Physical shifting (or as it’s more commonly know; p-shifting) is when an otherkin physically becomes their kintype and it typically occurs over a short period of a few seconds to a few minutes. It’s a hot topic within the community, some people believe it’s possible and claim to p-shift, some people believe it’s not possible, others believe it’s possible but aren’t able to p-shift, and others again believe it’s not possible right now but sometime in the future things may be different.
Personally, I’m in the end camp. I think that currently, as per the information available to the general public, p-shifting is not possible. In the future, humanity may one day advance enough to p-shift but until then, we can’t. I’ll believe that someone that can p-shift when I see objective proof of such an ability (i.e. studies that have replicable results objectively proving a human body can truly p-shift).
Before I even get into this, I’m considering p-shifting from entirely a scientific angle (I’m also dusting off my high school chemistry, physics and biology knowledge). This is because it’s a supposedly a physical thing. Physical things can be detected and analysed by science, physical things obey the laws of this physical reality, and a human physically turning into another animal within the span of a minute isn’t exactly something that can’t be picked up by science instruments. I understand spiritual shapeshifting is a thing (see; Shamanism) and I respect that, but again, something as significant as the complete change of an entire biological entity is something that is physically observable (and also something that interacts with our physical plane thus must obey its laws) and therefore observable and recordable via scientific instruments.
Short answer; no. Our current grasp of the laws of physics do not allow us to change our entire biology to become something else. Maybe in the future someday technology will allow such things to happen, but in this day and age it is not possible.
There seem to be many people out there that claim to p-shift, however when confronted, they typically give a response such as: “You won’t believe me anyway”, “I don’t trust anyone to record it/I can’t record it”, “If others find out, the government/CIA/whatever will hunt me down!”, “If you’re questioning me, you don’t deserve to see it”, and/or “I can’t tell you because it’s a secret from the shadows”. If not, their excuse is either “It takes years to see a change”, “I can’t do it stably yet” or “I gave you proof!” said ‘proof’ being a picture from the internet, a photoshopped picture, a badly cut together video, a picture of claw/bite marks or fur/feathers/scales on a bed, and/or a picture of a messy room. There are even times when people that claim to p-shift threaten and harass skeptics.
A typical example of someone that claims to slightly p-shift are those that claim to be able to grow wings and fly with them, or claiming to grow gills and breath underwater with them. Let me tell you, it takes quite a few new muscle groups, organs and other modifications (like bone density) before you can even dream of flying (that’s not even touching on how humans are horrifically un-aerodynamic and just how energy intensive flight actually is). Breathing underwater also requires an entirely different set of lungs to even be able to collect the oxygen, and that’s not taking into account of our significantly larger oxygen requirement than fish.
But anyway, moving on with things. It’s possible to trick yourself into thinking you’ve physically shifted or can p-shift, all you need to do is close your eyes and think/focus hard enough. The effect can be counteracted once you open your eyes or move your body too much as external stimuli serves as a reminder to the brain. It’s also possible to delude yourself into thinking you’ve p-shifted or can p-shift. Those that aren’t otherkin can do this too, it’s called using your imagination. Some people even struggle with it and require psychiatric treatment (see; Clinical Lycanthropy).
Phantom limb sensations can cross over partially with p-shifting in the sense it is possible you can mistake a phantom limb for a real limb. Again, this can happen to those that aren’t otherkin too (see; Rubber Hand Experiment. Also see; Body transfer illusion).
There are many problems that arise when the subject of p-shifting reaches science. I’ll address some of them here simply for the layman and then some for others.
E=mc^2 we’ve all seen the equation. Energy equals matter times the speed of light squared. If you want to rearrange mass, you need energy. The mass in question here is your body, which is made of cells, made of molecules, made of atoms. To rearrange your body, you must rearrange your cells, molecules and thus atoms. Your body already uses quite a bit of energy to prevent just that. With enough energy you could break the bonds i.e. melt yourself, but you’d need to change the atoms themselves and atoms don’t exactly create energy when they move, it’s quite the opposite. So where does this immense amount of ‘excess energy’ come from?
Well ATP can hardly be stored in our bodies so we convert any excess energy to fat (in which we really pull the short straw, we net so little energy in so much mass). Do you have enough fat stored to release more energy than an atomic bomb? Hint, you don’t. Even the act of expending that amount of energy would horrifically scar and deform you at best, leading to your death.
Also, chemical reactions take time. The faster you want the reaction to be, the more energy you put into it. So now increase an atomic bomb tenfold and you may be getting close for just one cell to change. The average human contains approximately 37.2 trillion cells. We’re now getting a grasp on just how much energy is required. Just for a one way trip mind you, you can’t just ‘snap’ back into human, you’ve got to go through the same process but in reverse.
