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Identify with Care
callistowolf
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Post: #1
Identify with Care
Hey folks!

I wanted to organize some of my thoughts on the concept of identity. I thought it might be useful for people here, as the forum tends to be younger folks that are still discovering themselves.

Mods: Please move this if there is a more appropriate forum.

First, a disclaimer: This is based on my own experiences and some very light research I've done over the years. I have fallen into these traps before and I think awareness of them is the first step to avoiding them. Smile

The concept of identity is pushed hard in today's world. I think this is related to how our idea of gender has evolved over the past decade. People are spending more time than ever introspecting and searching within themselves. I think this is a good thing, however, one can have a less than positive result if introspection is rushed and identity misplaced.

People are racing head long to fill their profile headers with all kinds of interesting identifiers. I recall being handed INTP in my youth and how great it felt to have this neat four letter acronym to describe myself. I think there is a lot of satisfaction to be had from 'figuring yourself out.'

Of course, identity is a serious thing, it gives people outside of yourself an intimate view of how you think the world works, how you approach some situations, and how best to interact with you. However, one needs to proceed with caution to avoid stereotyping folks.

As human beings, we all want to belong on some level, have relationships with people that are similar to us, or at least have someone that understands us. Above all, I think we seek to know people who have endured the same trials. In order to find those people, we advertise our chosen identifiers.

This is a plausible strategy to make connections, however, one must be careful when choosing to identify as something.

Let's take a step back, there is an aspect of the human condition that limits the usefulness of identifiers. Humans tend to adopt some of the traits, behaviors, and beliefs of those they spend time with. This is natural and a part of how we establish social cohesion within our groups.

Issues can arise when someone identifies as something and tries to force false attributes on themselves. Some people will pretend to have certain traits or behaviors. Some will claim they believe one thing when they in fact believe something else.

For example, I was friends with some people that enjoyed ghost hunting. They took me to an isolated rural church that was supposed to be haunted, it was late at night and a little eerie. I told them I wanted to get out and look around. Everyone in the car insisted they in some manner could 'feel' that it wasn't a good time to do it. I was asked if I could feel it too, I did not, and I was -very- tempted to lie about it. I wanted to fit in.

Identity can also lead you astray if you apply something negative to yourself. I am a firm believer in being kind to yourself.

Think about the people in your life, is there someone that talks down to themselves a lot? Do they use a lot of negative terms to describe themselves? It is possible they have had a series of experiences to make them feel that way or suffered mental abuse. Now that they are applying negatives identities to themselves, they will view themselves and their actions through that lens.

This influences their decisions and thoughts. "I'm not even going to try this. It won't work because I am an idiot anyway." Once you are in the hold of these things it can be incredibly hard to break out of. In some ways, identity can be hazardous to your genuine self.

Identity can lead to conflict. This is because you now have a stake and emotional investment in that term. This also primes you to butt heads with an opposing identity, we can see a lot in politics. It is a shame, because I think some conflict could be avoided if we would stop labeling and stereotyping each other.

In summary, once you have determined you identify as something, you might start to interpret your new experiences in ways to reinforce that identity, even if the identity does not fit you. Learn as much as you can before deciding to identify as something.

Ultimately, I think we should focus more on our shared experiences rather than identity or labels. Focusing on experiences will serve to bring people together, and better enable folks to decide for themselves where they might find true camaraderie.
(This post was last modified: 2021-04-26 22:00 by callistowolf.)
2021-04-26 21:59
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little wolf
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Post: #2
RE: Identify with Care
I agree that less emphasis needs to be put on labeling. Labels are so overrated, can be misinterpreted, misunderstand, and unfortunately are way too overused. It is my personal opinion that when you are soul-searching or trying to find yourself, you should take time and let things sort of work themselves out rather than forcing it, agonizing over it, and fighting it.

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2021-04-26 23:58
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Post: #3
RE: Identify with Care
Hey,

Given my position as staffer I was studying this phenomenon trying to figure out if there is something we can do to make things work out better.

I found some inspiration in tribal practices of Native Americans. And forgive me if I misrepresent something in the following explanation, for I am by no means an expert.

Every society deals with the problem of introducing new people into societal roles (aka "identities"). We have some way of allowing kids to play-pretend to be policemen without seeing them as equals to graduates from police school. For Native Americans we still have a vague idea of what they did on the level of a tribal society, which I think is closer to actually fulfilling human needs.

