Explainer: The world of reality shifting

11 October 2021

Written by: Chloe Jaenicke

The trend of reality shifting became popular on TikTok during the pandemic, but is it safe?

Have you ever dreamed of escaping your current life?

Many TikTokers lately have been going on adventures to Hogwarts with Draco Malfoy, or even doing something as mundane as cooking with their favourite fictional characters.

How have they been doing this? Through the practice of reality shifting, a trend where people shift their consciousness from one reality to another through rapid eye movement (REM) activation.

Reality shifting (also referred to as ‘shifting’) had already been happening in many other online platforms like YouTube and Reddit before it gained popularity and became a TikTok trend during the pandemic. However, TikTok arguably holds the largest online shifting community, and the shifting hashtag currently has over 7 billion views.

As the phenomenon grows, there have been more debates on whether shifting is real and how it is different from meditation and lucid dreaming. Some of those participating online have even raised concerns, pinpointing the potential side effects of the practice, as young people make up most of the participants.

If you haven’t been following this trend so far, here’s everything you need to know about the world of shifting.

What is shifting?

Maggie Castro, who creates shifting content  on YouTube, describes shifting as moving one’s consciousness from their current reality (CR) to their desired reality (DR). The CR is the reality people presently live in, whereas DR is the reality one projects themselves into. The DR can be anywhere from a fictional universe such as Hogwarts to a completely made-up setting within the shifters’ minds.

Castro has not yet successfully managed to shift but says one of her desired realities is in the 80s.

“In this [desired] reality, I am a university student in London, and I get to meet my favourite celebrities from the decade,” she tells upstart.

Castro believes shifting happens when people enter another parallel universe as another version of themselves, which in the shifting community is known as clones.

“We are consciously present in our current reality. When you shift, you get to experience a parallel universe where one of your clones lives,” she says.

However, Jade (@Jambasmurff) compares shifting more to quantum physics than the act of entering another universe.

“It’s commonly mistaken that you’re ‘entering’ another universe. You’re just understanding your subconscious enough to control which reality you’d like to see,” she tells upstart.

Shifting has been described as akin to lucid dreaming by sceptics. Dr Racheal Murrihy, a researcher in psychology and behavioural science for young people, described lucid dreaming as a kind of meditative state.

“Most of us dream in an involuntary way like watching a movie. In a lucid dream, it is more akin to playing a videogame than watching a movie. It is reportedly like this for shifters also,” she tells upstart.

Jade believes her personal experiences of lucid dreaming and shifting are both very different, however. But she does believe they share a similarity, and that both practices involve rapid eye movement (REM) activation.

“[Lucid dreaming and shifting] both take forms of understanding your subconscious. But lucid dreaming is more understanding your subconscious rather than controlling it,” Jade says.

How to shift

There are many popular shifting methods shared on YouTube and TikTok, which often include visualisation and meditation techniques. But two of the most common ones are the raven and Alice in Wonderland method. The raven method requires shifters to lay on their back in a starfish position and count to 100 while listening to subliminal music and repeating affirmations.

The Alice in wonderland method relies more on visualisation. Shifters start with laying down in any position and visualise themselves sitting under a tree while someone from their DR run past them. Shifters then chase the imaginary person to the rabbit hole and fall behind them until they see a locked door and key. Once shifters open the door, the person from their DR will ask them if they are ready to go and lead shifters to their room where they will lay down in the same position they started in, so they can wake up in their DR.

According to Jade, the transition from CR to DR feels almost “lightweight”. But once shifters have entered their DR, it feels completely real.

Controlling your desired reality

Rachael Murrihy says shifters have already set up suggestions and expectations for what will happen. In shifting, this process is known as scripting, which Jade describes as “organising your affirmations”.

“[Scripting] states what you want to look like and your desired relationships or understanding of where you’re going,” Jade says.

Anything can be scripted, from names and appearances to even superpowers if they shift to places such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

To get out of their DR, Jade says shifters use a safe word or action.

“Sometimes it’s easy to return without even using one, once you’re experienced enough in lucid dreaming and reality grounding,” she says.

Is shifting dangerous?

Shifting is largely popular among younger people. Murrihy says many speculate that they are participating in reality shifting to escape from an existential dread caused by the pandemic. However, Murrihy attributes the trend’s popularity to young people’s tendency towards risk-taking behaviours and rebellion.

“Risk-taking is part of the behavioural repertoire for many teenagers and it helps in identity formation,” she says.

“Shifting is a risk-taking behaviour in the same way drinking and drug-taking is.”

Murrihy doesn’t recommend shifting for those with specific pre-existing mental health conditions, especially young people.

“[For] people who have certain mental health disorders, lucid dreams may blur the line between what’s real and what’s imagined, leading to confusion or even hallucinations. This might also be the case for shifting,” she says.

The trend could specifically be dangerous for those who experience frequent dissociation, according to Murrihy. Dissociation is an experience where people feel disconnected from their surroundings and between their thoughts, feelings and sense of identity.

She explains that dissociation exists on a spectrum where healthy adults may even experience some of the symptoms such as daydreaming or being immersed in a book. But it can also appear in more severe ways, often as a trauma response.

“At the other end of the spectrum, disassociation can interfere with school, work and relationships and appear in more serious psychiatric disorders such as dissociative identity disorder (DID), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative amnesia,” she says.

Based on her experience, Maggie Castro says she doesn’t see any dangers in shifting and she uses planning to go to her DR to relax. However, she recommends taking breaks from time to time as the process may be exhausting.

“Some people mix it up with astral projection, which could be dangerous in some cases. Shifting realities is completely harmless though,” she says.

Jade shares a similar sentiment saying shifting, for the most part, isn’t dangerous if it’s done moderately.

“I don’t shift as much anymore because it’s draining but I used to shift maybe once a month,” she says. “It can have its side effects if not careful or not taking care of yourself.”

Despite how exhausting shifting can be when practised too often, Castro believes it is something exciting to get into.

“As there is no proof that [shifting] is real or isn’t real, it is a subject to many debates and interesting discussions,” she says.

“Plus, shifting to your favourite TV show or movie universe sounds like loads of fun!”


Byline: Chloe Jaenicke is a second-year Bachelor of Media and Communications (Journalism) student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter @chloeejaenicke.

Photo: woman lying on bed photo By Nick Karvounis available HERE and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.