I was discussing with Shen Tirag recently about her personal therianthropy theory, mental therianthropy, and the theories related to atypical neurobiology and neuropsychology in a general way. Those seems to be pretty popular lately, seeing the number of topics on the subject as well as the numerous comments suggesting that many therianthropes may have atypical brain functionning and the like. At the same time, the idea that therianthropy could find its cause (partially or entirely) in “atypical” neurobiology seems widely misunderstood by a good number of people.
Let’s not start the “spiritual VS mental” therianthropy debate – this isn’t a real debate. There is no opposition to me, and anyway this writing is not about how one of these theories is better than the other. I am not a specialist of brain chemistry, I simply am someone with a critical mind who can’t shut up when seeing something wrong or inacurate. This essay is about clearing up a misconception on the “neurobiological therianthropy” take and it may interest everybody.
What pushed me to write this is that many time I saw people arguing “If therianthropy was caused by abnormal brain functionning, I would be in a psychiatric hospital” or “If I was brainfucked I would be seeking professional help” (I’m quoting them, those aren’t my words). Obviously if one follows that way of thinking it’s because they don’t understand what “atypical” means in the first place. I guess it’s not so hard to jump from “atypical brain” to “in need of professional help” when the theory has often been presented drawing comparisons with autism. While autistic people can be highly functional, our ableist society has difficulties understanding them as anything but mentally ill or dysfunctional, and they see “insanity” under a very negative light. However most therianthropes are able to funtion normally in society (I will go back to this later).
Another important point is: the idea that therianthropy may be caused by atypical-anything can be scary. It is terrifying to some, even, and the concept is quickly dissmissed and replaced by a theory that would be more flattering to the individual. Why is it scary? Because nobody likes being considered as “nuts”. As animal-people, we often have struggled with the idea of being animal inside, fearing for our sanity, wondering if we were freaks, if people would think of us as freaks. So when the idea that the cause of therianthropy could be something differing from the norm in our mind, people associate “different” with “bad”, “crazy”, “dangerous” and they go “Hell no!”. They want to distance themselves from “insanity” as much as possible (using the term in a very derogatory way and forgetting that some of us also are mentally ill). However this isn’t what the neurobiology/neuropsychology theory is about.
Atypical doesn’t mean our brain and mind aren’t fine. Atypical, here, means our brains work differently. As in, another way to function, not to dysfunction; it isn’t worse than any other. There are other types of atypical brain functioning that make perfectly functional individuals. Synesthesia (Greek, syn: together + aisthesis: perception) is one of them. Synesthetes perceive their environement in an special way, associating sounds with colours, or projecting colours onto graphems (letters, numbers, etc), or having other unusual perception associations. This is a well-known phenomenon. They require no professional help and synesthesia does not keep them from having a normal life. This condition is not a disease or mental illness. Synesthesia is “abnormal” only in being statistically rare. Can you see the parallel? Synesthetes perceive things that are real to them but that other can’t see. This is exactly what your supernumerary phantom limbs are about. You are not imagining them, you feel them naturally and they are a valid, real experience, but others can’t see ’em.
So I think it is time some people look into the concept of atypical neurobiology and understand it does not make animal-folk dysfunctional people or fake therianthropes. To me, this theory doesn’t even condemn spiritual people. As an example, since what you are isn’t the product of your imagination and that you really are animal inside; if it is who and what you are. Why wouldn’t your soul, the core of you, be animal? Why should it be mental or spiritual if you feel both apply to you? Why would it be impossible to think both concepts can coexist? If you believe in some kind of reincarnation, what keeps you from thinking you were a deer in a past life and this part of you is revealed through your “atypical” neurobiology in this current life? When someone asks if you are a mental or spiritual therianthrope, don’t let them put you into neat boxes if you feel both labels apply.
In the end, debating over causes we can’t even prove for sure is a waste of time. Arguing over what caused therianthropy is pointless and may keep some people from enjoying life as the animal person they are. This is worth for both science-obsessed and spirituality-obsessed therians. Focus on the way you experience your animality, not why you were born an animal person. I see a lot of fluffesque theorizing – fluff as in people mistake this as the whole point and give it too much importance – but I see way less accounts of what is being your animal, what is your perspective, and what makes you you. Some people create general theories on therianthropy before even thinking and knowing about their personal one. Some people are so obsessed with theories and words that they have forgotten what being an animal feels like.
Maybe they should go for a walk in the woods.