccharine World he lives in and his profession. When pressured into an apparently unsolvable situation he hides in his significantly more unscrupulous other self M and gets stuff done in an efficient but disturbing manner.
  • Kamen Rider Build: The default state of Sento Kiryu is calm and dismissive of everything that doesn't directly concern him. Only some circumstances such as no stress or too much stress reveal that state as being only a mask he holds on to keep his haphazardly cobbled-together mind balanced enough to be usable.
    • Misora Isurugi is similar to Sento in the calm, dismissive attitude, though she occasionally supplements it with disturbing cheerfulness that lasts even when proclaiming someone dead or talking about her time in captivity of a terroristic organization that experimented on her. Both use the attitude to cope with their traumas.
      • Lampshaded by Ryuga Banjo, who was originally creeped out by them and assumed they really are that cold and uncaring. Events showed him that they just cope with their feelings in the opposite way. He feels too much and lets all his emotions out as they are. They feel too much but show too little.
  • For the cast of M*A*S*H, and for the staff of MASH units in general, this is a way of life. No matter their antics, peculiarities, fears, and disagreements, as soon as the wounded arrive everything else is forgotten.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, learning how to enter Heroic Safe Mode is one of the core tenets of Eldar aspect warrior training.
    • Normally, killing a Tau Ethereal will send all of the foot soldiers fleeing in despair. However, many Tau will enter Safe Mode instead, which they've described as feeling numb as they "go through the motions"; within a minute or two, Tranquil Fury kicks in and the Tau's gunline will start back up, stronger than ever.
    • Imperial Guard-[cough]-Astra Militarum Hero Unit Commissar Yarrick fought an entire battle after losing his right arm below the elbow. Once it was over, he "allowed himself the luxury of passing out" (read: promptly fainted).
  • In BattleTech, there was an old optional Gunslinger rule called "Phantom 'Mech". The user had to consider himself a dead man walking, have a genetic predisposition, and must be acting to save his allies. If it worked these would result in the mech suddenly moving in strange ways and becoming nigh-impossible to target properly, but the mental strain would force the warrior to retire into seclusion afterward.
    • Canonically, only three characters ever achieved this: Patrick Kell, Yorinaga Kurita, and Morgan Kell. The first was killed in battle by the second, after holding off more or less an army, the second lost in battle to the third, and they both retreated to secluded monasteries for 17 years before reemerging. Then they fought again with the same result, and Yorinaga committed suicide. Morgan Kell lived for decades more, rarely taking the battlefield, but utterly destroying any enemy he decided to face.

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Mrs. Hawking at the end of Gilded Cages, when her opponents Mrs. Chaudhary and Mrs. Frost reveal themselves to be her old friends Malaika and Elizabeth. Her priority is to get her and hers out of there rather than totally emotionally dealing with it.

