That Pack Thing

That Pack Thing

By Paleo

I’d like to talk about pack-desire among canine therians. For the purposes of this essay, I will be using the term “canine” to mean the dogs only. I am not considering foxes in this writing as foxes are quite different from their larger cousins, and it is debatable as to whether the social structures they form could fairly be called a pack.

As an individual, I feel I have at least some authority when talking about packs as the vast majority of my life has been spent reading and researching animal behavior with a heavy focus on Order Carnivora and focusing even further on Family Canidea. I have worked with and cared for grey wolves, and among that work I did a three month study on inter- and intra-sex dominance/submission displays among a socialized, captive wolf pack consisting of seven individuals. I am more knowledgeable than most about these things, but I am far from claiming the title of expert.

As a therian, I feel I must admit I am only a good candidate for discussing this by virtue of being canine. However, according to scientific guesses and my own internal feelings, dire wolves were not as tightly pack-bound as the more familiar (not to mention extant) grey wolf. In truth, it is African wild dogs who have mastered the pack structure, followed closely by grey wolves. Even domestic dogs are better “teachers” of what pack-mind is.

Speaking of domestic dogs, my advice to non-canine therians who are curious about pack-mind is to befriend a dog or visit a dog park. Try to lift any biases you might have about dogs and attempt to see yourself and others through their eyes. A dog is an individual and still has personal boundaries, but the identity of a dog is intimately tied to those it considers its pack. A dog is able to operate alone as a Self, but place it in a group and it shines. Dogs prefer to operate as We, as Us. This is the basic lesson of pack-desire. Different species have differing pack behaviors, but it all comes down to forming a fluid, working We/Us mindset while still retaining a sense of Self.

While emotionally, the difference between wolf pack-desire and human troop/tribe-desire is crystal clear, it is hard to sort it out in logical language. I can certainly admit that when you look at the Animal Kingdom as a whole, wolves and humans are strikingly similar by virtue of being intelligent, social mammals with innate hierarchal structures and a bonding instinct. When one focuses solely on humans and wolves, though, the differences are striking.

Walking as a dire wolf among humans has been confusing and frustrating to say the least. Emotionally, I don’t understand why modern humans make things so goddamn complicated. On one hand, they spew their sociality all over the place, and on the other, they insist on being so damned closed and self-centered that they cut themselves off from forming any meaningful bonds.

I find myself constantly having to remind myself to mimic the “social” behaviors that humans try to foist on me. A pack is a closed structure, and beyond those few that I feel packish towards, I would prefer not to interact with any others. I often feel my ears pin back and my hackles rise when a stranger gets in my face and starts talking like we are friends. After puppyhood, wild canines are very slow to develop bonds with new individuals. I do my best to remain friendly with new folks, but it is rare for me to start considering someone a friend until after months of watching them and “getting a feel” for them. And even then, it is a small chance that I would consider them true friends. Pack-desire may lead me to greatly desire the company of others, but it certainly doesn’t lead me to rush out and search for companions. Such an attempt would only cause me great anxiety. I also think that many humans I face pick up on the fact that I am at least slightly suspicious of them and they take it as a huge insult. I don’t understand this. Why should I trust a stranger? Why should they trust me? Those that aren’t pack are more likely to be my competitors, rivals, and enemies. I will *not* drop my guards until I get a better feel for someone and those feelings tell me that the person isn’t a threat. I find all the pressures to be an open, friendly, cheerful human woman to be insulting and even insane. Stupid humans, take care of you and your own, and let me take care of me and my own in peace.

Also, those who seek to put me in a one-sided relationship and attempt to call that a “friendship” are going to find themselves dealing with one pissed off dire wolf who will seek to drive them away. As a pack animal, cooperation is *very* natural to me, but if that cooperation doesn’t go both ways, you are just weighing me down and aren’t my friend, much less my packmate.

As a pack animal, I do tend to view others in a sort of hierarchal way. I am deeply aware of who is stronger and who is weaker than me. Now it is a myth that all wolves are driven to be top dog. Some wolves do have a very strong alpha-drive that keeps them striving for the leader position. I’d imagine that a wolf-therian with such an alpha-drive would have an entirely different view of hierarchy. I myself have only a slight alpha-drive. I tend to think of myself as good beta material, and it shows in how I view my relationships towards others. I have no problems differing to stronger individuals and can be very much at peace with my role as follower or supporter. However, I can’t stand being made to follow a weaker individual. In that case, my tail shoots up, and I greatly desire to knock them from their position. Thus, most of the time, I am quite happy to lend support to my “alphas” and am known for being a great “right hand man”, using my strengths to help those in charge. Of course, I’m also known to be the first to start growling and yipping and demanding the overthrow of bad or weak leaders. My first instinct is to get the “pack” to do the overthrowing and to prop up the person I feel is the best leader. However, sometimes I *am* the best leader, and while I get little pleasure from leadership roles (it makes me feel like such a target), my instinct drives me to take the role at times.

