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In this article I will attempt to go into detail about the various types of shifts often spoken about in the community, in a bid to educate and inform. Of those listed below, some are widely accepted, others are debatable or even outright denied.
Note: Throughout the article you will see some terms with letters in brackets (e.g. (M)ental Shifting). This signifies the shorthand form of the term, in the case of Mental Shifting, this is M-Shifting.
Methods of Shifting
Voluntary Shifting: Some otherkin/fictionkin are able to voluntarily evoke shifts at will. Often used when one wishes to feel more like their kintype(s) be it in a certain scenario or just because they want to.
Involuntary Shifting: The opposite to the above, involuntary shifts can occur for any number of reasons. Some are triggered by certain stimuli or emotions (.e.g a loud noise, a particular aroma, stress, elation), others have no clear cause and just occur out of the blue.
Non-Shifting: Not a method of shifting, but most applicable for this section. As briefly mentioned in the introduction, though uncommon, there are a number of otherkin/fictionkin who do not experience shifts of any kind (not including those who consider themselves contherian, discussed later in this article). This doesn’t make them any less worthy of the otherkin/fictionkin labels than those who do shift in the slightest. It’s part and parcel of the many different ways that a non-human identity can manifest itself. There have been instances of those who once frequently shifted but one day find themselves not experiencing them anymore. Though perhaps disconcerting for the person involved, this doesn’t at all make someone “less otherkin”.
Types of Shifting
(M)ental Shifting: Perhaps one of the first shifts newcomers to the community will see mentioned, it is one of the more common types of shifting in the community. These occur when one takes on the mentality of their kintype(s)/fictotype(s). For example, someone with a canine kintype could feel more inclined to react by growling or barking than a human reaction, or become more preoccupied with chasing/hunting perceived prey. A character specific fictionkin will likely find themselves presenting behaviours and mannerisms far more in line with their fictotype than themselves. For example, wording, movements, reactions. Someone with an avian kintype may feel the urge to take flight when startled, even though they rationally know this is not possible. The actions are usually subconscious and not willed on (unless one who has the ability to voluntarily shifts) and not to be confused with merely "acting". They may not always be voluntary, but they are still normally fully controllable and manageable.
(Ph)antom Shifting: Along with mental shifting, phantom shifts are by far the most frequently mentioned in community spaces. They can often tie in with other types of shifting (particularly mental shifts) or even provoke them. Much like the medical term of supernumerary phantom limbs, it is the feeling/sensation of having a limb or other (usually movable) body part which is not physically there or is different to the existing counterpart. Most individuals (bar character specific human fictionkin) have kintypes that do not closely resemble the anatomy of a human body and so it isn't surprising they can feel parts of them that are "no longer there”/are absent but expected. This can happen in two different ways. Sometimes these phantom limbs will overlap parts of the existing body, but feel and "move" much more like the limbs of your kintype(s)/fictotype(s). It may also be uncomfortable if the feeling interferes with other parts of the body. An example of such a case frequently mentioned is when this occurs with the jaw and teeth.
In the case of phantom limbs such as wings or a tail, they naturally don't overlap parts of the existing body. They are completely separate from any physical part of your body, but this does not make them feel any weaker or less real when experienced. A common misconception I have seen is that one can actually 'see' their phantom limbs. This is not true outside of anecdotal rare cases of extremely strong phantom shifts (only the shifter would be able to see this much like a controlled hallucination). This goes the same for those who claim others have interacted with, felt or seen their phantom limbs, it is most likely untrue. They are not physical in any way.
Side Note: In some parts of the community, particularly Tumblr, the phantom sensations experienced in Phantom Shifting are referred to as astral limbs instead of phantom limbs. This is not to be confused with Astral Shifting, which will be discussed below.
(D)ream Shifting: This occurs when one takes on the form of their kintype(s) or fictotype(s) within their dreams (this may be from the beginning of the dream or entail a physical transformation). Though widely accepted as a form of shifting, it is vital to bear in mind that alone dream shifts are not "proof" of one's identity, as from a scientific perspective, dreams are but a product of the mind. Whilst some people do believe dreams have a more spiritual cause, even in these cases caution should be taken and dreams shouldn’t be the sole reasoning. After all someone could dream of being a flying rhinoceros, but that does not make said person a flying rhinoceros-kin no matter how much they dream it if they have no other "evidence" to base it on. Dream shifts should be held with heavy skepticism if still in the phase of discovery, lest one be misled.
(Se)nsory Shifting: Heading into lesser mentioned shifts now, sensory shifts may not sound the most extraordinary of claims out there, but there has been debate over them. It occurs when an individual gains the sensory perceptions of their kintype(s)/fictotype(s). For example, someone whose kintype is canine may find themselves to have a better sense of smell than usual. On the contrary, someone whose kintype is a mole may find themselves with reduced eyesight. Bear in mind that sensory shifting can only occur within what is physically possible of the human body and it is far more likely that sensory shifting is due to subconscious focus on the senses in question than it is to be indicative of a supernatural power or a physical anomaly.
