Therianthropy is an internally based experience; it’s an integral and personal experience. Although the experience can differ between therians, there are several things that remain consistent.
Probably the best definition to date (one general enough to describe most therianthropic experiences) has been put forth by Sonne Spiritwind: “A person who is, feels, or believes he/she is in part or whole (non-physically) one or more non-human animals on an integral, personal level”(source 1).
I. Therianthropy is Personal and Integral.
Therianthropy is not caused by any external force – such as totems, spirit guides, or any form of spirit possession/ walk-ins, etc. This means that although these experiences can be valid, they arenot valid cases of therianthropy.
In reference to therianthropy, the word “connection” is tossed around an awful lot without paying much attention to the level of connection experienced. A “connection” can be anything from justliking a certain animal, to an actual connection to an animal as one’s therioside, so it is best to be specific and try to avoid or elaborate on this buzz word.
II. Therianthropy Is An Individual Experience.
There are many different ways in which people ‘explain’ their therianthropy, or reasons they believe they are therian in the first place. Several reasons include (but definitely are not limited to):
- Having the spirit/soul of their therioside.
- Current therianthropic experience influenced by a past life in which the individual was their therioside.
- A mental irregularity in which something in the individual’s brain causes the urge or impulse to behave or think like their therioside.
- A non-spiritual theory/belief that the therian identifies more as a non-human animal than as a human.
Respect others’ beliefs on this matter as you would want them to respect your own.
III. Cameo Shifts, Totems, Spirit Guides, and Walk-Ins.
Many times, there is confusion between what constitutes a therioside. A therioside (personal and integral) is based on an internal force. A therioside is the individual, just as the individual is the therioside. A therioside is NOT another entity. Common external mistaken therioside-identities include cameo shifts, spirit guide influence, totems and walk-ins.
A cameo shift in a therian – “a shift (of any kind) into an animal which is not one’s own therioside”(source 2) – can often times feel as strong or even stronger than a shift into the therian’s own therioside. In regard to non-therians who experience a shift in state of mind/behavior, these shifts can almost feel like a therioside. However, cameo shifts are NON-integral; while they may have personal meaning to the individual, and can be brought on by many things, there is a separation between a therioside and a cameo shift. Often times someone will mistake a cameo shift for a shift into a therioside because they do not pay close enough attention to how integrated the shift itself feels. A cameo shift can be so strong as to completely overtake your functions, but it is not a therioside unless it is who you are. A shift does not a therian make.
A mix-up between a totem and a therioside can, at times, be easier to mistake. Animal totems often have specific traits or attributes for which they are known. Individuals may see this, and assume that because they match these traits they are in some way also this animal; in some cases they may call this a “therioside” in reference to therianthropy. It should be noted that however close an individual’s relationship with a totem gets, a totem is still external. An animal totem is NOT the same thing as a therioside – in fact some therians have personal totem animals that are quite different from their theriosides.
Spirit guides are another tricky matter in certain cases. The main issue of concern in this situation is developing behavioral patterns from communication to a spirit guide/guardian. If an individual associates with any other person/entity/animal for a certain length of time, they have a chance of picking up certain habits or behavioral traits that are commonly exhibited by that person/entity/animal. It is because of this that an individual might consider themselves a therian even though their behavior is more of a ‘monkey-see, monkey-do’ sort of scenario. Again, it is up to the individual to decide how to approach and diagnose this particular situation. Many people who mistake a spirit guide as a therioside do so when the guide’s behaviors are close to their own, often times referencing their falsely assumed therioside in third person.
Walk-in experiences are “..used to describe a spirit that manifests a physical body, to which it was not the ‘original owner’” (source 3). Spiritual or other sorts of possessions are NOT examples of therianthropy. So if an individual is inhabited by the spirit or mind of another entity (whether in a peaceful or hostile manner, or somewhere in between) this is not therianthropy. This is a “walk-in” or something similar, with its own definition and traits.
IV. Therianthropy And Dissociative Identity Disorder.
“Dissociative Identity Disorder, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities, each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment” (source 4).
There are some therians who refer to their theriosides almost as a separate entity. For example, “My cougar side always feels the urge to chase things that move.” In this situation it is truly a question to the individual whether or not this ‘cougar side’ is just another facet of the individual’s personality (which would be more integral) or an external force affecting their personality/behavior. So even as therianthropy is a personal, integral experience, a therian’s animal side can often feel like a separate side of a therian’s personality. This is mostly the case in those therians who experience DID-like shifts, as nearly completely separate instances of thought/personality/behavior; one for human, one for animal.
This is not to say that there is anything mentally wrong with a therian’s relation to their therioside in this manner. It is just another individual therianthropy experience. People who have this sort of experience are the ones who need to truly delve within themselves and determine if they are experiencing a form of therianthropy, or if there is some other cause at work; only the individual truly knows themselves.
V. Therianthropy, Furries, And ‘Animal People’.
- Therianthropes =/= Furries. Although there are therians who are furries (and vice-versa) these two things are not interchangeable. Both terms are used to label, at times, similar experiences, but they cannot be substituted equally for one another. Extremely basically, a furry (or member of the furry fandom) has “an interest in anthropomorphic animals and/or mythological or imaginary creatures which possess human or superhuman capabilities” (source 5). This means both animals who exhibit human like characteristics (from old Egyptian gods to Disney animations, and so on) as well as what many furries represent themselves as: bipedal, half-human/half-animal creatures sometimes referred to as “anthros” or even “furries.” It is most likely here that the confusion lies, for many therians may also represent themselves in this way as were creatures (also a hybrid form of human/animal). This is probably why many people would see furries and therians in the same light, but it is extremely misleading.For instance, there are many therians who view their therioside as strictly quadrupedal, as well as those who believe their animal side to have a completely natural and feral influence on their life/characteristics/mind/spirit/etc. In this, the animal portion of the therian is not anthropomorphic at all.As a final point of this specific topic, the term “furry” is a label that only the individual can choose to call themselves. There are no unwilling furries – being a furry (in its base definition) is a choice.
- Differences Between Therians And ‘Animal People’The term “animal person” has been tossed around with enough frequency to be taken into consideration with regards to therianthropy. An animal person is a person with an extreme empathy or connection to one or more non-human animals.Quite unlike therianthropy, however, an animal person’s connection to an animal is not necessarily integral. Although there are therians who consider themselves animal people, it is more about self-identification than a general blanket term for all therians. It could possibly be said that all therians are animal people because of their profound connection to their therioside, but like many situations where labels are tossed around, it is neither encouraged nor suggested to label someone else.
VI. On ‘Becoming A Therian’.
Therianthropy, being an integral experience, is something that IS the individual. It was when the individual became ‘who they are’ (whether personal belief holds that was during a past/first life, at conception, at birth, etc) that therianthropy became part of them as well.
When a therian comes to the realization of their therioside/therianthropy, they are often termed as “awakened”. This realization can sometimes feel like a ‘becoming,’ but the biggest difference between therians and non-therians in this situation is that the therian is capable of determining that they have always been this way.
Someone who claims to have ‘become’ a therian often experiences some sort of event that triggers either one-time or continuous therian-like behavior, such as shifting, animal traits, etc. Although with non-therians this trigger is usually something external.