I’ve had maybe three or four dreams which I consider a dream shift because of the overwhelming sensations, the completely feline mindset, and the incredible thrill of using all my senses to their full capacity. About two of those involved me in my human body but capable of doing feline things, for instance, I could run very well and very fast on all fours and scale trees, but I could never fully shift. Those dreams in which I was fully shifted usually involved moments of blissful peace before something started to chase or hunt me. I’m sure there’s a psychological reason for that but it also hints at “plot” to me, so even then I’m wary to call such dreams dream shifts.
To be honest, I’m wondering how I feel about the whole dream shift phenomena anyway. I’m sure some would argue that just shifting in a dream, regardless of sensations/feelings, counts as a dream shift, but I disagree. After all, in dreams I’ve “shifted” to a tiger, a wolf, and even a teddy bear, and I’m pretty sure noone would take me seriously if I said I’d experienced a cameo teddy bear shift. ;)
So I believe there should be more to dream shifts, that there should be some profundity of sensation or experience that distinguishes it from a normal dream. However, and I’m sure many in the community would jump down my throat for saying this, I also feel that if all you ever experience are dream shifts, no matter how regular, you’re probably not a therian. Now, I’m well aware that some people are watering down the term “therian” so that they can be included. Last time I checked being a therian can mean having a strong connection to an animal by means of intense interest, having a spiritual connection to an animal whilst keeping the animal largely seperate from yourself, having the soul of an animal, having the instincts, feelings, and natural reactions of an animal. Now, as far as I’m concerned only the last two are therians. Being “intensely interested” in an animal does not mean you have a connection to it, and the spiritual ‘whilst seperate’ thing is more similar to having an animal totem or guide; that’s not therianthropy in my eyes, and never will be. So if someone only ever shifts in dreams and feel completely human when awake; they aren’t a therian.
I do realise there are therians who don’t shift at all but inside they still feel and ARE their animal. Just shifting alone does not make you a therian, nor does bitching about the term until someone includes you. This is a big point of contention for me since when I joined the community the term ‘therianthropy’ had a limited definition, now it tries to include everyone, and then people wonder why the community is filled with idiots, posers, and the genuinely confused who will all disappear in a few years when they get bored or realise that they were just clinging to what seemed like an exciting concept.
I also know this topic has been discussed a million times before, but the whole “I shift therefore I am” situation really bugs me. It’s not surprising that we have so many polyweres running about the place yelling “I shifted to a badger and a fox and a wolf and a goldfish and a dragon, so I’m a polywere!”. No, you’re not. I shifted to a wolf a few times, that doesn’t make me a polywere, and in the early days when wolf popped up and I was genuinely confused, I didn’t yell about it. Truth be told, I didn’t want to be influenced into believing it was more than it was, and because of that attitude, I quickly realised that it was simply a cameo shift, and eventually they stopped happening.
As long as the community continues to insist that we need to broaden our terms and definitions so that everyone with any kind of interest/connection to an animal can be included, it’s going to keep going down hill and there’s going to be increasing contention within the community. Most forums and chats don’t actively dissuade people who are humans but genuinely interested, or those with animals guides/totems, but that’s not good enough for most people, apparently; they have to be recognised as therians by everyone else or they’ll kick and whine and scream until someone finally DOES pander to them.
The other extreme; elitist boards, don’t work either, but soon enough that’s all we’re going to have: small, elitist boards on one side and huge, over-populated, bullshit-reigning boards on the other.
It’s a shame, but I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon until the “fad” of therianthropy dies down, or all forums stick to a clear definition of therianthropy and do not stretch it in order to avoid hurt feelings.