"Fluidity and Fragmentation" (March 21, 2008)
Fluidity: Shifting and Integration
Shortly after I became active in the therianthropy community I came to realize the emphasis on subtypes of therians, which still remains currently yet with a little less emphasis than in 2005. Fortunately, I never really tried to squeeze myself into one of those subtypes of contherianthropy or suntherianthropy, yet technically I did consider myself the subtype of being a “shifting therian” though I refrained from specifically referring to myself in such a way. Over the past three years of consciously observing my therianthropy, I have developed a better understanding of the subtypes and what they seem intended to mean, but more importantly I have a much better understanding of my own therianthropy and how I experience it. In honesty, what I’ve found is I’m neither a contherian, suntherian, nor shifting therian and yet I am, in some way, all three.
To note, this is not an invitation for people to take up a “new therian term” and start applying it to themselves; this is instead an explanation of how part of my therianthropy manifests and that it does not fit into neat little labels already established. I won’t limit myself from talking about it just because it doesn’t fit within the boundaries of those pre-established terms, and yet neither do I want to talk about how I experience my therianthropy for it to become a mini-fad for label-slapping yet another type of therianthropy.
What I believe I experience is some notable form of fluidity in how my therianthropy manifests. I have touched on this concept in some places previously, including in my self-concept essay considering the therianthropic concept of myself is also rather fluid but retained within certain boundaries of human, my theriotypes, and personal symbolism. This isn’t something I consciously chose and I’m unsure as to how long it’s been existent as the form of my therianthropy because prior to 2005 I didn’t have an understanding of therianthropy at all and especially the ways in which a person’s theriotype(s) can manifest. Though it’s possible that either my therianthropy has become more integrated than it was pre-2006, or that I have otherwise balanced it out aside from just ‘integration’, and/or my perception of my own therianthropy and other people’s therianthropy has changed and developed in the past few years; it maybe a combination of all three of those.
To clarify what I mean by me being all three subtypes and yet none of them is that my therianthropy does not stay in a completely stable state, or rather that it fluctuates between different levels of shifting and non-shifting and levels of integration, between my theriotypes and my human aspects. In a sense, I’m a “shifting therian” but it’s not a matter of some stable form of therianthropic integration, such as “I shift, therefore I’m less integrated than a suntherian or a contherian”—that’s not what I experience. Though personally, I believe shifting therians do have some level of integration with their ‘therioside(s)’, because to me, if a theriotype is entirely separate from the person’s “self” then I’m not one to believe it’s actually a theriotype. I experience times when I feel so integrated with my theriotypes (any or all of them) that I don’t shift or fluctuate, almost “contherian-like”, as well as there being times when I’m at a seemingly high level of integration but there’s still fluctuations between human and non-human, and then there are the times when I have more prominent shifts (mental and/or phantom), though they have never been very strong or extreme ones (most especially not a “full” mental shift). To be honest though, because I feel I don’t fit into any of those three pre-established terms/concepts exclusively, I don’t like using them to explain what I do experience, but I have mentioned them for some comparative purposes.
My therianthropy expresses or manifests itself throughout the day, everyday, and yet I do experience variances, fluctuations, and shifts between my multiple theriotypes and my human aspects, so I do not remain in a state of the same, constant level of human/animal integration. There’s not really a ‘sliding scale’ either, it’s too complex and diverse to describe it in a linear fashion because it’s not just a matter of human at a point in the scale and non-human at another, sliding between them, instead I have three or four theriotypes that blend in and out of each other and human, so it’s far from a linear manifestation.
Though maybe my issue also lies partially in the badly defined concepts of mental shifting and therianthropic integration—where are the lines drawn in experiences for these concepts? What’s full integration? What constitutes a mental shift and not a mental shift? Not meaning what full integration or mental shifting are defined in words, but what they are as defined through an individual’s personal experience and perception. Where so many others seem to see clear boundaries through definitions, I see fluidity and bleeding of concepts together without well-defined lines between them. This is how I end up viewing the concepts of mental shifting and the three therian subtypes as this is also how I perceive my own therianthropy.