To separate just one mol of hydrogen bonds (very common in your body since the body is supposed to be up to 75% water, water being a kind of hydrogen bond) you need about 23kJ. That might sound like a lot, but a spoon of peanut butter is 568kJ. What you need to remember is that hydrogen bonds are among the weaker bond, and one litre of water contains about 55.55 moles. That’s 1,277.65kJ. Again, you are up to 75% water. And this is just for the hydrogen bonds, not including other covalent and ionic bonds (which are significantly stronger). This is also just for atomic bonds, not the atom itself (as talked about earlier).
Let’s talk about DNA. From what I know so far (also due to my own personal experience having blood taken and tested nearly once a month, and having MRIs, CAT scans, full body bone scans, ultrasounds, karyotyping and numerous X-rays), the otherkin body is no different from a normal human. If I was somehow physically nonhuman, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even be here. So the claim that otherkin have different genes and that lets us p-shift doesn’t hold water from my perspective (and this isn’t even getting into the whole “where do this nonhuman DNA come from?” since evolution is quite an important thing). DNA is very fragile in the sense that even a single change can have major ramifications on your phenotypes. If your DNA isn’t human then you don’t look or biologically behave as human, it’s quite as simple as that. We’ve had 200,000 of existence as the Homo sapiens, we still carry around Neanderthal DNA, how does a species evolve parallel to humans, look perfectly like humans and is supposedly able to interbreed with them? Chimps share 98.8% of DNA with us and we can’t even crossbreed with them, how does someone that is able to so radically change their mass interbreed with us let alone crossbreed with us? Also; the whole dominant/recessive genetics only work for monogenetic traits, so we can’t just have some kind of ‘p-shifting’ gene (that’s ignoring the fact that there’s no evidence of said gene to begin with).
More on DNA; you’d have to perfectly change the DNA of each and every cell to change the way you look. You would have to not only deconstruct your own cells and DNA, you would then have to figure out how to create and activate the correct genetic sequences for a different animal. Mammals may be similar on a genetic level, but each gene is has very small crucial parts that prevent you from, say, being an unguligrade. Brain cells are complicated enough as is, now try and change them to fit a smaller or larger skull. Would you be self-aware enough to recognise you were once human, let alone change back into a human?
More on biology; properly p-shift i.e. to truly become your kintype, you need to 100% be that thing. You can’t be part-kintype part-human, your body would attack itself. And let’s talk chromosomes real quick. Humans have 48, wolves have 78. We would need to make an extra 30 chromosomes in each and every cell (and also change the remaining 48 to become wolf chromosomes) to become a wolf. We consider a lot of DNA to be pointless, so how would we know which parts to change? How would our bodies know how to change our chromosomes? If it did, it would need to be innate, genetic, in the DNA. But to do that you wouldn’t be 100% human or 100% wolf (if you somehow got there), making any kind of p-shifting a one-way trip, meaning you can’t just p-shift half way for p-shift back into a human.
Next; lets talk about the good ol’ conservation of mass. If no mass is being created or destroyed when p-shifting then how does someone p-shift into a sparrow, let alone p-shift back? If your mass stays the exact same then how does someone p-shift into a whale and back? I’ll use the wolf as an example; humans have a high body-fat percentage, where does it go? Wolves have more bones than humans so where does all that extra calcium come from? Humans have large brains compared to our body size, it doesn’t fit into a canine skull so where does it all go? Another example being cats; adult humans have ~206 bones, adult cats can have >230 bones. Where does that extra bone come from? Birds are short a few bones, as are bats, and anything with hooves. Each animal typically has a different bone:fat:muscle:organ mass ratio. If you claim that you just ‘change the atom type’ well that requires a significant amount of energy (see; Atomic bomb). You can look up just how much energy it takes to split one atom, that’s not even encroaching on the high precision necessary to tailor just one atom to your liking (let alone every atom in your body) and then make them bond exactly how you want.
So where does the extra mass and weight come from? You can’t sit in a pool of extra mass to use it, and you can’t just reabsorb any mass you discard should you somehow actually p-shift. You can’t magic mass out of this air and your mass won’t just magically come back either. So it literally can’t come from anywhere.
The amount of energy you would expend to rearrange your atoms, as said before, would be immense. But when you expend energy, you also release heat at the same time. If you p-shifted all at once within a minute, you would create so much cellular friction that you’d burst into flames. You would literally cook yourself trying to just rearrange your cells (that’s not even getting into changing the atoms themselves).
Your brain (i.e. you) can’t survive a temperature higher than 40°C without taking damage. Needless to say, p-shifting would involve changing your brain, thus subjecting your brain to the same temperatures as the rest of your body i.e. your brain you melt. That’s ignoring how your core temperature would go through the roof (43°C denature the proteins in your nervous system, that’s also what kills you in high fevers). You would end up a literal human torch (but with hopefully less fire).
