Soulsearch – Keep Walking

[Go Back to: Meditating, Discussing, Labeling.]

 Keep Walking

We’re almost done. People often say (even without knowing what it means): “the journey never ends”. That’s the case: all individuals evolve, they grow, learn, change, develop their own insight on things and come to a deeper understanding of themselves. You’ll never been done with self-exploration. People don’t stay stuck a certain state forever, it’s not different with therianthropy. That means the way you view or interpret your animality will probably evolve, will get subtler. Well… in theory. Most of people stop soulsearching once they find out their “species” and a few labels to cling onto. Perhaps they don’t know what to do then, as nobody can teach them about it. Or they’re caught in the illusion that a name and a few terms are the end of all. That’s not the case: labels are optional, and knowledge matters more. Maybe you’ll get the feeling that finding your animal-self actually was much easier. Perhaps it also is why so few people write about “then”. What comes after is even more personal than the beginning. It’s about cherishing and developing that “you” you found and started understanding. It’s pretty hard to put in words – I would say, pure experience can’t be put in words – and there can be no guidelines for that. Were you searching for a guide on “what to do then” here? You’ll find none. That’s up to you and, fuck, I don’t know how you should proceed because what I or someone else thought and pondered about probably won’t be the same for you as it’s so personal. I can just talk about my own experience.

I would say there are “steps” of discovery, and this one is the most interesting, personal and hardest to put in words. I’m not sure if I can say “steps”; what I mean is that, for myself at least and for many other animal-people, point of views, knowledge and priorities vary along introspection. When people first learn about the T-word and feel they’re a “therian”, what they want is finding out what they are and where they fit in terms of words and people. They research on general knowledge and many need validation. Information on animals, terminology; they look up to others’ words (posts, essays). They don’t know about politics and all that shit, and may lack a critical mind. There is this pressure, from both outside and inside, to settle on something specific and just.. settle as a real, existing animal person. On boards, or on their own. They also don’t have much to say because most of time they’d never thought about their animality much before. This state can last quite a while. Eventually people find some answers.

Then comes the big slap in the face. Oops. Whether it is about species, labels, opinions/behaviors or anything else, a mistake was made somewhere. This is all about trials and errors, and everybody make them. You realize how stupid you’ve been, you got it wrong, you should have known, yadda yadda. Some people go really emo on this. They feel lost, and although at some point I only wanted to encourage them, now I tend to shrug more than anything else. It’s not the end of the world, jeez. You don’t have to post an over-dramatic topic about how you were wrong and how sorry you feel. Really, do yourself a favor: don’t write too much about it. You are under the impression you’ll get it right this time, and it’s strongly possible it’s not the case. That’s life.

Searching for definite answers. After people mistook one big time and felt sorry about it, made their mea culpa and showed to the whole world how worried they were about what others may think of them, they settle on something else thinking this time everything will be fine; in other words they get overly confident. Not only about themselves, but also on how others should soulsearch, what is Wrong or Right, and also what’s going on in the community – because, sure, they learned things since they hang around… but not so, really. This is the age of illusion, the illusion of stability and self-knowledge while they still are inexperienced. I can think of plenty people like that. They may know what they are, and where they stand to some degree, but the perspectives, the priorities differ. And the behavior, the self-confidence; bashing others’, showing the wold how serious and real they are, mimicking more experienced people and misinterpreting them. Some people never get out of this.

Seeking self-knowledge. Phases of self-doubt between illusions of self-knowledge may alternate for a long time. Little by little, after much trial and errors, clearing up of misconceptions, changes in perception and changes in interpretation, … things get better (hopefully). Deeper, subtler, and more stable. Animal people in this state know who and what they are, where they stand, and what they want. What they write about their experiences and discovery is generally a lot more interesting and meaningful than what people in the previous step may have written out of bangwagoning or thinking they knew what they were talking about. I’m not saying that before this people did not make sense at all, but more likely there wasn’t anything really personal and thought-provoking in it. As an example, before, “therians” would tell newcomers about “what therianthropy is not”. Now, more experienced animal people know what being an animal person really is (from their perspective), hence the easiness to write on the subject. They may also lose interest in what is discussed on forums. And now they have a better understanding of their animalself, they can put everything together, ponder over other aspects and how those aspects interact with each other.

