Shapeshifting is a common storyline in mythology, folklore, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction. In most native cultures, particularly Shamanism, the Shamans are touted to be skilled shapeshifters. They have the ability to change into whatever form as and when needed.
Nonetheless, shapeshifting is not some rare skill that only people with immense spiritual powers possess.
All living species are born with the inbuilt mechanism to shapeshift. In recent times, scientists have noticed birds and animals are shapeshifting due to climate change.
Humans too are expert shapeshifters – we are shaped by our environment. In order to survive, we must adjust and adapt to situational changes. Moreso, if you grew up in a crazy-making and dysfunctional family.
Anthropologist, Charles Darwin has famously attributed the survival of a species to its ability to adapt or adjust to the changing environment.
Shapeshifting As A Survival Response
From the time we are babies we learn how to get the attention we need to survive and thrive. We instinctively adopted behaviors, and attitudes that supported our survival and growth. Most often it meant learning to conform and mimic the behaviors of the adults around.
In dominating and toxic culture, often one has to subdue one’s natural inclinations, needs, and desires and become someone else. Our appearance or behavioral responses is modified for acceptance to our familial/social environment. Failure to do means ostracization and eventual extinction. We, humans, need a tribe to survive, particularly when we are young. However, this can become our default mode of being that may not be ideal in adulthood.
From a vital, confident girl, I morphed into a mousy, fearful, shame-filled, guilt-ridden persona.
Energy, Posture, and Shapeshifting
All shapeshifting first occurs on an energetic level. How we feel internally we become externally. And our environment plays a huge role in affecting our mental state. Interpersonal neurobiology is a real phenomenon – our immediate circle, family/friends inexorably shape us.
Studies have shown that when exposed to a dominant (postural expansion) behavior we complement it with a submissive (postural constriction) stance.
Furthermore, growing up in authoritarian homes, as kids we were trained to not look directly into our parents’ eyes. This only led to one growing up never learning how to maintain eye contact and assert our dominance in the world. Being able to hold another person’s gaze in social interactions dominance while lacking eye contact when someone is speaking communicates submission. This eventually, translates into how we feel and body posture. Our eyes control our mental and physical balance.
In short, sometimes it is these non-verbal microexpressions that affect the dynamics of a group/family system. Constantly, living like one is walking on eggshells, gradually leads to a tight/tense muscle pattern.
My psyche and myofascial structure had adapted to being on guard – hypervigilant to my threat-filled environment. Even simple activities like using the mixie that not require any tensing of the body and I was tense. Working on my healing has meant becoming self-aware of my mental state and body patterns.
Self- Erazure and Becoming Someone Else
In retrospect, my self-erasure through obedient compliance began when my mother fell seriously ill with cancer.
I remember, one day when I was around 9 years, after a fun-filled evening playing I returned a bit late home. I was feeling quite euphoric and went to see my mother who was lying on the bed. In her calm voice, she told me not to come late because, ‘you know your father has to do so much, so try to be on time,.’
I felt guilty and there began my descent into submission, acquiescence, and being guilt-tripped for every damn thing. It was this pivotal moment that set me up to take on burdens that were really not mine.
Caretaking and being useful became my normal. This got programmed in my nervous system.
Transformation and Shapeshiting
Conforming to the expectations and restrictions translates into our personalities. We become our habits and our behaviors.
In order to shapeshift, we need to understand that all of life is energy. By focusing our intent we can change our energetic patterns, and thus our bodies.
All shapeshifting first occurs on an energetic level. We must viscerally feel new/different from within.
However, first, we have to clear out and heal those subconscious negative thoughts and patterns from our minds.
For any transformational change to occur one has to discard one’s old identity. Let go of the attachment and expectations of our past. We must empty ourselves, clear out all the subconscious blockages so that the new spirit can embody us. We cannot be the same person anymore. That is what being born again means.
As Frank Fools Crow, the Lakota Holy Man taught – ‘become like a hollow bone,’. Once we are clear of all the old programming, our attachments, and desires we can shapeshift into a new self.
Re-imagining a new self takes intentional focus and consistent repetition.