(Au)ra Shifting: Seldom mentioned in the community, this occurs when one's aura takes on the shape of their kintype(s) or fictotype(s). Due to the nature of auras, this form of shifting depends on personal beliefs. Those who hold spiritual beliefs will be more likely to state they experience aura shifting, but even then it all depends in whether one personally believes in auras or not. For those who believe in auras, it is likely that those who can see or read auras would be able to notice the change and comment upon it.
(As)tral Shifting: Like Aura Shifting, this is again dependent on one's belief in the astral plane. Quite self explanatory, this happens when one either voluntarily or involuntarily shifts into their kintype(s) or fictotype(s) in the astral plane, their non-physical astral body taking the shape. Much like Dream Shifting this will most likely be a visible change to the individual and/or others on the astral plane, as it takes place within those realms and is not a product of the physical body changing in any way.
(Bi)-Location Shifting: Again, another of the types of shifting dependent on one's belief. The basic idea of Bi-Location shifting is that the spirit leaves the body and travels elsewhere to roam in the form of the individual's kintype(s)/fictotype(s). In that sense, it is most likely a form of OBE experienced, with the exception that the spirit body appears in its nonhuman form and that this takes place in the physical world as opposed to the astral plane. Bear in mind that this type of shifting does not mean one would appear visible to others in the area where their other body is roaming. Although some have claimed that indeed, their bi-located body is also physical and visible to others, no proof has been found of this and such claims should be treated with healthy skepticism.
(S)piritual Shifting: Occurs when the spirit/soul shifts into the form of the individual’s kintype(s) or fictotype(s). Again dependent on one’s belief system. For some people, this may be a constant thing, or temporary. Has also been used in some circles as a blanket term for some of the above shifts (Aura, Astral, Bi-Location), which involve at least some aspect of the spirit or soul changing form.
(C)ameo Shifting: This kind of shifting can manifest itself in any of the above ways. The key difference is that the individual experiences a shift that is not of their own kintype(s)/fictotype(s) and instead is of another non-human being. These can occur just once, or several times. Some people may experience hundreds of cameo shifts of different species and beings, others may experience cameos of a select few species, some may just experience one or two in their lives, if any. If one infrequently shifts into a particular being, but doesn’t feel they qualify as identifying as said being, then it could easily be a cameo shift. On the contrary, if someone is experiencing extremely frequent cameo shifts, then it may be wise to look deeper into things to see if it is a kintype or in fact is just a common cameo.
(B)erserker Shifting: The name originating from the Norse Berserkers, this is perhaps, minus physical shifting, the most contested in this article. Berserker shifting in the context of the otherkin community is considered to be when an individual mentally shifts into their kintype(s), but to a much more extreme level. In such a shift the individual has little to no control over themselves and may do things harmful to themselves or others as a result. There are many people who propose that the term shouldn’t be used and that doing such inadvertently encourages others to behave recklessly or not seek professional help for dangerous behaviours. The general consensus is that if someone is experiencing what they perceive to be a Berserker Shift, then all other potential causes should be ruled out first to ensure there isn't an underlying reason.
(P)hysical Shifting: In the vast majority of otherkin and fictionkin circles, anyone claiming they can physically shift will not get a welcoming reception. Physical shifting entails the individual physically changing into their kintype(s)/fictotype(s), much like the werewolves and other shapeshifters of myth. This is impossible for a number of reasons. To physically change into another being would mean the body would have to rewrite genes, change bone structure, move around vital organs (or even create/get rid of some) at an extremely rapid pace. Something that would be unsurvivable biologically, and certainly not possible by the laws of physics. Even if it were magically possible, it would likely be truly agonizing and life threatening to go through the change. With this in mind, always be wary of people who claim to be able to physically shift and stick to the belief that it is not possible until proven otherwise with reliable evidence. There have been plenty of cases of people building up small followings of gullible people to boost their own egos or leech from others. There is no special gene or magical book that can turn you into another creature.
Non-Shifting: See above.
(Contherian)thropy: The name derives from the community where the term was first used, but now is used in other areas of the otherkin and fictionkin community outside of therian groups. An individual is a contherian when they do not experience shifts, but instead are in a constant state of shifting for lack of a better term. The levels of non-human/human experiences stay constant and do not fluctuate.
(Suntherian)thropy: Also known as Vacillant Therianthropy. Like the former, suntherians are also in a state of being "constantly shifted" but unlike the contherian, experience fluctuations in the strength and severity of these experiences. These may be very slight in difference to drastically different from day to day depending on the individual. It has been described similar to a sliding scale.
Originally Written: January 2016. Latest Update: October 2018.