Reality Shifting or Dreaming?

 by Anjali Arackal

Image by Richard Horvath

Has anyone else’s social media been inundated with floods of content about “shifting realities”? This bizarre trend was first popularised in November of last year, then had another surge early this summer. Essentially, it is the idea that all universes exist as parallel realities, and, with practice, you can “shift” to any you’d like. Meanwhile, a “clone” acts as your body in this reality, carrying out your daily tasks while your subconscious is spending time with Draco Malfoy.   Popular shifting destinations include Hogwarts (with a particular emphasis on befriending Fred and George Weasley, and of course the aforementioned Draco Malfoy), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In order to shift, the person must first “script” their reality by writing out a list of attributes, and any specific details about their reality, such as their receipt of a Hogwarts letter. Often, they will also “script” that they are experts at a certain skill such as playing an instrument or are fluent in a foreign language, then allegedly return to their “current reality” with a better understanding.

Shifting is not a new concept. Shifters often point to several pieces of "evidence"; the scientific concepts of quantum leaps and multiverse theory, and a deleted CIA report. The 1983 report is thought to be part of the wider CIA investigation into whether hypnosis could be used in the Cold War as part of the espionage efforts and is composed of a large amount of pseudoscience. Although scientific language and concepts are used, many ideas in the report aren't testable and indeed seem illogical. Quantum leaps have nothing to do with shifting realities and are instead about how electrons "leap" between discrete energy levels in atoms. Although the multiverse theory is a widely accepted concept in theoretical physics, having been covered by scientists such as Stephen Hawking, there is nothing in this theory about being able to move your consciousness to an alternate reality where you have ultimate control.

One popular theory is that “shifting” is simply lucid dreaming. Lucid dreams are when you know you are asleep during a dream, which allows you to manipulate the world around you, and can feel incredibly immersive. Shifting usually takes place at night, with elaborate rituals to relax the body and mind enough to enter the lighter stages of sleep where REM (rapid eye movement) is highest. This is when dreams are most vivid, and it is fairly universally acknowledged that active REM helps the process of shifting.

Even if it is pure lucid dreaming, the idea of shifting in and of itself is perfectly safe; everyone needs escapism sometimes, and the fact that this trend blew up during the pandemic is telling. However, the danger comes when people get too absorbed into their fabricated reality and spend more and more time there. This is understandable - who wouldn’t prefer a universe where every detail is under their god-like control? Although most shift at night, some do it during the daytime using a variant of daydreaming. This can lead to the person neglecting basic human needs, relationships and responsibilities and can eventually lead to the development of maladaptive daydreaming disorders, especially if the person is shifting during the day. Maria Tapu from the British Psychological Society says that: "Maladaptive daydreaming usually occurs as a coping mechanism in response to trauma abuse or loneliness . . . it is a vicious cycle of addiction: where they try to replace the painful real-life interactions between family and friends." She also mentions sufferers creating an inner world, which they escape into by daydreaming, which has a remarkable similarity to the concept of shifting.

In conclusion, I personally don't think it's real, just a form of lucid dreaming. With the online nature of this trend, many young people are drawn in by the idea of escaping their depressing realities and shifting to one where they have the ultimate control. They are discouraged from doing research about the illogical nature of shifting because having doubts, they are told by "experienced" shifters, makes you less likely to be able to shift. While mostly harmless, it can develop into unhealthy behaviours like maladaptive daydreaming. If you want to go to Hogwarts, it's probably healthier and easier to go to the London Warner Brothers Studio than attempt to move your consciousness.