They allow young tribe members to start training for a particular societal role (e.g.: Medicine man). During this training the person can learn and explore this identity. At the end of this is the initiation / becoming of age ceremony where the person has to pass some kind of symbolic test, to actually become what they were training for. The completion of this rite therefore separates people who are playing the role from people who are actually doing the role.

In the online community, this step is missing, so there is no separation for example between pretending to be a therian and being a therian. The need for this kind of separation is still there, so people try to make up for it by all the (heh) tribalism you see online.


I've considered introducing some kind of graduation practice here on TG: so that you have to pass a symbolic test in order to actually become the labels you have chosen for yourself... but at the moment it's not necessary because our active members are of all ages and "seniority" is pretty obvious.

LP,
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(This post was last modified: 2021-04-28 0:00 by DustWolf.)
2021-04-27 23:46
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TherianofFour
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Post: #4
RE: Identify with Care
Perhaps that is why I'm leery of being on forums. I briefly looked into ezboard way back and decided I couldn't do it because I am a very hands on, physical person. I prefer physical interaction and conversation instead of typing out the best way I feel. The problem is I use body language to express myself, as well as read body language when talking to someone. Online it is difficult to differentiate between outright fakers, those still developing and exploring their identities and those who are firm in who they are.

It is why I've been searching for offline communities as well. Online can only sustain me so long without having actual face to face discourse.

As for labels and identity, it is something foreign to me because I've never had the struggle of having to find out who I am. But I see the struggle in the youth today, having nothing to identify with and desperately trying to cling to something that represents them, whether they are human or not entirely human. My own teen struggles with who he is at times, and with him knowing he has a therian mother and human father (no longer married to him), with him not knowing anything about where he belongs in life. (My child has no scent, he smells neither of food nor of animal so I don't know if we will find out later, but we have shared dreams and he has a natural way to communicate with animals like I do so he does have some of my abilities) Either way, whatever he decides to become or discovers to become, he knows he has a mother that will always accept him and help guide him.

Perhaps the young are missing the guidance of elders. In nature, many youth are guided by their parents or communities that raise them. The elders guide and teach them, provide restraints and barriers, discipline them.

Since many human parents do not understand or accept therianthropy, the youth turn to sites like these for guidance. But when left un-monitored or un-guided, the youth tend to become out of control and then we tend to see a virtual re-enactment of Lord of the Flies.

I'm new as a member, but old in my experiences as a therian. I do have much to offer, and my maternal instincts to guide and help the youth and adult alike are strong still.

Heather
2021-04-28 0:11
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callistowolf
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Post: #5
RE: Identify with Care

(2021-04-26 23:58)little wolf Wrote:  I agree that less emphasis needs to be put on labeling. Labels are so overrated, can be misinterpreted, misunderstand, and unfortunately are way too overused. It is my personal opinion that when you are soul-searching or trying to find yourself, you should take time and let things sort of work themselves out rather than forcing it, agonizing over it, and fighting it.


I agree some people dive in too fast. It is understandable as these things can be very exciting to explore! I remember trying on many hats in my younger days, lol.

Dustwolf Wrote:They allow young tribe members to start training for a particular societal role (e.g.: Medicine man). During this training the person can learn and explore this identity. At the end of this is the initiation / becoming of age ceremony where the person has to pass some kind of symbolic test, to actually become what they were training for. The completion of this rite therefore separates people who are playing the role from people who are actually doing the role.


Having some kind of rite-of-passage is something I think people would benefit from. There were no real rites in my family. The best I could think of was when I got my drivers license The world is yours to roam now.

The Marines have rite-of-passage exercise at the end of boot camp called The Crucible. It takes everything you have learned during your time there and applies it in a 3 day event. The end of the event is a 10 mile march back to your barracks. One would think we would be dead and beaten, but it was quite the opposite. For we knew at the end of that march, we would no longer be recruits, we would be Marines.

The feeling was amazing and I still get jitters thinking about it. It's so cemented into my identity that I can call upon it in times of great stress.


Dustwolf Wrote:I've considered introducing some kind of graduation practice here on TG: so that you have to pass a symbolic test in order to actually become the labels you have chosen for yourself... but at the moment it's not necessary because our active members are of all ages and "seniority" is pretty obvious.


