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Hello. Welcome to Therian Nation. I’m your host Shannon Jackson. In this video we will go more in depth about Psychological Therianthropy and hear from a few Therians about their personal experiences. Previous videos introduced modern Therianthropy, defined terms used in the community, and covered Therianthropic shifts. If you have not watched those previous videos, we recommend that you do so first in order to better understand Psychological Therianthropy.

(Therian Nation animated logo and title on screen) 

When was Psychological Therianthropy first discussed in the community? Discussion of the psychological aspects of therianthropy and psychological changes that take place during shifts have been discussed since the early days of the online community. Evidence of such can be seen in A.H.WW threads from as early as 1994. 

There has been a noticeable rift in the community between psychological and spiritual Therians, with members of each side not believing that the others can be legitimate. However, these two branches of Therianthropy are both legitimate and acceptable. Psychological Therians as well as Spiritual Therians can experience any type of shift, and have one theriotype or multiple theriotypes. Many Therians explain their identity through both spiritual and psychological experiences. 

Whatever the explanation, it’s important to note that Therianthropy is a subjective belief based on personal experiences, and not on scientific fact. Currently, there have not been any psychological or neurological studies related to Therianthropy. Therian Nation asks that all Therians and Otherkin respect each other, even if you have opposing views or beliefs. 

Psychology is the study of behaviour and mind, embracing all aspects of conscious and unconscious behavior as well as thought. A short explanation for psychological therianthropy is abnormal brain wiring or unconscious adaptations of the brain to experiences and possibly emotional traumas in childhood or a combination of both. Basically, a Therian identifies as an animal because their minds interpret their existence as such. One reason that we say being Therian is not a choice, is because most of our non-human behaviours and shifts are subconscious. 

There are more specific explanations found in the community for why people consider themselves psychological Therianthropes. Here’s a quick list, and then we will examine each in more detail. 

Atypical Neurology 
Imprinting/Developmental 
Identity Formation 
Survival/Resilience/Defense Mechanism 
Duality of Human and Animal Nature 
Combination of Multiple Factors 
Other Explanations 

Atypical Neurology 

Atypical Neurology also includes atypical neuropsychology and atypical physiology. Neurology is the scientific study of the nervous system especially in respect to its structure, functions, and abnormalities. Neuropsychology is a science that combines psychological observations on behaviour and the mind with neurological observations on the brain and nervous system. The specialty is dedicated to enhancing the understanding of brainā€behavior relationships and the application of such knowledge to human problems. Atypical neurophysiology is the functioning of a brain that works significantly different from a large majority of brains. There could possibly be differences in the structure of the brain and/or nervous system that cause different behaviour to develop. These differences in neurology and physiology can cause us to process sensations, perception, memory, and communication in atypical ways that we might be interpreting as non-human. On the Therian Timeline, Wolf Van Zandt hypothesized that Weres/Therians process language differently. In the essay, “A Comprehensive Introduction to a Psychological View of Therianthroy” Liesk wrote, “Quite plainly, it seems to be the case that therians work like animals do. A great number of therians report being visual thinkers, or otherwise thinking mainly in some non-verbal form.” 

The following is Wolf VanZandt’s view on therianthropy. (Video clip provided by WVZ) 

“Do I think that therianthropy is psychological or spiritual? That’s not really as simple a question a you might think. For instance, I come from a Shamanic background and I would say that everything that is material has a spiritual flip-side. So you can look at anything and say that it has a spiritual aspect or it has a psychological aspect. I would say psychoneurological, because it’s become recently pretty clear that even a lot of things that people used to consider behavioural have very material origins in the brain. So, yeah, if I had to choose a clear side, I would say that it’s psychoneurological. It’s a lot easier to explain most of the stuff that Weres experience from a psychoneurological viewpoint than from a spiritual one.

For instance, the phantom body. Hamdy Moselhy discussed a study where a couple psychologists did a brain scan a couple of clinical lycanthropes while they were changing and they found out that one of the parts of the brain were active where the same parts that light up, for instance, when a person with anorexia looks at themselves in the mirror and instead of seeing a very thin, emaciated person, they see somebody that’s fat. He calls it somatic delusions. And it would fit perfectly well with our experience of phantom bodies.