Shifting into something fully takes time. You have to be able to internally feel the state for it to manifest. Author of The Energy Cure, William Bengston has devised the Rapid Image Cycling technique
The first step is to imagine something as real… so much that you can see/hear/feel/smell/hear it as happening in the present moment. Be specific, imagine the actual scenarios. Make a list of at least 20 images, memorize your list so that you can rapidly bring up each image in your mind’s eye.
2) Listen To Empowering Transforming Words/sounds
To change we need to replace the earlier negative thought patterns that were instilled in our brain. The thoughts we think, the beliefs we hold—they have extraordinary power to make or break our chances of changing our lives.
Many advocate meditation/mindfulness but that has not worked for me. I prefer sound healing music and guided meditations. They are easy and effective ways to change the brainwaves from turbulent to calm and confident.
3) Movie Therapy – Watch Superhero films
Movie therapy is a super easy and effective way to change our brain neurophysiology. Movies can help us reconnect with our emotions via our mirror neurons. Visually seeing stories unfold and characters emote is an effective method for eliciting similar emotions within us.
Studies have proven that watching superhero films helps reduce anxiety and boost confidence. Or you can find inspiring movies – watching the film on Nelson Mandela really uplifted me. Even reading biographies/memoirs can shift our way of thinking/beliefs from hopelessness to empowerment. All change first happens in our minds.
4) Cosplay – Act/Fake The Part
Take movie therapy one step further and dress the part. Giving our brain supportive accessories to imagine the change helps it happen faster. Dressing up for our visualized identity or cosplaying the role helps us viscerally tap into that character or part. Shamans put on the skin or feathers of the animal they want to shapeshift into.
According to clinical psychologist, Robyn S. Rosenberg, at the University of California, San Francisco. Costumes can offer us a way of working through subconscious blocks/traumas. It is easier to imbibe the spirit of Ironman/woman when we actually dress like Ironman.
Playing the part requires we dress the part. Power posing and power dressing go hand in hand in creating our new identity. Get that outfit that you feel will make you feel confident or sexy or whatever you wish to portray.
5) Expanding Your Peripersonal Space
Peripersonal Space/personal space refers to all space within reach of any limb of the individual. Thus to be ‘within arm’s length’ is usually considered to be within one’s peripersonal space.
However, each one of us has our own brain schema of a personal space ‘bubble’ around us. The bubble is the point where the approach of another person causes discomfort and arousal. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is called ‘Wei Qi’ or Protective Qi or auric field.
In society, men’s social dominance orientation (SDO) usually programs them to take on more expansive personal space while women are trained to narrow/diminish their presence. Often those of us who are traumatized try to make ourselves small and take up as little space as possible.
One blessing with this COVID epidemic is that it automatically increases my personal space. I don’t need to fear someone intruding my peripersonal space so my brain is less on the defensive/hypervigilant state. My daily practice of horse stance has also helped me feel more centered and stronger.
Small Consistent Steps Rather than Intensity
Shifting into something fully takes time. You can start by faking it, pretending you are that persona in private. Next would be to practice that state with someone who does not know you at all. Doing this consistently without reverting back to your old state will slowly but surely shift how you think and feel from the inside.
Think of it as a game of pretend-play, don’t worry about getting it right immediately. But practice will eventually help you perfectly embody the identity you want to transform into. Consistency gets you over there rather than intensity.
Do remember, the older one gets the more difficult it is to change. The longer the misalignment has been in place, the longer the process of shapeshifting can take. Of course, miracles do happen. A mind-transforming shift in life circumstances and whoosh there is a release of previously stuck life-force energy.
Also, overly pushing or trying to accelerate the process can cause stress to the body which can lead to health problems. Think of the delicate brain wiring, those neurons, and nerves that have to unwire and rewire. Too much too soon could cause nerve damage and who knows what. Not everything is known about the brain and body.
Transforming into a butterfly is a slow process, the caterpillar stage, the cocoon stage, and finally, we are ready to spread our wings and become who we were meant to be. Don’t stress about reaching the destination. You will get there when you are meant to get there. Be grateful for what is and value the process.