It reminds me of the diagrams of circles and colors that some therians would make to show what their therianthropy looks like, and all I can ever come up with for mine is some moving, changing mass that does have limitations as to what colors and forms it can change to, and that it can split off partially, though not entirely, into somewhat separate shapes and colors that are connected together, but almost always moving and changing. Though granted, I never liked the idea of those images. This isn’t the concept of “shapeshifter otherkin” that can shift to a large variety of creatures (or for some of them, any type of animal, real or fantasy, extinct or extant), but that I have certain ‘set’ theriotypes: horse, cat, mongoose, and (possibly) avian, as well as being human, and I fluidly change throughout each day and from day to day within those boundaries. I’m a cat, a horse, a human, a mongoose, and avian, and yet I’m also a humancathorsemongooseavian (a horrible word to type), or a horse or mongoose with cat ears, a feliquine (cathorse), horse with wings, and the list goes on to extents I can’t even describe--they’re numerous, complex, and some are briefly experienced. For my own therianthropy, shifting does not necessarily equal non-integration or less integration, though with the apparent fluidity of my therianthropy it’s difficult to say if integration levels change and to what extent when I do experience whatever level of mental shift.
My therianthropic integration is part of my entire whole that is my Self—it’s part of me being a multi-faceted being, and even my human aspects are multi-faceted. So why could my therianthropy not count as being an integrated part of my whole Self? It’s just my theriotypes are different and blending facets and thus aspects of me, and each theriotype encompasses a variety of facets as well, but again they’re still all me. If I “shift” to a certain therioside, or more than one, I’m just experiencing or manifesting a facet/group of facets of myself, and the same goes when I “shift” to being “more human”. My humanity encompasses a variety of aspects of myself, as do my theriotypes, and thus I’m not excluded from mental and phantom shifting and yet I’m also not excluded from a deep level of therianthropic integration as a result of that. Plenty of therians have already stated that when they mental shift to their theriotype they aren’t actually shifting into a separate entity, it is still their own self that is being shifted to and away from. So I guess in some more ways it can come down to perception again, in how ‘separate’ a person views their theriotypes as being from their human self, though some therians do seem to experience obvious separations between human and non-human aspects that may not be a matter of just perception but instead in how the theriotypes actually function and manifest.
As also, another issue in this concept of integration vs. shifting is that people often use “integration of non-human with human” as synonymous with “integration of non-human with Self”. If the theriotypes are part of our own selves (which they are, to whatever extent), then a reduction in ‘integration’ should be typically noted as a reduction in human integration not integration in Self. Therefore, it wouldn’t be out of range therianthropically for someone to remain ‘completely integrated’ (in Self) with their theriotype(s) while being shifted and experiencing a lower integration with their human aspect.
I can’t put myself in the mind and subjective experiences of another therian, whatever subtype (if any) they are, so I can’t know what it’s personally like for anyone but myself, though through words and observing a therian in person I could make some assumptions, yet I’ll never truly know. Also, I suspect that the type of therianthropy I experience is not uncommon, yet there’s nevertheless a tendency and expectation in the therian community for therians to simplify (or even oversimplify) their therianthropic experiences and fit them within convenient terms, regardless of whether those people do or do not actually fall within the boundaries of those terms. It’s not to say there aren’t people who fit the subtype terms—there certainly are therians who fit them and well—but there are also others who feel they have to live up to these seeming expectations to be [insert subtype], even if it involves them ignoring and disregarding their therianthropy not falling within that or any of the already established subtype terms.