Just about everything that we experience could be explained either neurologically or spiritually. But when you say that something is spiritual, what are you really saying? I’ve never been able to grasp that. You can just about as easily say that it’s imaginary, because you can’t point at it, you can’t actually measure when someone is talking about something spiritual. Now, I believe in spirituality, but like I said, I believe that the universe has a flip-side duality between material and spiritual.

I don’t believe that therians have animal spirits, because I really don’t believe there is a difference in human spirits and animal spirits. I believe there are some differences in their disposition, but I don’t believe there is differences in their quality. So it’s hard for me to say that therianthropy is based on spirit. Whereas, like I said, I can very easily explain just about anything a therian experiences from psychology or psychoneurology material things going on in the brain. And that’s my viewpoint.”

Imprinting and Development 

Psychological therianthropy is explained by some Therians as imprinting on non-human animals. It’s possible that a child who watches animal behaviour, such as a dog or a cat, instead of properly being taught human behaviour and socialized by human family could learn to act like that animal. Children who associate with animals can take that association and turn it into familiarity and identity. This behaviour could become ingrained and be an integral part of one’s identity throughout life. Also, without a positive human role-model, it’s possible that some children may look up to and see animals as role-models instead of humans. Playing pretend as animals can internalize those feelings and also reinforce animal behaviors.

The following was submitted by Integral, a Border-Collie Therian. 
(Audio clip) 

“For me, it’s a psychological thing. I don’t really believe in deities or souls, so that leaves me with psychology. I’m not sure what kind of factors play into it, conditions it could be related to, or anything like that, but it definitely strikes me as something that’s brain-related.

I think a lot of it might have do with, at least for me personally, being raised around dogs, and not having a lot of exposure to other kids my age until around kindergarten. I think I kind of imprinted on the dogs I grew up with, and kind of absorbed part of their personalities and behaviors into my own.

Every time I talk about something similar to my mom, and I don’t bring this up specifically, she has told me a lot of times that I’ve been absolutely fascinated/ obsessed with dogs since I knew what a dog was. Apparently, when I was little, I also told her I really wanted to be a dog when I grew up.

I guess I am, in the weirdest, most embarrassing way I could think of. Seriously though, some of my earliest memories are of me trying to imitate my dogs and how they played. And learning as much as I possibly could about dogs.”

Identity Formation

Identify is multidimensional. Identity formation begins in early childhood, when infants become self-aware. Adolescents usually break away from early beliefs about themselves and their world view to experiment and explore alternatives. Identity achievement occurs when the adolescent has explored and committed to important aspects about their identity. Early learning creates lifelong brain organization, and children who come to identify as Therian later in life, could be developing differently from children who identify as human. Since a lot of Therians reported pretending to be animals as children, perhaps this is an early belief about themselves that still fits their world view and was maintained throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Of course, there could be many other explanations to why people come to identify as non-human, other than pretending to be animals as children. 

Now we will hear from Lopori, a Bonobo Therian. (Video clip)

“Hi, I’m Lopori, a psychological therian and otherkin. My kintypes are bonobo and mermaid. I have my own rather simple theory as to why otherkin exists, merely a way of perceiving yourself and making sense of the world, an illusion of sorts, where we’re all just humans at the end of the day. It’s just how we make sense of stuff, how we built our identities based on experience, such as growing up being very close with a family pet, or finding an explanation for just weird thoughts. Maybe even just being too attached to an animal or mythical creature so much that you convince yourself that you are that. That sounds less legit, but it’s entirely possible.

For me, I think being exposed to mermaids from an early age via films and stuff made me imprint on them a bit. With bonobos, I was late teens, so I can’t quite pinpoint the catalyst. I just remember seeing pictures of them and feeling kind of weird. Growing up, I was always fascinated by cavemen and also modern humans who still live in forests. I used to play “wild man” a lot if I went to places with woods and in an extent shifted a bit. I used to think my arms were longer and more toned than they were if I wasn’t looking at them in the mirror or something. I find myself wanting to move as if I was three times as lanky, and I’m not at all lanky. 

In hindsight, it was only an amount of time before the extant great apes came into my life and became one of the most important things. Another thing I think may have contributed is that I have a misdiagnosis of things in my childhood that ruined my self esteem and I have been brought up being made to believe that I was disordered and special. The more I distance myself from that, the more freedom I had to build my own identity, to find better ways of knowing myself, and explained an eccentricity which didn’t involve mental disorders that don’t fit. I’m actually normal. That’s not to say that it’s a conscious coping mechanism, because it certainly is not. It wouldn’t work anyway. Or I’m just a bit too much into bonobos and mermaids. I don’t know. Thanks for listening.”