Realizations, balance and new perspectives. From this point, people may successively come to different realizations and develop their own perspective on the world that surrounds them – a personal worldview. It’s about global perspectives. Those things vary as we grow, and often animal people may feel they do not gain anymore from reading forums, and they leave. This can happen in previous steps as well. Some people never joined. Some people also stop having any interest in introspecting at that point. Forums are about theories and terminology, and when you’ve reached a certain point in your life you tend to favour experiencing and being, not theorizing. You might write about your experiences, but you may also very well just be satisfied in understanding what you experience and/or being without necessarily sharing, because sharing means translating a vivid, unique experience into a common language, and you may lose something in the process. And people, especially newcomers, may not understand a word of it. When things become too personal, there is no language for them.

I’ve been tired of writing such sort of guides. I tried to not make it very personal to stay neutral, but not only this style doesn’t suit me, I also am not interested in “helpful” essays anymore. I’m just archiving this thing to go on to my own way. I want to focus on other things now, I’ve been wanting to do so for so long. This is a change in priorities. I am satisfied about writing about my experience from time to time and reading from others’ experience, others who have walked their path for a little while too. I know nobody can fully understand what I personally am going through, just like I can’t know what exactly they’re going through. I have to stay humble and try to be articulate. Some people know enough on themselves, animality and life in general to get what I mean, and that’s fine enough for me.

I think I summed up what can be summed up. Your actual experience of the animal, your personal growth, nobody can do anything about it instead of you. Take what makes sense to you, learn what can be learned, and be patient as evolving takes time and sometimes pain (and joy). I’ll stop there as I can’t write about the personal, specific experiences that are ahead of you. Just keep walking.

Soulsearch – Meditating, Discussing, Labeling

[Go Back to: Questioning.]

 Meditating

Sometimes people will advice that you meditate when you are confused and looking for answers. Indeed meditation is there to help you clear your mind, but it’s unlikely that you get clear visions of anything meaningful. I may be breaking some people’s hopes, but we are by nature very visual, imaginative beings and there are 95% of chances that with random visualizations excercizes will trigger something “fake” (it won’t give you the right answers). Also, meditating does not equal soulsearching – meditation isn’t soulsearch, but it can be a tool to help introspecting. I’m not a master of meditation so this section will be short and I won’t enter into details. I simply want to clear some things up.

Meditation is a medium to achieve inner peace. It does not equal getting magical visions of your grand-poobah spirit guide, that you’ll astral travel or will talk to the gods. Reaching a state of inner peace is there to help you getting rid of parasiting thoughts that get in the way of your questioning process. Often people think meditation is there to enter an altered state of consciousness where answers will be handed to them. Don’t expect that to happen; don’t expect anything because you will trigger it, something fake. I’ve see many people mistaking “visions” and day-dreaming. Just drop the idea, what matter is that you relax and don’t let any worries influence you, so you can look at concrete facts and feelings, and deal with reality in the most honest way possible. Meditation is not about thinking of nothing. It’s about not paying attention to the parasiting flow of thoughts wandering in your mind, in order to distance yourself from them and find inner-peace. Again, the purpose is that you clear your mind and reach the perfect state to question yourself.

I’ve used a similar form of meditation to Keller’s chakra meditation guide. Her article is more comprehensive than anything I could write on the subject so I’ll direct you to it instead of babbling incoherently.

I don’t recommend visualization as a main tool for therians because it’s prone to let fantasies go wild no matter how far from reality it is. This is problematic, you can never trust what you think you saw – if you saw anything – let alone any interpretation of it. Often meditation will make you visualize what you expect the most or what would please you the most. It can be hard to stay unbiased and keep one’s mind critical when questioning oneself even with a clear mind, but fortunately you have more possibilities, including discussing.