    Video Games 
  • Ar Tonelico 2 has the protagonist Croix and his adopted little sister as their own little family. They're actually pretty normal, without him seeming overprotective. That is until she's actually in life-threatening danger. He manhandles most of an entire battalion of soldiers before his own commander takes him down. When he wakes up and realizes she's not with him, he then heads for the facility where she is. Too bad they didn't have another battalion there to stop him that time. He doesn't speak at all during the first part and shows no emotion, and he's very quiet during the second. They don't bother him again because they're too scared to upset him.
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia has the heroine herself who fails to convince the three goddesses to fight evil. The result is that she gets curb stomped and is forced to use her normal state.
  • Perhaps not "heroic" but Touhou Hisoutensoku ~ Choudokyuu Ginyoru no Nazo o Oe suggests that the birdbrained Reiuji Utsuho has a "nuclear supervisor" mode when she tends to the underground reactor. When the heroines from two scenarios descend into the reactor, they are intercepted by an Utsuho who delivers a rather dutiful but stilted monologue about the "core temperature dropping" due to "foreign material." Once she's KO'd, she goes back to her normal birdbrained self, easy Bavarian Fire Drill material.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: After being subjected to a Breaking Speech by Monsoon and subsequently undergoing a Heroic BSoD, Raiden recovers his "Jack The Ripper" persona to be able to beat him in the ensuing fight between them. Surely enough, Raiden beats Monsoon pretty handily and thoroughly and calms down afterwards.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VIII's Squall Leonhart is such a mess of emotional issues that it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when or to what extent he's emotionally checked out, or when it's this trope as opposed to Tranquil Fury or a full-blown Heroic BSoD. At the most conservative interpretation, Squall goes into Heroic Safe Mode at the D-District Prison at the beginning of disc 2 and slips in and out of it at intervals up until late in the third disc.
    • Becomes an entirely new game mechanic in disc 3 of Final Fantasy IX when Garnet, overwhelmed entirely by, within the course of a few weeks, learning that she was adopted, witnessing the death of her mother, and seeing her entire kingdom completely wrecked before she can even assume the throne completely shuts down on an emotional level, losing the ability to speak. Yet she remains usable in battle, but can no longer use the game's limit break and has a 1/3 chance to fail to follow commands due to an inability to "concentrate". She recovers both her voice and her combat usefulness following a "Heroic BSoD" moment that forces her to confront her issues and overcomes them for the sake of protecting Eiko from sharing one of her greatest misfortunes. Zidane has a similar meltdown later on, but his reaction is... different.
    • Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning has been in this mode ever since her parents died (which is also when she started to call herself Lightning). She instructs Hope on how to enter Heroic Safe Mode to help him cope with his trauma:
      Lightning: Think of it like a strategy. Focus on your ultimate goal and shut out everything else. Still your mind. Move on instinct. Let doubt take over, and despair will cripple you.
    • Yuri enters this after his father's murder in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates. With the family's adult neighbors missing, he becomes the only one who can care for his catatonic sister Chelinka. He spends the next few years cooking, caring for her, chopping wood, and training swordplay with a sense of dutiful routine. When Chelinka finally returns to consciousness and speaks to him, Yuri melts down with all the anguish he couldn't express.
    • Nacht of Final Fantasy Dimensions initially appears to be The Stoic, reacting in the most parsimonious way possible to the staggering events the Warriors of Darkness are involved in and often dismissing the questions and worries of his teammates with "who knows?" Once the party reaches Falgabard, it becomes clear that this attitude is the result of being the Sole Survivor of the imperial attack there, a trauma that he hasn't worked through at all.
  • The Gray Garden: The sight of Froze, wing injured, being shoved off a cliff sends Yosafire into this, leading to her leaping after her without thinking. Zig-zagged in that she leaves safe mode moments later to lament the fact that she's as good as killed herself (she can't fly either)... before immediately re-entering safe mode when this train of thought leads to the realisation that her handicap means Froze will die too. Next thing we (or Yosafire) see, Yosafire has Froze in her arms and is gently flying them to safety.
  • Apollo Justice in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies suddenly becomes dark and brooding, determining to uncover the truth behind the death of his best friend Clay Terran. The true reason for this is because he perceives ability points out his colleague Athena Cykes is hiding something from him, and she turns out to be the main suspect for the crime. As a result, he shuts down his ability, refusing to believe Athena is a murderer.
  • Phoenix Wright himself goes into one in Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney. After Maya is seemingly burned to death as part of the town's literal Witch Hunt, Phoenix is clearly not all there mentally, but holds it together for the sake of Luke and Espella. Even when confronting the man who ordered Maya's execution, Phoenix barely raises his voice.
  • An intelligent Lone Wanderer can invoke this when helping Moira Brown write the Wasteland Survival Guide.
    Lone Wanderer: "Pain's an abstract. I stay focused on the definable things, like survival."
  • Commander Shepard goes through this in Mass Effect 3. After the Fall of Thessia, s/he snaps at Joker when he is telling some jokes. Joker pulls up Shepard's medical readout and points out that their vitals are showing more signs of stress than they ever have, and that he made a promise to Anderson to look after them.
  • Shiroya from Shall We Date?: Destiny Ninja 2 has a Super-Powered Alter Ego who shows himself when Shiroya has an experience that reminds him of his childhood trauma, such as being in a dark, enclosed space.
  • Viciously deconstructed in Spec Ops: The Line. Walker is bound and determined to help out in Dubai no matter what, but when he's given undeniable proof that his presence is causing more harm than good in the form of the white phosphorous incident, where he accidentally kills civilians with white phosphorous mortars, his Heroic Safe Mode activates and he begins imagining a perceived Big Bad Konrad (who's long dead at this point) taunting him through a broken radio and giving him the perfect scapegoat to place the blame for all his failures on as he keeps going. Then things get much, much worse.
  • Colette from Tales of Symphonia is eventually forced into one after her Cruxis Crystal suppresses her humanity at the end of the Journey of World Regeneration. She doesn't talk or even acknowledge anyone around her, but will automatically attack anyone who threatens her.
  • One of the mechanics in Darkest Dungeon is a stress meter that, when maxed out, results in a random detrimental Affliction, such as becoming abusive to their other party members, crossing the Despair Event Horizon, turning into a masochist, or just going insane and spouting gibberish. However, when maxing out their stress meter, there's also a random chance of activating their Safe Mode and receiving a Virtue instead, which can buff their stats, heal them, or reduce the stress of other party members.
    Narrator: A moment of clarity in the eye of the storm.
    Narrator: Many fall in the face of chaos. But not this one. Not today.