It should be pointed out that in this time and place, “strength” and “weakness” is not limited to physical traits and raw cunning. My human-mind is quite capable of determining which strength a leader needs for different groups. Because of this, I take into consideration experience, knowledge, people-skills, and the like. If the group is best lead by a driven people person, then I can accept a leader highly skilled in that area even if s/he may be my “weaker” intellectually or otherwise. I often find myself viewing others as being stronger than me in some ways and weaker in other ways, and I am very fluid in how I deal with specific individuals, groups, and situations. It must be said that for me, “stronger” and “weaker” aren’t judgment calls. It is simply fact. It is only logical that the stronger lead as that leads to the greatest chances of group-success. I don’t think this makes me slavish. I am not an insect or a Borg. A tyrant wolf is often overthrown by the pack despite being the strongest, and the same thing is found among primates. Submitting to my betters is natural, but so is the drive to keep testing and watching for signs that *I* am the better. Some wolves can be quite antagonistic about it, but I prefer to save my snarls and snaps for the things I find most detrimental to myself and my pack. I am an easy-going yet very cunning and political beta-type.

Pack is close-knit and closed-off to outsiders. Pack is hierarchal and fluid. Yet I have yet to get to the meat of what Pack actually is. For me Pack is simply family, folks who band together and help each other survive. Pack isn’t always loving or gentle. Pack isn’t a feel-good club with artificial ranks and duties. Pack isn’t even a group of friends who gather for entertainment and then go back into their lives only thinking about their friends when they feel like some fun.

Because humans are also social animals, it is possible for me to ease some of that pack-desire by interacting with my dearest friends who I know are truly “there” for me and who know I am truly “there” for them. Alas, modern humanity has severely limited any chances of forming a true pack. Modern humanity has even limited any chances of forming a *tribe* which is as important to the human psyche as packs are to wolves. Would being in a human tribe totally eliminate my longing for a pack? I don’t think so, but it would certainly ease that longing. I feel that tribes are far more natural and sane than the stupid, highly ineffective, and artificial constructs we use today. I have no idea if it is the primitive human instincts or the dire wolf instincts that cause me to see things this way. Probably both.

Speaking of artificial human bullshit, I feel that it is a sad thing that modern humans are mostly only comfortable with physical contact when it is sexual. In fact, they seem to feel that *all* intimate touch has a sexual context. I often desire to rest my head on my friends’ shoulders or back, to rub my cheek against theirs, to rest my hand (paw) on their leg. I wish we could all curl up near each other (or even with each other) and sleep peacefully. Canines are sensual, comfort-seeking beasts. Why can’t I give and receive physical comfort without being seen as weird or sexual? Why can’t I cuddle, rub against, or “pet” my friends without worrying that they think I want to fuck them? I’m afraid that even my most open-minded and tolerant of friends would be uncomfortable with this. Intellectually, I understand. Emotionally… it makes me whimper in confusion and sorrow. At least I have a mate who is very allowing and understanding of my wolfish affections. That helps somewhat.

As a last note, I think Kipling hit the Spirit of the Pack dead-on when he wrote, “The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack, and the Strength of the Pack is the Wolf”. Without a pack, I feel weak and incomplete. Sure, there are individuals I feel packish towards, but it really isn’t the same. Sure, I can form human bonds which add much to my life, but still my soul aches to run, to romp, to hunt, to howl as a member of this beautiful, natural, sometimes-peaceful, sometimes-savage entity called Pack.

On Being Extinct

On Being Extinct

By Paleo

Being extinct is…challenging. Frustrating. Sometimes heart-breaking on multiple levels.

Honestly, I’d rather not be a walking fossil. Many days I wish I was a “plain ole” grey wolf for the simple reason that they’re still around. I’ve been able to see, hear, touch, smell, and (thanks to an over-enthusiastic greeting) taste them. My life’s passion is animal behavior, and it aggravates…no it *wounds* me that I cannot *know* the the beast that lurks in my soul. Not with objective certainty, that is. I’ll never see it’s gait, hear its howls, chronicle its interactions with its fellows, prey, and enemies.