 Discussing

Questioning’s biggest difficulty is that it works only when you stay honest and the most unbiased possible – and it can be pretty hard to make sure you are. I would advise that, later on in your researches, you discuss with other animal people about your soulsearch in order to get feedback, especially if you’re unsure of how sincere you are to yourself. The point in getting people’s opinions is not about validating your therianthropy, but pointing to flaws in your reasoning and also point to other possibilities you wouldn’t think of in the first place. “Discussing your therianthropy” is not about saying “here is what I experience” to ask your friends about what you are. It’s about explaining to people who have critical mind “here is the way I’ve proceeded to soulsearch, how I analyzed my experiences, and the conclusions I came to” to ask if it sounds logical, if you forgot any step or aspect of the thing. Remember you must try to explain “why” you believe so or so. Anybody can say that they soulsearched and they’re a gryphon; but when they can not tell you why a gryphon and not a mixture of two or more animals, or how they came to such conclusion, you realize they haven’t put any thought into it. If you have no idea of how you came to your conclusions, you can’t be sure about them.

Before you rush on forums to post anything or e-mail anyone: what you want is useful input. You will most likely get good, interesting, more reliable feedback from experienced animal people (I mean people who have walked their path and are farther on their road than you are; I do not mean people who’ve seemingly been there for longer than you). They should have an idea of what you’re going through, and maybe a little idea of what’s ahead of you. You may find some of them on and out of boards (but most of people on forums are newcomers and won’t help you much). Some are okay people and will lend you a paw; but some others will try to format your mind the way they want you to think, and they often are the loudest ones (thus, those newbies will turn to). They may have a valuable experience, but they like to make sure you won’t annoy them with topics or people they dislike, or they will try to use your respect to get more authority in the community. I would simply say, be extremely wary of who you think as “knowledgeable”. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. I can think of a few “respected therians” who don’t even know what they talk about, spread erroneous information, and above all are always involved in power-struggles. Listen to any advice, but be careful and don’t think everybody has the same motives and is a true altruist. Most of the non-reliable people I’ve met are in the public social networks, but you can find them in more private circles too.

Some people may say good stuff at some point, and bullshit later on. Things aren’t black or white. Also, some people often aren’t the same in private, especially due to the social pressure and conventions on boards that keeps them from being sincere. Sometimes they will seek privacy to flame or grill you. Basically, stay careful. Good people are rare, this is a thing I’ve learned with time; a good chunk of them aren’t involved in discussions and aren’t even watching. Some people are not interested in talking with you. Some wouldn’t mind. Some may reply bluntly, which doesn’t mean their advice is pointless or that they have an issue with you as a person. I think in private social networks of animal-people you are most likely to get a sincere answer, and also more likely to get interesting, good-quality feedback. On the other hand on forums where people are questioned, you will probably get more replies, though you can get grilled easily if you don’t fit the community’s standards and talk about anything taboo.

Sometimes on forums to get someone’s opinion you’d better ask in private than in public. Or you can both post and ask privately to see how the replies vary. And make comparisons between people’s replies, too. I’ll stop rambling to let you find the way to get interesting insights. In any case, don’t forget this is about feedback, becoming aware of mistakes you may have done, and being pointed to other possibilities. It may be blunt but it’s not about being belittled, and it’s certainly not about being flamed and insulted. I would say you can only count on yourself in the end. You’re the one it’s all about, right? Don’t let others lead you on.

 Labeling

You know how I planned to entitle this essay “Soulsearching and Labeling oneself”? I changed my mind because you already have that Labels essay to refer to if you need. Always remember: labels are never necessary. As I said elsewhere, with time I realized that I didn’t need to use any label to communicate with other animal people in a clear and concise way. In fact, labels keep us from discussing the way we personally experience our animality, as they are umbrella-terms. I’ve been using “animal-person”, “animal-folk” and “animal-self” when I need shortcuts; and guess what. It works.

In the end, “I am a [insert your animal here] is the most simple way to say it!

