A lot of people come to me saying that my writing helped them to understand the species they always knew they were. But, a lot of people also come to me, saying, “I don’t feel human, but I’m not sure what I am, how do I find my species?”
You’re not alone. Identity is not something that everyone understands about their self. When you have a non-normative identity, it can take a lot of time to really understand it, and sometimes, you might just feel that your identity is “not X”, but you can’t pin down what your identity is. There are many possible reasons for this. Society does not encourage us to explore these identities or gives us behaviour to model them. Stereotypes of identity can get in the way of understanding if you don’t feel that those stereotypes match you, or you start to consciously or subconsciously feel that you have to act in the way of a stereotype to be a “real X”… or, if you are acting in the way of a stereotype because you want to, and you worry that others will think you are “not a real X” for this. And it’s very possible to have an identity or combination of identity that does not match anything you have seen before.
Nonhumans mostly fall into two groups, ones who always knew their species (but might not know what it means to feel they are that species, until they get older) and ones who have to find it. Being someone who knew my species identity, it’s a little difficult when people ask me this question because I don’t have personal experience. And I also think, there’s not a sure way to find out, there is only learning and understanding yourself more, like any identity. But, these are some things that might help to speed the understanding.
One thing that I recommend to people a lot is this meditation from The Pagan Book of Living and Dying. Whether you see it as a psychological tool or a spiritual one, it can help you “cut through the noise” and talk directly to the part of self that knows your identity. If understanding does not happen immediately, be patient… if you are not used to meditation, you might need to practice before images and words “become clear”.
You also can ask your dreams. Again this method can be used by both spiritual people and non-spiritual people, because it works by the fact that your subconscious self knows what your conscious self does not. Just before you fall asleep, repeat a positive statement over and over in your head like, “I will find my identity in my dreams tonight”. It might not work the first time, but, after some times you should begin to program your mind to dream about your identity. If you have a list of species that you feel you have a connection with, and you are trying to understand what they all mean to you, you can do this also: for example, say, “Tonight I will dream about Seal” or “Tonight I will find out what Rat means to me”. Do this every night until you understand what that species means to you, then move to the next one.
Try and visualise yourself as a number of species that feel like they could be “right”. Or, start with anything that sounds fun, if it doesn’t feel right, you will get a strong idea of what direction is wrong for you. Visualise your body becoming the body of that species. Imagine that you live in the environment of that species, try to create the temperature, weather, smells, sights, the feel of the world against your skin/fur/etc. Imagine that your friends, your family, are this species, you are surrounded by your pack mates, flock mates, elven family etc. and you speak to them as this species would, or you are in the society that you imagine them in. Does it feel natural? Does it feel hard to imagine? Does it feel uncomfortable? Is this body that you imagine, too big, too small, too light, too heavy, too furry, too full of aggressive feelings, too quiet and calm, too alien? How is the body language feeling? Are the ears, eyes, legs, tail in the wrong place? Is the skeleton wrong? Does the voice feel wrong or right? What is missing? When you are ready, write down all the things you feel about this visualisation, good and bad. Then try another one, remembering the things that feel “wrong” and “right” to guide you. For example, if you tried to visualise being a lizard, and scales feel right but legs feel wrong, try visualising a snake next time. Or, if the water feels right, try water creatures.
This link, it ignores/erases non-binary identities in very a problematic way, but it can be good to get you started. It’s very much not perfect but, if you replace gender with species you can use these kinds of questions to help you begin to think. For example, looking at old childhood drawings, self-portraits or writing can help you to remember some identity understandings you might have had as a child that you later pushed away.
Past life regression might be useful if you personally feel that an identity lies there. Again, if you don’t believe in past lives it also can be a psychological tool to search the inside of yourself. You can find plenty of past life meditations for free online, or, buy a CD of meditation. You don’t have to go to a therapist.
After doing all these methods for a short time, it’s important to give yourself time to rest. Don’t try and visualise being 40 species in a day, you will quickly tire your mind and become confused. Do at most 2 in one day, then have a day or more to rest and work out how you feel about each one. Also, try to work out where you fit in the big groups first (land creature? sky creature? meat eater? vegetarian? biped? quadruped?) before trying to visualise between a lot of species of cats, for example. Start with the big things and work out the small details later, unless you get a sudden “flash” of details that you would like to explore.
If one method seems to become more confusing than useful, stop and try something else. If you get two ideas that don’t seem like they match, don’t try and decide what that means yet, don’t try and make it fit into any box. Just let it exist and keep exploring. You will find the answers eventually.
Don’t expect to exactly fit any species. Even a physical parrot, wolf, ape, etc. who is raised only by humans will learn a mix of human behaviours and their natural species behaviours. There is a reason that animals raised in captivity usually cannot return to the wild. Remember you spent most of your life being raised as human in human society, and expected and even forced to be human your whole life. It’s quite common for children to be punished if they show too many “strange” behaviours, and if that happened to you, it is natural you will be particularly confused because you learned to think your natural behaviours are “wrong”. If you are not truly human, then that part of you will keep appearing in your life, but it might also be confused by other things. Don’t focus on how “pure” it is or whether you sometimes have “human thoughts”, but, focus on the parts of yourself that you can’t push away no matter how much you try, even if they are mixed with other feelings.
Remember that it’s okay if you don’t know immediately. About any identity, a lot of people take many years to understand it. Even identities that seem like they “should” be very simple, can take a long time to work out. So give yourself some time and don’t push it.