|Putting the psycho in|
|Men who stare at goats|
|By the powers of tinfoil|
|Someone is wrong on|
“”There are people who think I’m crazy in my family. But I’m like, ‘It’s fine.’ I know it’s real, and if you don’t know it’s real, if you don’t want to believe in it, I can’t change your mind,”
|—Kristin Dattoo, self-proclaimed reality shifter|
Reality shifting is a pseudoscience, described as the process of moving one's consciousness from one's current reality (CR) to one's desired reality (DR). This "desired reality" can be anything that one creates or chooses. The process is commonly used to "shift" to fictional worlds such as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter universe. It was popularized on TikTok by fans of the Harry Potter character Draco Malfoy, who suddenly realizing that they would never be with their soft British fictional boyfriend, invented a method of coping with the cruel realities of life.
This all sounds pretty harmless, but reality shifting is not entirely innocuous. The online reality shifting community tends to lure vulnerable people into their beliefs with cult-like and glamorizing tactics. In the end, it is more likely to encourage dangerous habits of dissociation and avoiding reality in these vulnerable people, preventing them from getting the help that they actually need.
Theory and premise
Reality shifters explain this practice based on the likely-unfalsifiable theory that infinite universes exist and that through "shifting" one's subconscious through a type of meditation, anyone in any universe can go from one reality to another. Reality shifters believe that the experience of shifting is vastly different from that of lucid dreaming because lucid dreaming occurs while one's subconscious remains in their current reality, and because reality shifting is described by shifters as being more lifelike than an ordinary lucid dream. It is said that when one shifts, one is physically shifting one's mind and awareness to another reality in which one already exists,[note 1] and that one is living another life that is as real as the life experienced in one's current world.
But, if reality shifting is anything, it most likely is lucid dreaming (or an incredibly vivid dream). Since shifting normally takes place whilst asleep and requires one to manifest things that one wishes to happen in one's desired reality, it shouldn't be too surprising that one would have a dream about one's desired reality.
Most methods of reality shifting require one to put one's body to sleep whilst remaining conscious. The raven method, which involves lying down in a starfish position and counting down from 100 while imagining one's desired reality, is a popular reality shifting method.[note 2] Another popular method is the Alice in Wonderland method, which involves imagining oneself running after someone from their desired reality and jumping down a hole with them.
Many shifters rely on music known as "subliminals" to help them shift. In the context of reality shifting, subliminals are defined as audio of various affirmations that have been sped up or slowed down past an audible level and overlaid over some other noise, most commonly music or ambient noise, such as rain. Before shifting, one may experience "symptoms" such as tingling, numbness, or seeing a bright white light.
Terminology and experiences
Traveling to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter universe and becoming the character Draco Malfoy's girlfriend is reportedly the most popular desired reality; the Marvel Cinematic Universe is another. Shifters use safe words or phrases to return to their current reality.
Some shifters write "scripts" that outline what they want to happen in their desired reality. Each shifting script is unique to the person; some write it down, while others repeat it aloud while attempting to shift. It may take months of effort to successfully reality shift; most members of the reality shifting community have not yet shifted.
A "waiting room" is a term used to describe the state that exists between one's current reality and one's desired reality.
A "clone" is described as a piece of one's consciousness that is left behind when one shifts. It is also described as an extension of one's consciousness that acts the same way that you would do in your current reality. People have claimed to have shifted for periods up to days or months, leaving their clones behind to experience their current reality.
"Respawning" is described as permanently and completely leaving one's current reality for one's desired reality. Respawning is considered a form of suicide, but some people leave a clone behind of themselves to continue their life in their current reality. It is considered to be a very controversial subject among reality shifters.
'Proof' of reality shifting
All "proof" of reality shifting that has ever been presented is completely worthless, as it consists solely of anecdotal evidence that can't be proven to be false. The entire phenomenon is untestable; convenient escape hatches of "oh, the experience is different for everyone" and "maybe you just need more practice" are used by reality shifters when they are confronted with counter-arguments.
Some reality shifters often cite a declassified Army/CIA document from 1983 as 'proof' that reality shifting is real and documented. This report is about something called the "Gateway Method", which is described as a way to transcend spacetime with one's own mind. They claim that the Gateway Method is a description of reality shifting. However, other reality shifters state that the report is outdated and not based on current beliefs about neuroscience.
Besides CIA documents straight out of The Men Who Stare at Goats and incomprehensible pseudoscience, the main 'proof' of reality shifting comes from personal experiences, which mainly consist of someone fangirling about how they were able to meet their favorite characters and that "[reality shifting] IS TOTALLY REAL!!!" because they claim that they've done it themselves. Like most personal experiences, they may be unreliable and consist of personal biases.
Reality shifting appears to be a sort of self-hypnosis, according to Dr. Laura Rosser Kreiselmaier, a holistic psychotherapist. Kreiselmaier also argued that altered states of consciousness have existed for a long period of time, citing people who claim to have had mystical experiences and others who use drugs to alter their consciousness. She additionally stated that reality shifting may be gaining traction due to world events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.[note 3]
According to therapist Grace Warwick, reality shifting is not lucid dreaming, but rather a transliminal[note 4] experience. She claims that transliminal experiences happen while one is awake and are more prevalent when one's mind is in a relaxed condition, such as when someone wakes up or before they go to sleep. She cites that the scripts for shifting that are popular on social media involve being half-asleep as a starting point, and then gradually add repeated music or reverse counting. All of these variables, she claims, would create a condition favorable to a transliminal experience. She describes the important function of a script as used in reality shifting as interesting and compares it to a guided meditation or using active imagination.