[Go on to: Keep Walking.]

Soulsearch – Questioning

[Go Back to: Soulsearching.]

 Questioning

Questioning oneself is not about simply going “does this feel right? – oh yeah – fine, then it must be true!”. You have to ponder over why it feels or doesn’t feel right. You have to know why you think and feel a certain way. Questioning is more than asking a question and picking your favourite answer. It’s tearing your guts out, looking what’s in no matter the pain, and putting it back once you got an answer – and it may leave scars: you may not stay the same as you’ll have grown from that. Questioning one’s self is about blunt, sometimes painful honesty. [Note: people on boards may question you, especially if you haven't before - it sometimes degenerates into grilling more than helping.] Though sometimes a kick in the butt is necessary, no matter if it’s others’, yours or life’s boot. Remember: be frank. Be honest. Be blunt. Don’t take the easy way, admit your weaknesses, and try to look into the aspects you don’t want to hear about. Try to admit the things you don’t want to see.

So. You somehow found out about the concept of “therianthropy” and this animal-thing sounds familiar to you. You feel you are an animal, you think you may be an animal, or you don’t know at all for the moment, and you want to explore the possibility. This should be one of the first thing you should ponder about: do you think you may be an animal because you’ve experienced certain animal things for years, or do you think you may be an animal because some of those “therians” sound like you? Warning: if you haven’t felt animal before finding out about the T-word, chances are that you aren’t one. One does not start being animal inside that way one day or it most likely is wishful thinking and mimicking. Even though you’ve just discovered the word “therianthropy”, you should already have years (if not your whole life) of experience on feeling animal inside. Probably you had no word for it but that’s not different: you are the same before and after you discover about the concept of “therianthropy”. If you start experiencing all kinds of shifts and visions, you should more seriously question yourself and the validity of what you feel, and find out why all of this never happened before. Usually things calm down once you’ve come to an understanding of what you are, not the other way around.

What is being animal inside? “Feeling animalish” is not enough, nor is “having primal instincts”. We all have those as humans, and you’re human-bodied too. Humans are animals and they’re not different when it comes to most things. Fear, hunger, the need to socialize or lack of thereof are perfectly normal feelings that humans experience just like other animals. Being a social misfit or having a certain diet does not make you animal. Look at what sounds like clues of your animalness and try to see if non-therians also experience such things. Don’t like crowds? Wanna eat meat? Wanna run or exercise or fly? There are various reasons for why a non-therian could experience such things. You feel animal and you are sure it’s unrelated to normal, human instincts? Well, there still are many other possibilities. You can have a bond to certain animals without being one. Such connection might result in you integrating certain traits of X animal – but that does not mean it’s therianthropic. It’s not better or worse, but it’s just not therianthropy. You may have a totem and integrate some of its aspects the same way; that’s still not therianthropy if the animal isn’t a constant and integral part of you. There is no thing such as a list of “symptoms” of therianthropy, so you’ll have to dig for the answers yourself.

If you feel animal inside, then it has manifested itself before. The way it does may indicate what animal you are – even if it’s a mere feeling inside. Since most of us aren’t legged encyclopedias, you have to *gasp* research on different species, again, so you don’t miss anything due to an unfortunate ignorance. Warning: researching on animal species does not mean going on boards, describing your behavior, and asking out what could you possibly be. Nor it is just trying to see which animal “matches” you the best like with clothing, this is very superficial. Speaking of that, I can think of several types of interpretations: the “physical” one (“I’m big and hairy so I must be a bear”) is completely silly as therianthropy has nothing to do with what you look like; period. The stereotypical one is based on, well, stereotypes humans associate with animals (“lions are noble and brave, wolves are loyal and friendly, felines are mysterious and arrogant”, etc). Of course you can be fox and sly, but you can also be sly and deer, or non-therian and sly. That’s unrelated, plus those stereotypes often are far from the reality of said animal, not to mention that applying human concepts such as courage (or many others) to animals – anthropomorphizing – makes no sense and does not work. Then you have erroneous or innacurate interpretations such as “wolves are friendly” and “raven people are bookish”. Well, from what I know wolves aren’t that friendly to anyone outside their own pack; and maybe ravens are curious, and this translate to being knowledge-thirsty or “bookish” for certain raven people, but they can also be pretty neophobic. Being wise does not make you raven just like being solitary and blunt does not make you feline.

