Shape-shifting (Part 1)

This series of posts are based on the outline of an exploration session presented at The Silent Eye  (a modern mystery school) “The Feathered Seer” weekend in 2017. Whilst I have attempted to retain some of the flavour of the actual talk, the interactive elements of the exploration are absent, and since most of it was done “on  the hoof” it is not really a true reflection of the session. Many of the sections are expanded considerably from that presented on the day…


“Boy Mood 2” (found at

Not sure what I was thinking, really. It’s a massive topic, and whilst I did mention this during a previous exploration session, in 2016 on Spirit Animals, I somehow found myself agreeing to attempt the subject the following year.

April 2017 came far too quickly, and finding myself, the night before the session, scratching down a few notes on the back of a Corn Flake packet, was rather concerned that I simply didn’t have enough to fill the hour assigned.

I shouldn’t have worried. The elements of this post were barely covered, as the interactive elements went much deeper than I could ever have anticipated, and I found myself shoe-horning in elements of later parts in a vain attempt to give full coverage of the planned discussion points.


What is it about shape-shifting that is so hard? We are ALL masters of shape-shifting. We simply don’t recognise the shape-shifting that we do, every day of our lives. Indeed, it is such a powerful urge within us, that we simply cannot help ourselves.

Child’s Play
Copyright: Ni Qin / Getty Images

Of course, we are not nearly as good at it now, as adults, as we once were. As children, shape-shifting comes so naturally, that we never question the reality of it. That little guy on the right is NOT wearing goggles and a cape in order to “play” Superheroes. He is, for all intents and purposes, a fully fledged superhero; capable of feats of incredible strength, leaping buildings in a single bound, saving the planet at every turn.

As adults, we dismiss “whatever it is he is doing” as “imagination”. How is it that we forget that, for him, the experience of donning the cloak and goggles goes way beyond what we adults mean by “imagination”. Have we forgotten what it was like to lose all sense of self in the deepest moments of “play”?

Without the “self”, only the Superhero remains…

Whilst we may grow out of goggles and capes, we remain bound by the possibilities offered us through the art of shape-shifting. We go to work, and present as the perfect employee or the perfect boss; coming home we shift to become the perfect partner, the perfect mother, the perfect son; on a night out we are the life and soul of the party, the best friend, the jovial host.

Yet, deep down, if we were truly honest with Self, we are none of these things; and all of these things. It’s just incredibly difficult to be all of them at the same time.

Artist unknown
(Found on pinterest)

Our teenage years taught us this; if nothing else. Who can forgot the horror of turning the corner with our friends, each in full-on hyper-cool mode, and bumping into our parents? All “cool” segues immediately into unbearable, incredibly annoying, complete and utter embarrassment; as they remind us to be home by a certain time, or that we have to do our chores before it gets dark, or (god forbid) our Mother cleans some dirt from our face with her own spit on a kerchief… By our later teens, we usually develop coping mechanisms for such incidents.

Yet they remain, quite possibly, one of our greatest sources of stress, well into late adulthood for some. Our perfect husband doesn’t “quite” make the grade as the man we have described to our colleagues; our perfect child is a complete brat in sophisticated company; and we constantly fear getting caught out, at any moment, in a whole range of situations that we never feel fully prepared for, yet, ever cool, have claimed to be “down with”…

Ironically, it is the coping mechanisms we develop as teenagers that allow us to deny any form of shape-shifting in our day-to-day lives; choosing instead to believe, a self-imposed fantasy, that we present the same persona in all and every situation.

Far from being ever constant, our persona shifts constantly, as we change masks, effortlessly, in order to meet the circumstance of each situation in which we find ourselves throughout the day. As we shape-shift to accommodate everybody else’s needs, expectations and desires, we run the risk of losing our truest self.

The shape-shift that most of us executed to be here this weekend?

We never even considered it.

(Part 2 – coming soon)


About A Misanthropic Bear

Intermittent posting of random touchstones, memories and events. This wasn't meant to be what it would become... But then, is it ever?
This entry was posted in Introduction to shamanism, Self Awareness, Shaman tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Shape-shifting (Part 1)

  1. My goodness a fascinating read – never thought of it like that.


  2. The role of shape-shifting into other “pieces” of ourselves Is something I agree we all do. When I write, I try and take on the mask of the character. Growing up, long before I knew I wanted to be a writer, I wrote scripts for my toys. It’s just always been a part of me. I Love D, Wallace’s and Paul’s responses to this as well.


  3. paulandruss says:

    There is a psychological theory that we do not have integrated personalities but personality trait clusters that come to the fore under different circumstances. (There is also an element of learned behaviour – we tend to rely on established reactions (even when they don’t work), and social conformity- we consciously present the same set of social masks in similar circumstances to similar people.) We think we are ‘one thing’ simply because our internal voice gives a sense of self, lending a coherence to all our conflicting personality traits. Your argument that we shape-shift or we ‘become’ makes perfect sense from a psychological point of view (And lets face it psychology is as much magic as science.)
    Today many have moved away from nature, we have lost touch with the idea of totem or spirit animals and so we probably identify with the new gods: soap characters or z-list celebrities. But it certainly does not invalidate the idea of totem animals that we can summon to give us cunning or courage such as Norse beserkers or the Fenian werewolves once did.
    As you so rightly said shape shifting is not putting on a mask. The real mask is the face we wear every day in society. In Ancient Greek theatre actors put on masks to represent the characters they were playing. The Greek for mask is Prosopon. It gives the modern word person.
    So basically that is the long way of saying great post. Agree with everything you said as it makes a huge amount of sense. And we need to embrace all of us, not cling to the narrow tip of the iceberg which we believe is our ‘true self’, and not beat ourselves up when we act out of ‘character’.


  4. Wonderful and fascinating post. I feel like a shapeshifter when I write – experiencing changes in attitudes, expressions, emotions, but haven’t thought much about it in “real” life. Of course, it’s true. In addition to the danger of losing ourselves, there is also the freedom to experiment and learn who we might become. 🙂


  5. shape shifting …ingrained and necessary for survival


  6. Excellent post Sue, very thought provoking looking forward to reading more.


  7. Lots of things to think about here. I remember as a child being sure that I could fly, at least until I got to school age and then, somehow, no longer could. Even now, I’m sure I remember flying. And who, in adulthood, doesn’t have multiple shapes — for office, for parenting, for home, for play. Very interesting. Thank you!


  8. Pingback: Shape-shifting (Part 1) – by Running Elk | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  9. Reblogged this on ravenhawks' magazine and commented:
    Great Post! Really insightful way of looking at shape-shifting.


  10. Pingback: Shape-shifting (Part 1) – by Running Elk – The Silent Eye

  11. alienorajt says:

    Brilliant post. Now looking forward to the next part. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Shape-shifting (Part 1) | Not Tomatoes

  13. Sue Vincent says:

    Good grief, H… written in the same year? 😀
    The ‘live’ elements were perfect and threw those masks into relief…and removed a few too.
    Brilliant post… I’ll be reblogging it and looking forward to the next part too. x

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: The Feathered Seer – Part 3 (No. Really. The Feathered Seer!) | Shamanic Paths

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