From what I’ve observed, there is a consistent general assumption about contherians and suntherians being “more integrated” and that shifting therians are just “less integrated” simply because they shift, which leads to many people assuming that shifting therians can’t experience being human and non-human (their theriotypes) all the time, and further that when a mental shift occurs, a person is often automatically to be assumed as being less him/herself (because of the reduction in ‘integration’). Again, this leads back to the problem I noted about Self integration and human integration being used synonymously amongst many therians online. Sometimes I wonder if fewer people claim to experience mental shifts than the number who actually do have them because of the connotations laid out by the general online community that give the impression that a person who mental shifts is necessarily experiencing a time of less integration with him/herself, which can lead people to think that by mental shifting they are allowing a supposedly “bad” disassociation. However, for those in which it is a form of dissociation, that doesn’t mean that it is bad or unhealthy, and for those in which it isn’t dissociative, that doesn’t mean that people should be viewing it as being a form of dissociation.
Fragmented animality is another subject I’m covering in this writing. Although it’s not very simple to explain, I experience various extents of therianthropic and other animality fragmenting, with only certain portions of the non-physical animal being sustained within me. The most fragmented animal part of me that I can identify is one I have no reason to consider therianthropic anymore: canine. As I have mentioned some times before, I have scattered little bits of canine aspects and behaviors or mannerisms to me that I still see as aligning with canine more than any other type of animal, and yet I do not find they are the type, quantity, and quality of aspects that I experience with my theriosides. However, my explanation of the difference between those therianthropic and non-therianthropic animal aspects is not yet (if ever will be) something I can describe in words—it’s beyond verbal limitations for me, so far.
A step, or rather numerous steps up, from canine is my avian aspect. One of my difficulties in pinning down what type of bird it is (or even if it’s a proto-avian or bird-like dinosaur) as well as whether it is a therioside or not, involves the level of fragmentation I experience of it. I have various aspects of myself that align with a primarily ground-dwelling avian, and even though I experience them often and in more quality and quantity than canine, they still seem to be missing parts as well as prominency that I would expect that avian to have. It’s like a puzzle of the animal and although it’s mostly complete, there remain some pieces missing, and thus I experience a more ‘incomplete’ version of the animal (avian in this case) than I do with horse, cat, or my human aspect. Mongoose is also fragmented some like this, which adds to the difficulty I’ve had in pinning it down more specifically (and even to the extent of generalized mongoose), yet it remains more complete than avian and a little more fragmented than cat or horse. As for those latter two, they are the most ‘complete’ of my theriotypes.
Again, this is not a concept I can find the words to describe it in specifics, such as how or why exactly I feel that ‘incompleteness’ or ‘completeness’. However, even though I do think that fragmenting is part of what creates those feelings and understanding for me regarding my theriotypes, I also think that maybe less understanding of a theriotype can make me feel it is more ‘incomplete’, as well as a better understanding aids me in feeling one as more complete. At that point it becomes a question of which one causes the other: does the fragmenting cause a reduction in understanding, resulting in a longer time to reach that higher level of understanding? Or does that reduction in understanding cause either fragmenting or just a feeling of fragmentation? Yet honestly, I don’t think it really matters what the answer is for that, instead it’s the experience to me that matters. Though I don’t take issue with the feeling of incompleteness; rather, it’s just an interesting observation I’ve made over time.
Also, the “understanding” I am meaning is a feeling and knowledge without words pertaining to the correlations and lack of correlations between my theriotypes and the animals they are (or I believe they are), and especially a knowledge of what aspects of myself are affiliated with or encompassed by a particular theriotype. In essence, I can ‘start out’ in my therianthropic search (in general or for a certain theriotype) with some idea of what the animal may be and what aspects of myself correlate to or are part of that animal, and as I continue my introspection as well as external research on animals, I develop a better understanding and a clear, more complete image of that information. Increasing my understanding of myself, my therianthropy, and my theriotypes (internally for them and externally for the animals they are), allows me to acknowledge as well as better ‘embrace’ the wide variety of aspects of myself that are affected by, correlate with, or are otherwise a part of each particular theriotype. This can cause an initial misconception for me when figuring out a theriotype of mine with me assuming that the animal is different from what it is/may actually be, or that the theriotype is more incomplete in me than it may be. It’s a misconception that can go on for quite awhile until I learn and understand enough about that part of myself so that I can see more of the entire image that is the certain theriotype.