You not only have to think about the things you relate to your animal(s), you also then have to see what makes it different (or similar) to other species. Why tiger and not sand cat? Why wolf and not dhole? Why deer and not springbok, hippopotamus, octopus or butterfly? If you can’t tell why you feel you are said animal, how can you be so sure? If you don’t question yourself you will never know that what you thought, felt was your guts, was in fact wishful feelings or confusion. You may very well be missing your true animalself – if you’re an animal person, as this isn’t sure. People often relate therianthropy to all kinds of things that don’t connect with it. Feeling different and/or lonely does not make you a therian, not your taste for meat or climbing trees or tendency to relate to your friends in a “pack” way. Some traits alone do not suffice, if people have nothing else of their “animal experience”, they most likely are non-therians.

To sum up a few questions you can ponder about, here is a non-exhaustive list I had originally posted on the 2003-2005 pre-crash version of the Werelist:

  • What is being an animal person about? What makes you an animal person? How does this differs from others’ experience?
  • What evidence do you have that you’re animal inside as opposed to having a spirit guide/totem or another kind of connection to that animal?
  • Why do you believe this, what are the logical arguments that make it possible/impossible?
  • What if you deny it? Is there anything that would invalidate it?
  • How can you make sure you stay skeptical and unbiased no matter how such things sound pleasing to you?
  • What are the things you relate to your animalness? Can such things be related to something else, is it something non-therians can experience?
  • What is being your animal, what is it like?
  • What makes you this specific animal, over some other species? What’s the difference?
  • How important the matter is to you? Which place does therianthropy take in your life?

I would prefer not having to post such lists, because many people will go over the questions and points I adressed in the whole questioning section, and will only stick to that list, which is a bad idea. However, since I also think some people need to have things pointed to them that clearly, it’s there.

So, you really think you are [insert your animalself here]? As we’ve seen earlier, if you’re an animal, you have been at least most of your life (unless something happened after a traumatic experience but that wouldn’t be most cases). Now you have put some thoughts into it, you probably have things to say on the subject. What is being your animal? What makes it different from other animals? How do you see life and things from this point of view? If you can’t answers any of those questions then you may want to put more thoughts into your “therianthropy”. I have yet to encounter a real cat who does not know what “cat” is like and feels like. Okay, all the serious kitties I can think of are self-aware to varying degrees, but knowing your animalself is not a superkitty ability; you should know. If you don’t it’s okay, but it will be useful to you to introspect and ponder on that.

Sometimes people will tell you right after this step to stop questioning and “let be”. Right, taking a break is necessary, sometimes. However, sitting around and doing nothing rarely makes deeper insights magically appear. Taking a break and “letting be” aren’t the same. The former is about breathing between two sessions of questioning so you keep your mind clear. The latter is just about “being”, often hoping something occurs to help you finding out, and often nothing special happens. What is important is to sometimes step back from analyzing, from trying to make sense of details, and just experience the animal naturally so you can look at it and analyze it better later. But everyone needs bits of self-questioning later on their path. If you try to make an interpretation of something while you’re confused, you’ll mistake and will end up even more confused. So when nothing else works, go out for a walk or lay down and relax; and stop thinking. Just be. Don’t let any confusion distract you and stay away from therian boards.

“Staying away from the community and its influences” should also be done while self-questioning. You’re supposed to have researched on therianthropy before, you don’t need hordes of newbies babbling pointless theories and terminology rubbish things to find out what you are. Staying away from all of this means cutting you off completely from forums, sites, and anything that’s currently debated and could influence your judgment when you’re in a “doubt crisis”, lost and confused. Withdraw a few weeks or months, and come back later. Alternate questioning sessions with little breaks the way you prefer so you get answers without being too overwhelmed by therian-related ponderings and social networks. In order to keep your mind clear, meditation can be an useful tool.