    Visual Novels 

  • The titular character of Mob Psycho 100 is a tremendously powerful but tremendously repressed esper after being knocked out by bullies caused an eruption of his powers that not only injured them, but his little brother as well. He's usually a dull and unassuming person, but his emotions still build under the surface until they envelop him 100% and explode outward. This is acknowledged by the narrative as a complex.
    • To an even greater extent, his ???% state, which hijacks his body when he's been knocked unconscious (and so was evidently responsible for the initial incident). ???% is all of Mob's power with absolutely none of his humanity and protects him with incredible, overwhelming force.
  • In Weak Hero, Jake is one of the only fighters (besides Donald) to cause Ben to doubt whether he can truly win the fight. In order to succeed, Ben forces out his emotions and instead laser focuses on the battle, thinking only of what he needs to do to win. This turns their brawl into a Victory by Endurance, with Ben's superior willpower giving him the slight edge he needs to win.
  • The main character in Joe vs. Elan School turns inward during a period of extreme punishment at the titular school. After suffering an extended Despair Event Horizon, a random power outage at the same time as his lowest moment leads him to develop a concept of the "Great Energy," which he roughly equates to God, but as a universal logic-based entity that desires life rather than destruction. This concept gives him drive and determination to play along with Elan's cruel game, not for its sadistic benefit but for his own survival. It's somewhat subverted later on after Joe gains a high rank at Elan, and notices that Elan's conditioning is interfering with this concept, and is leeching from it like a parasite.
  • After suffering from a hysteric Heroic BSoD after finding out about the death and vampirization of his best friend Durkon, Roy in The Order of the Stick reboots into this after being given a combination The Reason You Suck and Rousing Speech by Belkar. During a short time afterwards, Roy is set on moving forwards, quiet, and snappish to his teammates. After being inside of an illusion world, Roy is able to snap out of it, but it's implied he doesn't fully snap out of it until he realizes the one controlling Durkon isn't Durkon at all.

    Web Original 
  • Dan in Trinton Chronicles can go into a messiah-mode when knocked out and under much duress.
  • In the Red Panda Adventures, the eponymous hero deliberately gives himself amnesia in order to resist interrogation while captured by the Nazis.
  • In Twig, Sylvester displays two separate versions of this when his mind collapses under stress and trauma from the Psycho Serum he uses to give himself an edge, hallucinating versions of his friends who guide him (which ultimately fails, as they're ultimately just Sy talking to himself) and his enemies who taunt him and force him to drive others away so he can't hurt them.
  • Whateley Universe: This is one of the defining qualities of Erik Mahren, both before and after his Gender Bender transformation. In a combat situation, or when pushed to an emotional extreme, Eldritch enters a state of Tranquil Fury in which all thought of anything beyond surviving - and in some cases, retribution - vanishes, leaving nothing but the Super Soldier she once was.

    Western Animation 
  • Aang intentionally enters this in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Serpent's Pass" after going into berserk Super Mode last episode when Appa was stolen.
    Aang: I know I was upset about losing Appa before, but I just want to focus on getting to Ba Sing Se, and telling the Earth King about the solar eclipse.
    • It is pointed out that it seems mildly unhealthy. When the pregnant couple they're escorting gives birth, he begins to return to his old self. They name the baby Hope which is symbolic as Aang had finally allowed himself to hope again and be reminded of why he was doing this.
  • Total Drama Revenge of the Island: Zoey is normally a sweet girl, but when she feels sufficiently angry or threatened, she flies into a violent rage and takes it out on the object of her ire. While she usually calms down and apologizes after a few seconds, Chef manages to push her way past the breaking point during "Eat, Puke and Be Wary", resulting in Zoey staying in rage mode long after she should have calmed down. She only gets better late into the next episode, after a big reminder of The Power of Friendship.