This is a really interesting idea. Maybe some open ended essay questions for the person to think about. They could keep it private in a journal (I encourage folks to keep a journal and organize their thoughts!) or share it with the community. I think a lot of great insights could come out of the exercise.

TherianofFour Wrote:It is why I've been searching for offline communities as well. Online can only sustain me so long without having actual face to face discourse.


Some folks are trying to start up Howls again so we can have some face to face interaction. Maybe one will spring up in your area!

TherianofFour Wrote:Perhaps the young are missing the guidance of elders. In nature, many youth are guided by their parents or communities that raise them. The elders guide and teach them, provide restraints and barriers, discipline them.

Since many human parents do not understand or accept therianthropy, the youth turn to sites like these for guidance. But when left un-monitored or un-guided, the youth tend to become out of control and then we tend to see a virtual re-enactment of Lord of the Flies.


This sounds plausible to me. I realize now that I wish I had a guide back then. There may have been one but it is possible there was some rebellious teenager stuff in the way, lol. My parents were very hands off with me. I'm glad we will have the benefit of your experience here. Smile

I think this is one of the goals the website!

2021-04-28 1:28
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TherianofFour
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Post: #6
RE: Identify with Care
I wish I had a guide growing up. My beasts had to be my guides and of course, they used Nature. I had to learn to be observant of the things around me, and studying the behaviors of animals has also helped me study the mindset of humans and their societies and social constructs as a result.
2021-04-30 4:21
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HoneycombPup
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Post: #7
RE: Identify with Care

(2021-04-27 23:46)DustWolf Wrote:  I've considered introducing some kind of graduation practice here on TG: so that you have to pass a symbolic test in order to actually become the labels you have chosen for yourself... but at the moment it's not necessary because our active members are of all ages and "seniority" is pretty obvious.

LP,
Dusty


I don't think this makes sense. Even you will admit therianthropy isn't a choice, so why would you need to pass some test to "become" a therian? Some labels aren't something that you have to pass a test for. Im bisexual, there was never some "symbolic test" to prove it, and I think most people would think that would be silly, because I just am. Being therian isn't an occupation either, so relating that to native American practices doesn't make sense to me.

And what if your experiences as a therian don't fit the general norm, as Bear X has experienced? Do they not pass the test?

Just my two cents, I suppose.

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(This post was last modified: 2021-04-30 5:13 by HoneycombPup.)
2021-04-30 5:12
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TherianofFour
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Post: #8
RE: Identify with Care

(2021-04-30 5:12)HoneycombPup Wrote:  

(2021-04-27 23:46)DustWolf Wrote:  I've considered introducing some kind of graduation practice here on TG: so that you have to pass a symbolic test in order to actually become the labels you have chosen for yourself... but at the moment it's not necessary because our active members are of all ages and "seniority" is pretty obvious.

LP,
Dusty


I don't think this makes sense. Even you will admit therianthropy isn't a choice, so why would you need to pass some test to "become" a therian? Some labels aren't something that you have to pass a test for. Im bisexual, there was never some "symbolic test" to prove it, and I think most people would think that would be silly, because I just am. Being therian isn't an occupation either, so relating that to native American practices doesn't make sense to me.

And what if your experiences as a therian don't fit the general norm, as Bear X has experienced? Do they not pass the test?

Just my two cents, I suppose.



Perhaps one of the problems is that we keep applying human standards of acceptance into non-human communities?

For me, I have learned after being among humans that smell like food, when I encountered a therian he did not smell like food. Which makes me believe the personal element is missing.

Maybe therians have a hard time online identifying others and feeling comfortable among each other because many do not interact physically. We don't get to read body language, scent each other's beasts, talk, be as ourselves because we are, again, having to use human methods to identify each other.

Here, I do not know who is therian or not, even though there are names, experiences shared, etc.
Without the interaction that animals base their existence upon, I can only trust that someone saying who they are is who they are.

Having a way to help the young ones cement their true selves I can see being valuable. As a Cherokee descendant, we guide our youth into themselves. For Native Americans, children received one name at or soon after birth then receives another one later to fit their temperament, personality, or through some rite of passage. Their names reflected them, and essentially labeled who they were. Later their names may be changed or altered according to changes in their experiences or personality.