[Go on to: Meditating, Discussing, Labeling.]

Soulsearch (and keep walking)

Soulsearch (and keep walking)

This article revolves around soulsearching, finding one’s animal, etc. It’s not the ultimate guide or the only true way, [insert the usual disclaimers] yadda yadda. Seeing how often people are asked to soulsearch and/or don’t know how to, I wrote this based on my own experience and observations; I can’t garantee it’ll work for everybody. [Note: I cut this essay in a couple of pages because it is longer than my usual writings, and added navigation links at the bottom/top.]

First and foremost, what is soulsearching about? Many people advise that you soulsearch if you’re confused, but they rarely tell you why and how, or vaguely mention meditation as if it was the ultimate answer to your ponderings. Truth is, everybody soulsearch in his/her own way – which does not mean they all give the same results. That also does not mean that if you find something that works, you shouldn’t try out new ways to soulsearch; I’ll get back to that later. I think soulsearching could be defined as searching answers in oneself. That means nobody else can reach your answers for you as they’re inside you, and that also means the core of soulsearching isn’t about seeking external information, be it in books, websites or anywhere else. In other words you will not find answers in people’s words – but they may help you to think and find your very own answers that rest somewhere inside you. Soulsearching is a process to self-knowledge. It’s not just about therianthropy and you can soulsearching about anything identity-related. Soulsearching encompass several introspective tools (tools that will help you looking into your self). I will say more about the main tools I can think of, but the list is not exhaustive. Each tool has its flaws, which is also why soulsearching in different ways without neglecting a specific tool is important to avoid mistakes.

I will focus on finding one’s animal, and then will talk about going deeper in one’s therianthropy. You don’t need a “werename” to know what you are. You don’t need to find your totems/guides to know what you are. Hell, you may even discover them by finding out what you are not. This is all the “fluff” you shouldn’t think about for the moment. Sit and relax. Don’t worry about names, terms and all that because they’re very good at confusing you and keeping you from your unique, personal truth. You must know that soulsearching can take many months or years and you can’t fast-forward it. It’s okay, it’s really worth it. So to avoid further confusion and troubles, take your time and proceed step by step.

 Researching

In your search for information about therianthropy, make sure you actually know what it’s all about. It has been debated over and over again since the “werecommunity” appeared; everybody has his/her own explanations. Basically, being a therianthrope is being and therefore feeling animal inside. You have to be animal, as in an essential component of your innerself. It is not because you feel “animal” that you are a non-human animal; but if you are animal inside then is had probably manifested in some ways and that may lead you to think you’re an animal-person. Whatever bullshit is said on the subject, remember: it’s about being a non-human animal and the animal is you.

Researching on animals is very important so you know of all the possibilities. It’s not for you to pick and choose according to superficial similarities, or the species you’re most comfortable and familiar with, or what you admire the most. You may sound like your animal, or admire the animal you are, or feel more comfortable about said animal, but you may also be something you didn’t expect, something you wouldn’t think as possible at first, and something you’d have to learn to be proud of. Be very wary of what you relate to your therianthropy and what’s unrelated – what’s a human-thing or anything else. Humans share a ton in common with other animals (mammals especially), including the so-called “instincts”. Be analytical. If you want to look at behaviors, try to see how said animal behavior can translate in one’s life. That’s why you need to learn on animals and get rid of the stereotypes. Ravens aren’t about sorrow or depression. They’re carrion-eaters and opportunists, and this is a trait of mine I identify with raven more specifically – in behavior but also in my philosophy, the way I deal with life, things, people.