A University of London student mentioned reality shifting and its community in a 2021 bachelor's dissertation, noting that it was almost like a sudden manifestation of spirituality, "formulated by individual users as an extension of their personal content creation".
A study on reality shifting was published in the journal Current Psychology in 2021. The study compared it to other forms of daydreaming and "showed its resemblance to other mental activities involving intense engagement in vivid fantasy"; the researchers placed it nearer to normal daydreaming than to pathological daydreaming.
The largest communities dedicated to reality shifting exist on the social media platforms Amino, TikTok, and Reddit. Videos under the hashtag "realityshifting" on TikTok have over 165 million views, and videos using the hashtag "shiftingrealities" have more than 1.7 billion. Reality shifting tutorials also exist on YouTube.
Most reality shifting content creators make content about their experiences in the worlds that they have shifted to and also make guides about reality shifting. Some of these creators are also a major source in introducing people to reality shifting and also tend to act as an authoritative voice of sorts; their power enables them to help create the cult-like space seen within the reality-shifting community. One technique used is claiming that if one was not able to shift, they did not believe enough in shifting and have not tried hard enough.[note 5] Another cult-like technique that is used includes a reliance on things such as CIA documents and unverifiable personal experiences as "proof". The positivity of the community is also considered creepy by some.
It is general belief among reality shifters that the TikTok reality-shifting community (also known as Shifttok) is the "least reliable" place for shifting information and is also rampant with misinformation; 'experienced' reality shifters recommend platforms such as Reddit and Amino for trustworthy information.
So why is reality shifting so damaging?
Reality shifting promotes the idea that dissociating oneself from the real world is both cool and beneficial. It may lead some people to genuinely believe that they can just simply run away to their desired reality and leave their current reality behind; that is not how the world works. It's a trend that preys on young people and the mentally ill, who are seeking ways to get rid of the pain they face in their life; a simple look through reality shifting communities allows you to see that some shifters simply want to escape their current reality due to abuse and/or trauma.
- Carlos Castaneda — the drugged-up pseudo-shamanic way of reality shifting
- Quantum Jumping – a quantum woo version
- Ed Dames — an Army major who did remote viewing 'research'
- The Men Who Stare at Goats — the goatier version from the Army
- Out-of-body experience
- Otherkin — a similarly delusional way of escaping reality
- A reality shifter's incomprehensible "explanation" of the "science" behind reality shifting (Archive)
- "Harry Potter and the Shifting TikTokers" and The CIA Document That "Proves" Shifting is Real by nickisnotgreen
- "My Thoughts on Reality Shifting" by TheOdd1sOut
- Essentially when one reality shifts, one is taking over the body and mind of one's self that lives in the universe that one is shifting to.
- It, like most reality shifting methods, is a procedure that is carried out while one is sleeping; when one awakens, one is (supposedly) in one's desired reality.
- Then again, reading from her personal website, Laura Kreiselmaier is a therapist who is Reiki trained and encourages prayer and essential oils for her clients, so take her opinion with skepticism.
- Transliminal is a term coined by parapsychologist Michael Thalbourne to indicate hypersensitivity to the paranormal.
- Ironically, losing confidence in shifting is also described as being a "symptom" that one will shift soon, further increasing confusion.
- Andrews, Travis (17 July 2021). "Inside 'reality shifting,' the trend where TikTokers claim they can enter the world of Harry Potter". The Washington Post.
- Cavender, Elena (27 July 2021). "TikTok's reality shifting trend mixes dream-like consciousness with fandoms". Mashable.
- Dolbey, Guy (25 January 2021). "The Strange World of TikTok "Reality Shifters"". Hyperallergic.
- "My Thoughts on Reality Shifting" by TheOdd1sOut
- Smith, Serena (20 June 2021). "What is 'reality shifting' and why is it taking over TikTok?". i-D. Vice Media.
- Mather, Katie. "'REALITY SHIFTING' TREND TAKES OVER TIKTOK". In The Know. Verizon Media.
- "START HERE" (Archive)
- "I shifted for a whole CR 8 days, AMA + a few tips" (Archive)
- "I Shifted for 7 CR months to Escape this Realities Trauma, It's Possible & Here's my Experience" (Archive)
- Hale, Tom (11 March 2021). "In 1983, The CIA Wrote A Bizarre Report About Transcending Spacetime With Your Mind IFLScience.
- Analysis and Assessment of Gateway Process by Wayne M. McDonnell (9 June 1983) Department of the Army via CIA.
- "Can you stop sharing misinformation? Please, read" (Archive)
- "GUYS!!! ITS REAL!!!!!" (Archive)
- See the Wikipedia article on On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.
- Dr. Laura Kreiselmaier, Holistic Therapist (archived from 18 Sep 2021 19:03:55 UTC).
- "A common thread underlying belief in the paranormal, mystical experience and psychopathology" by M. A. Thalbourne & P. S. Delin (1994) Journal of Parapsychology 58:3-38.
- Digital spirituality: Technological Re-enchantment IN 2020/1? An exploration of witchcraft and Reality shifting ON TikTok AS (post)modern Spiritualities existing IN Wouter Hanegraaff’s 'mirror of secular thought' by Esmé Lily Katherine Partridge (2021) SOAS, University of London.
- Somer, E., Cardeña, E., Catelan, R.F. et al. Reality shifting: psychological features of an emergent online daydreaming culture. Curr Psychol. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02439-3
- "Get Off TikTok... Seriously." (Archive)
- "The shifttok community is so far behind 💀" (Archive)