The youth and newly aware should be free to explore themselves but also with guidance. While I never questioned my beasts and who I am, I do not discount others having not as a clear line of site to their beasts as I do.

I have more thoughts on this topic I will expound on later.

2021-04-30 20:35
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HoneycombPup
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Post: #9
RE: Identify with Care

(2021-04-30 20:35)TherianofFour Wrote:  

(2021-04-30 5:12)HoneycombPup Wrote:  

(2021-04-27 23:46)DustWolf Wrote:  I've considered introducing some kind of graduation practice here on TG: so that you have to pass a symbolic test in order to actually become the labels you have chosen for yourself... but at the moment it's not necessary because our active members are of all ages and "seniority" is pretty obvious.

LP,
Dusty


I don't think this makes sense. Even you will admit therianthropy isn't a choice, so why would you need to pass some test to "become" a therian? Some labels aren't something that you have to pass a test for. Im bisexual, there was never some "symbolic test" to prove it, and I think most people would think that would be silly, because I just am. Being therian isn't an occupation either, so relating that to native American practices doesn't make sense to me.

And what if your experiences as a therian don't fit the general norm, as Bear X has experienced? Do they not pass the test?

Just my two cents, I suppose.



Perhaps one of the problems is that we keep applying human standards of acceptance into non-human communities?

For me, I have learned after being among humans that smell like food, when I encountered a therian he did not smell like food. Which makes me believe the personal element is missing.

Maybe therians have a hard time online identifying others and feeling comfortable among each other because many do not interact physically. We don't get to read body language, scent each other's beasts, talk, be as ourselves because we are, again, having to use human methods to identify each other.

Here, I do not know who is therian or not, even though there are names, experiences shared, etc.
Without the interaction that animals base their existence upon, I can only trust that someone saying who they are is who they are.

Having a way to help the young ones cement their true selves I can see being valuable. As a Cherokee descendant, we guide our youth into themselves. For Native Americans, children received one name at or soon after birth then receives another one later to fit their temperament, personality, or through some rite of passage. Their names reflected them, and essentially labeled who they were. Later their names may be changed or altered according to changes in their experiences or personality.

The youth and newly aware should be free to explore themselves but also with guidance. While I never questioned my beasts and who I am, I do not discount others having not as a clear line of site to their beasts as I do.

I have more thoughts on this topic I will expound on later.


I can certainly see the fact that we are not interacting in person to be a big issue here.

Personally, while I dont particularly like people pretending to be therian, clearly, I dont really think its such a problem to where we need to create rites to proving that someone is a therian. I will be a therian whether or not I passed a rite and whether or not someone tells me they believe that I am a therian. Frankly, I find it almost demeaning to have to prove it. I think having someone come forward about these hardships of being a therian, making themselves feel vulnerable, and then being told that they have to prove it is a bit unfair and can even make newly awakened therians not want to join, because it would probably put a lot of pressure on them. I still just dont understand the relation to the native american practices in that sense to be honest. I dont see the correlation.

When I speak about these things, personally I think back to my experiences being transgender. While I'm not going to say being transgender and therian are at all the same, they have similarities. If I joined a transgender community and was told that I would have to pass a rite to be seen as truly "transgender" I would feel under a lot of pressure and probably wouldnt even want to join that community, and just be transgender on my own.

I agree that having guidance is important of course. I mean, thats what Therian-Guide is here for lol. I just think that what we are doing now to guide people is enough. I dont see a reason to change how we go about it.

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2021-04-30 21:10
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TherianofFour
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Post: #10
RE: Identify with Care
HoneycombPup,
Yes, newly awakened ones should be encouraged and welcomed, always. As far as Native Americans go, they are heavily tied to the earth and many rituals and way of life reflected that unity.
For me, who has that deep tie to the earth from my ancestors, I have respect for them and how they interacted with each other and nature.

That being said, therians do not have to follow rituals no more than those who are LGBTQ or any other qualities or beliefs or essence that make them feel they are who they are. If you believe you are a therian, then I respect that. If you are questioning your therian side or cannot see who you are inside, then as elders or the more experienced and seasoned therians we should provide guidance.

This is interesting though, looking at the thought process of the older and younger therians. At least here we can have a civil discussion over an idea.
2021-04-30 21:45
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