It could be different; interpretation is up to each person, and while it’s not to be neglected try when possible to rely on the most concrete things. I know for sure my attirance for roadkill is not human, and my long, thick feline phantom tail is a good indicator for clouded leopard. So unless you know about the specific species, you may miss what you really are. If you feel you’re a feline, look into small felines as well. If you feel you’re canine, pay attention to less known subspecies too. Try to find reliable sources and read a lot on animals. The high number of white siberian tigers out there in the community is scary considering white variants comes from bengal tigers. If those people haven’t looked up on their animal and others, they just can’t know for sure and could be mistaking. How can they be certain of their identity if they haven’t really looked into it?

I wish people could not whine about how much they want to learn, when they never look things up by themselves. I have a dozen of links to other personal sites like mine under “Horizons”. From there you’ll find even more links on each of these websites, and so on and so forth. Several of these places can be found in the main boards links pages, and in their owner’s signatures or profiles if they post on boards. It’s damn easy to access their essays. So what do serious animal people think when others on forums ask a question that has been answered twenty times in ten different, fairly well-known homepages? “This person has never researched, can’t do it properly, is too lazy to do it, or is plainly stupid. They can’t be serious about therianthropy.” And they walk away from such individuals when the newcomers insist on being spoon-fed – because they come to the boards and ask naturally, like it’s people’s job to educate them and they’re in a fast-food. Consumerist mentality.

Soulsearching takes time. Soulsearching is not easy. Soulsearching can be annoying. Soulsearching can be painful. And guess what: soulsearching requieres you spend time looking up for things and learning by yourself. I should have said it before but I didn’t because everybody repeats it: don’t expect shortcuts, don’t expect an easy walk (though it could be, who knows). You’ll be lost and confused, and in the end it should work out not matter how long it takes. Be prepared for unpleasant moments coping with flaws of you you’d rather ignore, as an example. Be prepared to find out you may not be what you expected and accept the truth still. As I said soulsearching isn’t about finding one’s animal specifically, it’s about introspection no matter if you’re a therian or not. To help in this task, the first and main tool is questioning.

[Go on to: Questioning.]

The Cat-Nots

The Cat-Nots

I never cease being impressed by the number of pseudo-cats out there. Felines are popular, trendy, almost as much as wolves. There are, however, few people I recognize as true felines. I don’t give a shit for that “you can’t know what animal someone is” rule; when someone isn’t a cat and claims to be, it sounds off. I know a bunch of different cat people – different felines, different concepts of felinity – who strike me as very feline in very different ways. I have a fairly good idea of what Cat can be like – and what it’s not, not when it differs from my own concept of felinity or way of being kitty, but because it lacks what we felines have in common. It’s not like I’m the only cat who get that feeling, either; I’m not special.

I never stop being amazed by the number of white tigers and “panthers” out there. Not half of them sound feline and real to my mind. Obviously “tiger” seems appealing; big and scary and pretty stripes. And people see panthers as sexy, mysterious and powerful. They don’t even know if they’re a melanistic jaguar or leopard or whatever, no. They are panthers. Dark and dangerous, shadow and silk and feline; that’s how they speak of being panthers. If they don’t seem to know what felinity is about, they’re probably mistaken. “I feel I’m a cat”. Why, in the first place? What is cat? Is it claws, muscles, tail and fur, sexy and subtle and predatory? Why a cat? Is it what you are deep down, or what seems appealing to you? Felinity… There are other feline-like animals. Genets, civets. Or fossas. Fox, even, from what I’ve heard. Even non-therians can be feline-like.

If you feel you really are a therian, go “soulsearching” better. Read up on felines, damnit. I’m tired of “cat-people” who can’t tell the difference between a jaguar and a leopard, who think snow leopards are leopard subspecies, who think panthers are its own species, and who never heard of ocelots, jaguarundis, servals, caracals or kodkods. You can’t tell which cat you are if you don’t know of them, like what makes a sand cat different from a pampas cat. Seriously, I wonder how the hell some wannabe-kitty came to their conclusions while ignoring pretty much everything on felines. It’s a shame. A wild cat isn’t a stray cat, a snowpard isn’t a white pard, a caracal isn’t a tawny lynx. Panthera pardus isn’t “regular leopard”; leopards are leopards, clouded leopards are clouded leopards. Unrelated. Also, felines aren’t what most of people think of them as. Get rid of the pretty images in your head.

