The Science Behind Reality Shifting

If you have spent any amount of time scrolling through Tik Tok or Reels lately, you may have chanced upon the Shifting community and been baffled by their content. If you are a cynic by nature, you may have scoffed at the ideas that these creators are perpetuating. Before we make judgments, however, let’s understand the basics of ‘reality shifting’.

What is shifting? Is this phenomenon, which has grabbed the attention of so many youngsters, real? Let’s attempt to explore shifting through a scientific lens.

‘Reality shifting’ refers to the phenomenon where an individual purposefully ‘shifts’ from their current reality to an alternate reality- a reality that is planned and scripted out beforehand by the shifter. While there are different ways by which one can shift, an important factor is that the process must be initiated when one is half asleep or in a meditative state. Shifters use a range of techniques to travel to these alternate realities, of which many are existing fictional worlds. A popular choice in the community is shifting to Hogwarts, where they may befriend Harry Potter and the others, and study to become witches and wizards.

While many outsiders assume that shifting is nothing but lucid dreaming, shifters disagree with the notion. They believe their shifting experience to be more real than any dream could be. Psychologist Grace Warwick brushes off this assumption as well. Instead, she dubs shifting as a ‘transliminal experience’ which is believed to arise from one’s sensitivity to unconscious psychological material. Unlike lucid dreaming, these experiences occur when one is awake and in a ‘soothed state’. This state of mind makes way for one to have a transliminal experience.

In truth, the shifting phenomena has yet to be studied in a scientifically valid way. At present, experts can only speculate as to what shifting actually involves at a physical and psychological level.

While the idea of shifting between realities might sound fantastical, Dr Susan Martinez-Conde notes that this type of dissociation is not alien to humans. Our mental self dissociates all the time, such as when we read a book or watch a movie, leaving behind our physical reality to temporarily inhabit a literary or cinematic one. This is possible thanks to the vivid imagination that humans are equipped with, and this imagination is likely what enables one to ‘shift realities’. To her, there is little difference between living in the transient fictional world of books and movies and in the alternate realities of the shifters.

The shifting community receives a lot of flak from outsiders, perhaps because the community is largely composed of teenagers, or because the idea of shifting is so surreal, one finds it easier to dismiss than accept something beyond one’s comprehension. While at first glance, shifting might seem like an impossible process, looking at its psychological roots makes it appear more grounded. The unusual phenomenon has lately gained traction due to various social media platforms that allow discussions on these topics. Perhaps the pandemic and being stuck indoors have also played a role in the surge of the shifting community. Thanks to this community, that actively and unabashedly engages in this ritual, it may be possible to one day scientifically study reality shifting. Soon, hopefully, will come a day when we understand shifting and the consequences on its practitioners.

Colman, A. M. (n.d.). A Dictionary of Psychology (3 ed.) (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199534067.001.0001

Smith, S. (2020, September 28). What is ‘reality shifting’ and Why is it taking Over tiktok? Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/y3z8vm/what-is-reality-shifting-and-why-is-it-taking-over-tiktok

Sumas, A. (2020, November 17). Reality shifting phenomenon takes OVER TIKTOK. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://huntnewsnu.com/64152/lifestyle/reality-shifting-phenomenon-takes-over-tiktok/

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Revathi Nair

Revathi Nair

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A student of psychology and neuroscience with a keen interest in neurotechnology and Artificial Intelligence.