All I have are bones and “memories”. Thoughts, feelings, knowledge that seems to come from my mind, gut, and soul all at ones.

Bones give some clues, and important ones at that. Paired with knowledge of general trends among today’s canine species, they give a rough sketch, just enough to get to know the beast. Just seeing those teeth, those stocky legs, that huge Sagittal crest …it was enough to end seven years of questions and confusion.

Memories, well, those are more tricky. Heck, I don’t even know if “memories” is the correct term for these thoughts and feelings, but until I find out otherwise, it will have to suffice. Dire-wolf-mind doesn’t work like human-mind, doesn’t focus on the same things. It is hard to translate one to the other. And of course, I must always be wary of typical human wishing, delusion, and misunderstanding.

But what else can I do? Dire wolves and there world are gone. Forever. I have to do more than howl longingly over old bones if I am to know myself. To understand why on Earth some part of Dire Wolf lives on in me.

Thus the memories. These memories aren’t concrete. They are often a feeling of “the way things should be”. A form of pattern recognition. A sense of knowing. I can’t explain it. They just are.

I was lead to Dire Wolf through these memories. I learned how to “ask” the beast in my soul questions, like “What would you do if your prey climbed up a tree?” (Answer: just stare up the tree and leave after a while). While viewing things in life and watching nature documentaries, I could sense things that seemed more “right” than others. Certain landscapes, types of prey.

As an example, I have sort of an inner listing of prey potentiality:

Large, slow but heavily armored beasts rank at the top (water buffalo, bison, musk ox, even rhinos and elephants are worth checking out for weakness and wounds, though best to hang around and wait for them to die on their own)
Large but swifter animals rank next (moose, elk, zebra).

Smaller swifter things like deer and caribou are worth checking out but I “feel” little hope of catching them.

Rodents and small birds are rarely worth it, but sometimes you get lucky. Ground birds like turkey or birds that have a slow take off time like vultures are certainly worth the attempt.

Reptiles never register.

Piggy-prey does.

Fish don’t, except for salmon which does seem very important. Perhaps dires benefited from the scraps of bears and trapped fish during salmon runs.

I wish I had finely detailed memories of things, but I don’t. I just know what “should be”. The land should be similar to the alpine belt that cuts through North America, Asia, and Europe. There should be little to no humans around. There should be teaming herds of prey animals, similar to those found in modern Africa.

I should be canine, yet I should also have prey-drives and hunting/scavenging tactic similar to the spotted hyena. Which no modern day canid does.
And it all keeps leading to the same conclusion:

My “should be” place is in a bygone era. My “should be” self is an extinct critter.

And my “should be” behavior is practically unverifiable.

Sure, I feel like I should be using ambush tactics and using muddy, snowy, or wet terrain to my advantage. But did dire wolves actually do that?

I feel like I should be following vultures to carrion, eating salmon scraps at a river, nipping at and tearing hunks out of huge, weakened prey in the hopes that they bleed to death or fall to their knees so I can begin breaking bones. But is this an accurate portrayal of dire wolf eating habits?

I feel that my kind was less socially cohesive than grey wolves, and while there were often snapping-and-snarling fits, dominance displays were fewer and less “political”. But is that the truth?

I can make good guesses, but it doesn’t satisfy my human brain, my ego-need to *know*. To say “yes, that is true” or “no, that is false”.

To be human is to question and ask.

But to be dire wolf is to just be. Perhaps I should learn from that.

Still what does it mean to “Be” and to “be extinct” at the same time?

Somehow, I’m the answer even as that answer keep eluding me.

They say extinction is forever, and yet for some reason, my soul seems to disagree, at least in part.

What does that mean? Hell if I know. I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

Until then, I’m back to studying bones and sifting through memories.

Dire Wolf Is

Dire Wolf Is

By Paleo

Dire Wolf is intuitive. Dire walks through the world paying little thought to many of the worries of humans. She won’t remember what brand of clothes your wear, and she wouldn’t even know how to judge their “style”. She *will* know if you are truly comfortable in those clothes or if you hide behind them. She notices how relaxed your muscles are, if your smile reaches your eyes, your tone of voice, and all the subtle movements you make with your eyes, hands, and feet. She’ll also notice the cardinal singing outside the window and the breeze of the air conditioner that turned on in the middle of your meeting. Dire notices, but doesn’t always think. When she does choose to think, she is capable of a sort of canine cleverness, but mostly she trusts her hunches and her instincts to get her by in life.