Cats aren’t “sexy”. Human people can be. Cats aren’t mysterious. People can be – or pretend to be. Cats aren’t scary; cats are wild animals and predators, no more, no less. Cats are cats. Small or big. Small ones can be fierce (think of the black-footed cat). Big ones can be shy (ounces, clouded leopards). Cats can be pretty “bad” hunters in terms of success rate (I’m thinking of cheetahs right here). Most cats usually don’t live in “packs” (there’s the exception of lions, and some cheetah coalitions). A streak of tigers? What the hell. Cat people aren’t necessarily loners or grumpy, misanthropic, cold-hearted and sharp-tongued individuals. All cat people aren’t arrogant, narcissic or elitist. Or overly subtle. Individuals may be. Felinity isn’t more feminine than masculine. Being a feline isn’t about having fangs and claws and muscles and a pretty coloured fur. It has fangs and claws and muscles, but a feline isn’t just that. How to explain that to the hordes of winged white tigers and vampiric panthers?

Cat is simple because it’s down to earth and doesn’t bother with the useless. Cat is straightforward – unless it doesn’t want to be. Cats don’t swallow up bullshit; they can think for themselves. Cat is territorial, especially towards other cats. Cat can be nervous or coward (according to what that means to humans anyway). Cats know they’re cats and don’t need to broadcast about it. Cats aren’t cute fuzzy fur balls bouncing happily after mice in flowery fields. Cats aren’t dark feline-eared feline-tailed emo-ninjas with ice-coloured glowy eyes. Cat is the opposite of attention-seeking, cat is self-aware and self-satisfied as a cat. Cat is not superficial. “Vague” isn’t satisfying for a cat. Cat is firm and decided. Cat does not talk more than needed; cat does not fill up the blanks with pointless words. Cat is more than words. Above all, cat is and knows it.

The core of being a wild animal isn’t about lyrism on forests and the hunt and the night. Predators aren’t heroes in a movie with some happy-ending. Being a wild animal is about survival and meat and shit. Being a feline isn’t about hate just like being a raven isn’t about sorrow. A predator isn’t an all-mighty creature. Predators can be shy and nervous and fearing bigger predators, or fearing for their offspring. Being a predator doesn’t give you strength, but being a predator demands being strong (in different ways) to survive. Drop the pretty gloryfying images of cats you have in your head. Glorious animals? What is glory for animals? What is courage for animals? What is subtility for animals? What is originality for animals? What makes an animal archetype? Are you able to tell the difference between felinity and what non-feline people think of felinity?

And stop wondering what and how a cat would do. If you’re a cat you know, and if you’re a cat you behave so already.

Note: Made a “therian” site with barely any content to get respect in the therian community? Have the need to be accepted among “serious therians” to make your therianthropy feel more valid? Get panicked whenever someone questions you or direct some criticism at your words? In a general way, if you feel concerned about any of this, you should ponder for awhile about it. Find your own answers – and stop annoying the shit out of people like me. I’ve never enjoyed having people coming to me tail between legs, or whining elsewhere about how mean the big bad corvicat is because they can’t deal with (polite!) bluntness. Behaving puppy-like, tail-wagging as if I could and should guide them, teach them. Don’t try to please me, don’t try to flatter me, don’t think of me as someone I’m not. I’m just a blunt, no-bullshit, otherwise friendly individual who likes interesting discussions with interesting individuals – not with puppies. Not with kitty stereotypes. Not with wannabe-[insert your favorite feline species here].

No, “it’s ranty so it must be wrong anyway” does not work. It’s not because you don’t like my words that the ideas behind them aren’t worth consideration. I did not write this page to hurt anyone, I’m not getting any pleasure from that; I do, however, get happier when I come accross people who’ve put thoughts into what they are. If you’ve felt concerned by my rants, take them as opportunities for you to introspect and learn more about yourself.

“Different” isn’t “Insane”

"Different" isn't "Insane"

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.