Survival/Resilience/Defense Mechanism

In times of stress, whether acute or long term, survival instincts are triggered. After the threat has gone away, most humans’ behaviour and brain function return to normal. For those who have come to identify as Therian, they often express that the survival instincts never diminished. The acceptance of an instinctual, animalistic self became a permanent and integral part of who they are. 

According to the American Psychological Association, psychological resilience is, “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” In the APA’s online brochure titled, “The Road to Resilience” one of the ten ways to build resilience includes looking for opportunities for self-discovery. “People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.” 

Of course resilience is much more complicated, but perhaps Therianthropy is a natural result of learned behaviours that have allowed many of us to deal with hardship in our lives. The behaviors that are associated with being non-human have become a permanent part of the identity. This could also be related to defense mechanisms. 

Compartmentalization is considered to be a lesser known form of disassociation, in which parts of oneself are separated from awareness of other parts and behave as if one is different from the other. This could explain why younger therians usually talk as if their theriotype is separate from them.

Also, it should be noted that some psychologists consider defense mechanisms and coping mechanisms to be different. The difference is that a defense mechanism is considered to be subconscious. Whereas, a person can consciously choose between different coping strategies and find which strategy works best. 

While using long term defense mechanisms can lead to psychological problems, is seems that in most cases, Psychological Therians find a balance between their human and non-human selves and they become integrated and functional.

Dualism 

This is similar to what Meirya called “Primal Association” in the article “Otherkin and Therian Theories of Cause or Origin”. While many people do not want to admit that humans have natural, animal instincts and impulses, we do. Therianthropy could be an acceptance of this more primitive side of our personalities, and allowing it to have a greater influence on our lives and behaviors. 

A good example might be the fictional story of Tarzan. He goes back to civilization only to reject it and return to nature. While Tarzan can pass as a civilized person and function in society, he prefers to take off the mask of civilization and be more primitive. 

Many Therians believe that duality does not a Therian make. The duality of human nature my be obvious to many Therians due to their personal perspective on the world, but the simple realization of duality is not the same as a Therian awakening. Duality may be more a quality of Therianthropy than a cause of it. 

Combination/Multiple Factors 

Identity is complex. Most likely there is a combination of factors that lead one to identify as Therian rather than a single cause. Many possible causes of psychological therianthropy are similar and may overlap. For example, imprinting on an animal could have influences on identity formation. 

The next clip was provided by Aethyriek, a bat Therian. 

“So the often asked question: what do we feel the source of our therianthropy is? My opinion of why I’m a therian is not that I’m the result of a psychological or neurological quirk or whichever theory a person might have that often isn’t based in a lot of science or research or psychology. Most of us are not educated in that field when we describe what we think the source of our therianthropy is. Which is fine, we’re allowed to have those theories, but as a result I don’t feel a lot of value for myself in the theories of the psychological camp.

Concurrent to that I’m not a consistently spiritual individual, so framing my therianthropy as spiritual in nature would simply be dishonest. What makes me a therian is actually surprisingly tangible and if someone asked me, “What is the source of your therianthropy?” I would say it doesn’t matter.

What I would tell them is what brings me to feel that I’m a nonhuman animal. And for me, I would say, yes, I identity as bat, but I also identify with bats. My sense of place and sense of home, of where I belong are often in places where yes, there will be a human component and no one can deny that, but it’s also places that would feel more at home to me as a bat person.

Everything is built on this. If I look at my behaviours, my mind set, my problem solving, all their roots is based on bat and on human, or at least a perception of bat. It’s not symbolic by any means although certainly sometimes there is mythology there.

Beyond that, beyond the behaviour and the mindset, I experience sensations of body structure that are not there. I could simplify it for everyone and say it’s wings, but that would be a true simplification. So often when I am feeling this particular sensation of a different body, my body orientates how I move, what course I go about me day; it’s incredibly physical despite not being there. So it really will determine, again, some of my problem solving. I’ll base solving a problem on this perceived body and then I will have to correct myself in order to be functional.

So these are the things that make me an animal person; all these traits that blend together. What is the source of these traits? That’s the question of the psychological and spiritual theories are all about. And as a result I don’t see a necessity in it. At the end of the day, I’m an animal person.