    Real Life 
  • People practicing emergency procedures (ranging from escaping a house to engaging an attacker, see below) are advised to practice them repeatedly so when the real emergency comes, they will be able to do it on instinct.
  • Martial arts specifically make you able to fight without even thinking. Random accidents may ensue if an attack-like gesture provokes a violent reflex before you can stop yourself!
  • Soldiers are trained to fight at least partially this way, with things like giving and following commands, moving quickly from cover to cover, staying low, marksmanship, etc. all hammered into them repeatedly until it becomes almost a spinal reflex. This way, they are less likely to hesitate in combat, performing these numerous smaller tasks without having to think about them consciously. This can lead to problems when they come home if they have trouble readjusting to non-combat scenarios.
    • It can also lead to a puzzled reaction and what looks like Heroic Self-Deprecation when troops are hailed as heroes for some apparently amazing life-saving deed and respond with "But we all learned to do that in basic."
  • Cops are often trained this way. When you're confronted with an armed suspect that's shooting at you, if you don't react quickly enough, you're dead. This has obvious downsides when those reflexes kick in in any other scenario.
  • The preferred coping strategy for some unhappy corporate office workers to keep from going mad at the realization that this is all they're going to get out of life. The entire raison d'etre for the "office comedy" genre in TV and film.
  • Anyone in emergency medicine. When you're seeing humans or animals that are near death multiple times a day, all you can do is shut down your own emotions because they only get in the way. These people definitely care — they wouldn't be practicing medicine for a living if they didn't. But there's no time to cry over a dog that got hit by a car when in the next room you have a cat with a shredded leg at risk of amputation.
  • Often used to deal with grief. If someone has just died or is about to die and has given instructions on what to do immediately following (concerning funeral arrangements, matters of estate, etc.)note , the person following them may enter a "Safe Mode" to carry them out, not joining the rest of the family in bereavement until the instructions are fully complete. Sadly, this can often be misinterpreted as the person "not caring" that someone has died, when in reality, they're trying to get everything sorted before dealing with it.
  • This is how you're supposed to respond when your car has a severe mechanical fault appear while on the road, such as a brake failure, an engine fire, or you're involved in an accident. You need to avoid panicking, get out of traffic, get the car stopped, and put on your flashers. Then you can deal with what happened, emotionally.
  • Many Real Life Action Survivors, such as people that survived a shooting, helped rescue others from a tragedy, or protected themselves and/or others against attackers, admit that their heroics and bravery were just as much a surprise to them as anyone else, and that they were merely acting on pure instinct and not really thinking about what they were doing. Especially common among parents whose children were in danger. Nothing says "You're dead" like a Mama Bear or Papa Wolf coming after you.
  • The First Officer of British Airways Flight 5390 demonstrated this after the captain of the flight was nearly blown completely out of the cockpit when the window blew out. The flight attendants kept the captain from flying out, while the first officer, with 350 MPH winds blasting in his face and full fuel tanks making any landing much more dangerous, landed his plane perfectly at a regional airport he had never seen before without showing the slightest bit of emotion. Only after he landed did he let his emotions through.
  • Customer service workers often have to deal with rude customers on a daily basis, and they can't exactly vent their frustrations on the spot since it would sully the reputation of the stores they work for; they have to keep up those artificial smiles and air of professionalism for the next customer. Only once they're off-shift can they finally release all the pent-up stress caused by all the casual abuse from customers.
  • The videos from inside NASA mission control during the Space Shuttle disasters show the respective flight control teams first coming to grips with the horrible realization that Challenger and Columbia were lost with their entire crews and then immediately shifting into "disaster mode", locking the doors and collecting all available data and telemetry. In the raw video from the Columbia disaster, Flight Director Leroy Cain is at times visibly and audibly distressed, but he kept his cool and ensured that proper procedures were followed. In an interview shortly after the shuttle's loss, he attributed this specifically to the intensive training that NASA flight control personnel received.
    Leroy Cain: [We] relied on our training. And it was automatic, really and truly, it was an automatic thing that triggered us into action and kept us moving forward on a path that we did know and understand . . . We didn't allow ourselves to get head down and tunneled into something that was of concern, unverified and would have potentially led us astray had the circumstances been different where it could've made a difference. So the instinct that we had to keep moving forward and keep communicating and to keep—stay in our checklist was one that we rely on and that I think this situation showed that was very valuable.