Unlocking Alternate Realities — The TikTok Phenomenon of Permashifting Explained

Jamie Lerner - Author

Dec. 13 2023, Published 9:53 a.m. ET

The Gist:

  • We dive into the TikTok trend of reality shifting, especially the extreme version known as permashifting.

  • There are many shifting techniques circulating on TikTok and the controversies they bring, including psychological considerations.

  • The allure of shifting is a coping mechanism and a way to manifest desires. There are risks involved, such as detachment from reality and setting unrealistic expectations, urging a critical look at its impact on mental health.

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Now more than ever, people are getting their educations from social media. This has become such a trend that people sometimes refer to learning things on TikTok as “TikTok University.” Others say they “read an article,” which is often code for watching a TikTok video. One of the latest practices to circulate on TikTok is shifting, which has a more extreme version called permashifting.

Shifting is a practice of shifting from one reality to another, popularized on #ShiftTok, although it has also been circulating throughout Tumblr and Reddit. Now, shifting has shifted from TikTok to Twitter as it becomes even more popular, and millennials have some opinions about it.

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Permashifting is a “permanent” practice of shifting realities.

The idea of shifting gained popularity during COVID-19, when TikTok grew alongside feelings of despair, isolation, and disappointment in the current reality. It would also be remiss to say that the MCU’s dedication to the multiverse didn’t play a part in the practice of shifting. Basically, TikTokers popularized the idea that by writing a script for one’s “desired reality” (DR), they could shift between their “current reality” (CR) and their DR.

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In doing so, however, they’re leaving their CR behind to make a better life for themselves in their DR. Examples of DRs include going to Hogwarts to date Draco Malfoy, going into favorite anime worlds, and just being a different version of oneself. Permashifting refers to going to one’s DR “permanently,” although it really just means long term, as one can always return to their “original reality” (OR).

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The idea of shifting is that there's an infinite amount of realities based on the choices and experiences in our lives. If we want to change to a reality in which one chooses to do gymnastics instead of theater, one would map out what that DR looks like and then shift to that reality.

There are many ways to shift from CR to DR, but the practice is also very controversial.

To achieve shifting, TikTokers have shared techniques, such as the Raven Method, which incorporates lying in a starfish position and counting to 100 while listening to “subliminals.” Subliminals are often pre-recorded audio and video, typically available on YouTube, SoundCloud, and other platforms, that layer DR affirmations (“I can shift my consciousness to the reality I desire whenever I want to”) over ambient music.

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Other popular shifting methods include the Alice in Wonderland Method, the Pillow Method, the Elevator Method, the Lifa App (a DR app), and the Void State Method, all of which were popularized on TikTok and Reddit. These are all essentially high-focus meditations that help shifters transcend their CR into their DR.

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However, many outsiders see shifting as a trauma response. In some ways, it can be very healthy, and several psychologists say that there’s no harm to shifting temporarily. “Holding on to the idea that no matter how bad the world may feel around us, we have the ability, skill, and permission to be whatever we want by experiencing it internally can bring great hope in times of great distress,” Dr. Joshua Kaplow told Inverse.

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In many ways, shifting is simply a way to reframe reality and deal with past traumas or experiences. By outlining a DR and shifting into it, shifters are achieving a form of manifestation, which millennials have been practicing for ages. Shifting is also likened to millennia-old practices of storytelling, daydreaming, and other forms of changing how we respond to our circumstances.

On the flip side, however, permashifting can have lasting and damaging effects. Some shifters might bank so heavily on entering a new reality that they detach from their CR and become disengaged, failing to perform basic functions like caring for personal hygiene and health. Another downside is that it can create unrealistic expectations — some people create unhealthy visual appearances for their DR, such as a perfect hourglass figure, that isn’t attainable no matter what.

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While the idea of shifting can be fun, it gets dangerous to oneself when thinking about it as permanent and 100 percent realistic. This is why someone on Twitter called it, “TikTok-induced schizophrenia.” The idea that one can actually shift between realities in which their body, face, and environment are completely different can be tied to mental health challenges.

So, shift away! But remember that permashifting isn’t always the best way to deal with problems in the CR.

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