Introspection is about  looking at those things and searching for why being an animal is meaningful to us. What makes us animal people in terms of our experiences? And that to me in the only important thing.”

Other Explanations 

Other explanations for psychological Therianthropy include that it’s genetic, passed down from generation to generation. We are not saying that non-human DNA can be mixed with human DNA. Instead, there could be genetics that cause our brains to develop differently. Just as there have not been any psychological or neurological studies related to Therianthropy, there have also not been any genetic studies that link Therianthropy to lineage. There is no evidence to support this belief. 

Similar to duality, there is also the concept that everyone is Therian, or has an animal-side, but few people become aware of the fact and accepting of it. Maybe everyone has the potential to awaken, but one must already be predisposed to it, then be presented with the right sort of circumstances in their life for Therianthropy to arise. 

A few members of the community consider Therianthropy to be similar to or related to autism spectrum disorder. During our research, Therian Nation came across neurodiversity. This movement frames autism, bipolarity and other neurotypes as a natural human variation rather than a pathology or disorder, and its advocates reject the idea that neurological differences need to be (or can be) cured, as they believe them to be authentic forms of human diversity, self-expression, and being. Just as autism is seen as a variation of functioning rather than a mental disorder to be cured, so too could Therianthropy be seen as just a variation in the way our brains function.

Remember, there is not a universally accepted or scientifically proven explanation for Therianthropy. Therianthropy is still a subjective belief based only on personal experiences. 

Therian Nation would like to say thank you to all of the members of the community who made suggestions and helped us gather information. Links to public sources used for this video have been provided in the description below. The next video will go more in depth about Spiritual Therianthropy. If you have any questions, you are welcome to leave us a comment or send us a message here on Youtube or our Tumblr page. Therian Nation will answer to the best of our knowledge and ability. Subscribe to Therian Nation to learn and stay informed about Therianthropy and the Therian community. Thank you for watching. 

List of Public Sources 

Neurology - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neurology

Neuropsychology - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neuropsychology 

See also – American Psychology Association - http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/neuro.aspxNeurodiversity - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurodiversity 

Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone. “Autistc, Allistic, Neurodiver, and Neurotypica: Say What?” https://crackedmirrorinshalott.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/autistic-allistic-neurodiverse-and-neurotypical-say-what/ 

American Psychological Association, “The Road to Resilience” - http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx 

“Hmmmmmm” AHWW Discussion, June, 18, 1996 - https://groups.google.com/d/msg/alt.horror.werewolves/IHpMmBR8e_s/80qDCYa3XSIJ 

See also: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/alt.horror.werewolves/EqPwqcHv0Ew/OkDzd_ykYXEJ 

“Mind of the Were”, Therian Timeline - http://theriantimeline.com/therianthropy/the_mind_of_the_wereMeirya, 

“Otherkin and Therian Theories of Cause or Origin,” 2006. http://project-shift.net/otherkin-therian-theories-of-cause-or-origin/ Liesk, 2007. 

“A Comprehensive Introduction to a Psychological View of Therianthropy” http://project-shift.net/a-comprehensive-introduction-to-a-psychological-view-of-therianthropy/ 

See also, Liesk’s archived website. http://web.archive.org/web/20070328202750/http://liesk.feralscribes.org/ Dr. 

Sharon Galor. “Defence Mechanisms vs. Coping” https://drsharongalor.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/defense-mechanisms-vs-coping/ 

Dr. Jaan Suurkül. “Survival Oriented Behavior” https://drgrandville2.wordpress.com/survival-oriented-behavior/a

 

Timothy Grivell , Helen Clegg & Elizabeth C. Roxburgh (2014) An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Identity in the Therian Community, Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15283488.2014.891999

Identity Development - Aspects of Identity - Adolescents, Adolescence, Self, and Exploration - JRank Articles http://social.jrank.org/pages/322/Identity-Development.html#ixzz4FqP3tt9U   

Seth J. Schwartz, et al. “Identity Development, Personality, and Well-Being in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood”, http://lp.wileypub.com/HandbookPsychology/SampleChapters/Volume6.pdf

Thumbnail Image Source: Created by Therian Nation 
Images (if any) are used under fair use for educational purposes only and remain the property of the copyright holders. 

Opening Title Music - “News Theme 3” by Ithaca Audio Ltd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. http://www.ithacaaudio.com/2010/12/07/news-theme/

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