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.]