Dire Wolf is restless. She tends to notice smells, sounds, and movements that, to her astonishment, most humans don’t take note of. Some things *must* be investigated through all senses possible. Dire is as nosey and mouthy as any canine, and most things are investigated by putting them as close to her nose and mouth as possible. Dire sniffs almost everything of interest, and she would like to chew and lick things as well, but these days she must settle for just touching things to her lips. She likes moving around, looking for interesting opportunities. She wishes other would follow her to investigate what the turkey vultures are circling over. She will break off from a group to follow an interesting scent and then gets annoyed at their annoyance. Such things look scatter-brained to the humans she keeps company with, but in fact Dire is very, very focused. Some humans misinterpret lack of thinking about human things as lack of thinking at all.

Dire Wolf loves to rest. Dire is a creature of the moment. When awake, she restlessly pursues what interests her. But when she feels lazy or tired, she deeply resents anyone or anything that detracts from the goal of a good sleep. Everyone that has tried to wake the sleeping Dire knows that much snarling and snapping is inevitable.

Dire Wolf is blunt. Canine communication is very direct and no-nonsense. Sounds, scents, facial expressions, and body language paint an exact picture of canine emotions and intent. Dire expects it to be the same way among humans. She has no patience for those who do not speak their mind or those who try to manipulate with their words or tone of voice. Dire gets very, very annoyed if she is reading mixed messages from a person, *especially* if it is intentional. Dire in her most natural state does not hide what she is feeling. She does not mince words, nor does she care to get involved in verbal politics. She gets little from insulting or belittling others, but if she thinks you are an idiot, it *will* show. Dire is capable of manners and deceit in the human way and abides by them when she must. But no matter how hard she tries, she often lacks in tact and the ability to sugar-coat things.

Dire Wolf is aggressive and territorial. Dire is not comfortable among most people. She has a select few who she sees almost as being “pack”, and everyone else is not welcome to be around her. Dire wolves were mega-predators with other mega-predators as rivals, including other dire wolves. Dire sees most others as potential threats. She is confident in her size, power, and bone-crushing jaws. She also knows she is not nearly the biggest or most dangerous thing in her world. Thus, she puts up an impressive front but knows when to run as well. Yes, her bark (or snarl) is often worse than her bite. However, if pushed, she does not hesitate to use any figurative or literally lethal tools she possesses depending on the situation.

Dire Wolf is social to a select few. Dire is highly antisocial to most of the world. She loves and guards her space and rarely seeks social interaction with others. She is a pack creature, though, if not nearly as pack-bound as grey wolves. Dire needs contact with the select few she trusts on a semi-regular basis. Like other wolves, Dire just needs to rally with them from time to time in a fit of joy and emotion. She is overjoyed when she meets a friend she hasn’t seen in a while. Dire wants to romp and play and bump sides and wrestle… and then Dire has had enough, and probably so have they. Then Dire wants to rest and wants her space. Dire is happy enough knowing her pack mates are within howling distance (which translates into a long way now that she uses telephones). Dire is also aware of “ranks”, who is the leader, who supports, who follows. It matters less to Dire than it does to grey wolves, but it still is important. Dire has no true desire to be alpha, but can’t tolerate weak leadership. Dire has no problem submitting to others who are “stronger” than her in some way and often prefers to play beta to some of these people. However, Dire has a hard time bowing to leaders she feels are weak or incompetent. It is not a matter of pride; it is a matter of pack. Weak leaders are bad for groups and Dire seems to instinctively feel driven to challenge weakness.

Dire Wolf is deeply primitive. Dire is a beast of another time and another place. She feels this in her bones. She longs for an era that can never return. For reasons she doesn’t understand, she connected to places, creatures, and even peoples that vanished long ago. She no longer hunts and scavenges for the flesh of prehistoric beasts. Now she hunts and scavenges for answers, for meaning. She does this not with the speed and coordination of Grey Wolf or the adaptability and cunning of Coyote, but with the stamina and stubbornness of Dire Wolf. Even at her most human, Dire is primitive in her values and worldview. Such a thing is confusing and frustrating, and the tracks and trails to answers are so very old and faint, if not gone totally. Dire Wolf wants to sit on her tail and howl in confusion and sorrow at times, but then she remembers: Extinction is for wimps.

Dire Wolf is extinct and living.

Dire Wolf is primitive and modern.

Dire Wolf is spiritual and physical.

Dire Wolf is canine and human.

Dire Wolf is Paleo.

Dire Wolf Is.

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 and 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.]