Now I’ve been talking about cells, energy expenditure and heat, time to link it together. Pain. Unless you were somehow able to ‘cut off’ all pain receptors from your brain and change it so that you literally can’t perceive pain, you will most likely die of circulatory shock. Just the act of your bone twisting in your leg is literal agony, most people can’t even stand growing pains or period cramps, now try breaking apart literally every cell in your body. You wouldn’t make a properly visible change, maybe burst a few blood vessels at best, before passing out. If you were to somehow live through it, you would be traumatised. I’ve seen multiple times supposed p-shifters claiming that “it’s a strange tingling sensation”, the worst being “it hurt a bit but I got used to it”. Just getting rid of your skin would put you on a pain level of literally getting skinned alive (at best). Try lengthening and deforming your bones, shifting your organs and growing new ones/shrinking old ones.
Now that’s a question that really gets the mind going. Would p-shifting be a one-way street? Would only some humans be able to p-shift? Would other animals be able to p-shift? Would we be able to make inorganic, inanimate matter p-shift similar to organic, animate matter? How would your body know what to change into?
From looking at just myself; as I am a shapeshifter, what would I p-shift into specifically? Would I then be able to shapeshift at will after? Since I am a god, would I then be physical evidence of divinity?
Looking at other otherkin and therians (not to mention fictionkin); what would happen to human laws and animal rights? Would animal testing continue? Would human testing become legal? How would you confirm someone’s identity? Would otherkin be evidence of angels/demons/fae/dragons/etc? Would we be able to study prehistoric animals via therians? Would we be able to confirm the existence of aliens? Would our identities just be a product of imagination or would we be able to prove something more? How would exploration (space, sea, land, bodily, etc.) be effected? How would the food and animal product industry be effected (meat production, silk production, etc.)? Would human be added to the menu?
We’d have some problems such as foreign matter within/attached to the body; braces, surgical implants, substitute teeth/bone, etc. If you were to p-shift, your cells would change but these foreign bodies would not change with you. Those with a pacemaker or false teeth would have to somehow remove them or accommodate for them with their new form. Would foreign matter include what you’ve eaten? What is in your bloodstream? If you ate chocolate and then p-shifted into a rat would you die? Would drug (and other) mules have an easier/harder time? We coexist with (and are also made up of) massive quantities of different species of bacteria and fungi, what happens to them?
The question of “what would happen to plural otherkin?” is a confusing one. If multiple otherkin inhabit one body, what would the body p-shift into? How would that be determined? Since the brain itself would physically change too, how would that effect the system? Would you lose people in the change? You the body physically split, giving each person their own form (implies a kind of asexual reproduction)? Would you gain people in the change? Would the body become a chimera and meld the various forms together? Would the body shut down and not p-shift? Would the body die from too many identity inputs?
Let’s also look at the mind itself here; other animal brains are not human brains. Parts of yourself (if not everything about yourself) would be lost, just like in language translation. Your brain is your memory, and it is chock full (and also not genetic), by p-shifting you are changing your entire brain structure and in some cases, losing parts of it. Would a wolf brain be able to facilitate you in your whole? Would a bird brain be able to facilitate you in your whole? Would a lizard brain be able to facilitate you in your whole? Just how much would you forget? How much of “you” would be lost? How much of your humanity would stick around? How would you cope if you then became human again? Would we be able to consciously become human again or would we have to be externally forced? Many otherkin don’t like admitting that our personality, our identity/ego, is a product of our human life experience and biology. If we were to lose our humanity, we lose ‘ourselves’. How would that be counteracted? Would we make some kind of external body to ‘download’ and ‘upload’ ourselves from and to?In conclusion-
Scientifically, from what’s currently accessible to, and know by, the masses, p-shifting isn’t possible. Now all this isn’t to say p-shifting is impossible period, there may be some secret magic or scientific way to p-shift, I don’t know for sure. There could be super top secret underground government labs testing for ways to shapeshift, there could be some obscure occult group living in some off-the-grid haven that can all p-shift, I don’t know. There is a possibility since it is the unknown, but from my own observations and knowledge of science, that possibility is currently incredibly slim.
If (or when for the hopeful) p-shifting is scientifically possible and easily accessible, the impact it would have on the health field is massive. Lost limbs regrown, eyesight fixed and enhanced, ability to breath underwater, ability to fly, ability to alter genetic disfigurement and illness, enhanced physical defence preventing more workplace accidents, sex change becomes simple, albino people having the option to change, blind, deaf and dumb people having the option to experience the opposite, neurodivergent and neurotypical people having the option to experience and live as the other, and so much more.
Overall, for p-shifting to be scientifically possible there are some points to overcome;
1. Pain tolerance
2. Energy consumption
3. Cell change and method
4. Temperature control
5. Mass origin
Until these are overcome, in my eyes, p-shifting isn’t possible.