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Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
DustWolf
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Post: #1
Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
Hey guys,

So here's a question I never thought I'd have to ask. Smile

Is trying to define Therianthropy and Therian experiences with words a bad idea?

We have terms like Mental shift and Dream shift and whatnot and every therian resource is basically bursting with these definitions. Yet we've often had the problem of then defining who is a real therian or what true Dreamshifts look like and how are they different from dreams about shifts and so forth.

I used to believe that having words for all of these experiences was a good thing. I used to run a therian wiki and there every experience was defined in it's "true" form. But over the years I've learned that Therianthropy is more of an experience that appears to be shared by multiple people and only by coming together and learning about these experiences, can we understand if they are in fact similar or not. More often than not, formulating some kind of definition of "true" Therianthropy becomes a problem. Not only are the experiences often not the same (one may experience Therianthropy as being the animal and seeing the world trough it's eyes, another merely as identifying as one), there are often people who are obviously legit Therians but who's experiences vary wildly (some people experience mental shifts, others only phantom shifts, yet both are considered Therians).

You also get problems like people dumbing down what it means to be a Therian to simply the literal definition ("A person who identifies as a non-human animal on an integral, personal level"), bringing in all sorts of Tumblrkin who claim to identify on an integral, personal level as a toaster, yet their experience is nothing like our experience of Therianthropy.

So... maybe coming up with words and definitions for all of these things was a bad idea. Maybe instead of trying so hard to figure out who is a True Therian, and whether or not Suntherians can actually M-Shift or not, we should be more open about sharing our personal stories and describing our experiences. Seeing what of those experiences is shared by other people, rather than trying to pigeonhole oneself into a diagnosis or definition.

Just a braindump right here. Tell me what you think.

LP,
Dusty

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(This post was last modified: 2018-07-24 18:14 by DustWolf.)
2018-07-24 18:07
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BearX
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Post: #2
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
I absolutely feel this way, Dusty. I've long felt that as a community, we've outgrown a lot of the definitions as our knowledge has grown.

Much of the definitions we use currently were thrown together in the early days by people who were trying to give words to their experience. This resulted in an explosion of terms.

Take "bilocation shifts" for instance... I've never had a lucid conversation with anyone who experiences them. Nor, any proof that they happen. In my mind, they're as much an impossibility as physical shifting. Appearing in another location as your animal form? I'm skeptical. The only reason this made it into the AHWW FAQ back in the day is one guy said he experienced them. There's plenty of other examples too where one person creates a term for whatever reason and it ultimately ends up being used, but doesn't really apply except to a thin slice of the community.

I've seen folks run off from some forums because their beliefs didn't fit into the rigid framework allowed by those running the fora. This is more common in some of the social media forums, but it is very frustrating, because often what is described is very much in line with what I know to be therianthropy.

I do think that therianthropy is a bigger tent than we likely give it. We literally don't know enough and are too scattered right now to collate it.

I suppose it's a lot like how Potter Stewart described obscenity, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description... But I know it when I see it" Even if someone describes something that doesn't fit the accepted, standard definition, it's usually quite obvious if their animality "rings true".

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(This post was last modified: 2018-07-24 18:41 by BearX.)
2018-07-24 18:40
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LycanTheory
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Post: #3
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
DustWolf Wrote:I used to believe that having words for all of these experiences was a good thing. I used to run a therian wiki and there every experience was defined in it's "true" form. But over the years I've learned that Therianthropy is more of an experience that appears to be shared by multiple people and only by coming together and learning about these experiences, can we understand if they are in fact similar or not. More often than not, formulating some kind of definition of "true" Therianthropy becomes a problem. Not only are the experiences often not the same (one may experience Therianthropy as being the animal and seeing the world trough it's eyes, another merely as identifying as one), there are often people who are obviously legit Therians but who's experiences vary wildly (some people experience mental shifts, others only phantom shifts, yet both are considered Therians).

One of the largest flaws that I see with trying to establish a clear and cohesive, static definition of therianthropy boils down to how we describe things and in order to articulate an experience, we must do just this. If you take ten different people who experience the same event together, regardless of what it is, you'll get ten different explanations of what happened. Sure they might align with each other and will probably be similar, one can get the gist of the point from any or all of these people but there's bound to be variances due to individual perception.

Take that number of ten and turn it into ten thousand, perhaps, spread these people across the globe, from each and every culture and language known to mankind and the story becomes extremely diverse as it's told by everyone. You'll have perceptional variation due to cultural influence, language barriers, socio-economic influence, religious influence, a whole myriad of variables which must be taken into consideration.

I believe that for this reason alone, the best we can come up with at this time is the vague "A person who identifies as a non-human animal on an integral, personal level" definition. Personally, I don't take issue with the vagueness of this definition at this point because we've had no one, to date, who's cataloged the experiences of every therian they can reach, combed over them and pointed out the similarities or come out with some viable statistics, even.

I don't believe that the definition "A person who identifies as a non-human animal on an integral, personal level" is an intentional dumbing-down of what therianthropy is, it's just the best we have at this point which is broad enough to encompass the general idea of what we are, while respecting the fact that many of our experiences can and do vary quite a bit.

Which begs the question of can we narrow down something more specific? I believe we can and I believe we eventually will, however, this requires each and everyone of us to get active and involved in participating in research and calling for more research to take place as an entire community. It also presents the problem of many therians being very private and reserved in sharing everything with is another issue all unto itself.

It's been said that the therian community is not lacking information or data but rather that we're drowning in it and I believe this is true. The thing is, it's not been cataloged or organized in such a way where anyone could overview and draw reasonable conclusions from it in a timely manner. It would probably take an entire team of dedicated researchers years to comb through everything that's on TG alone, let alone the other resources out there such as Werelist and AHWW.

To answer your question, Dusty, I don't believe trying to come up with and define this stuff is a bad thing at all but I think it's putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. To me, it makes much more sense to encourage more experience sharing and if one were to go a step further, we could begin thinking of how to framework something together where these experiences could be easier compared and contrasted, cataloged and converted to actual, objective data which could then be used to base one's conclusions and terms on.

That's my take.

Lyc

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2018-07-24 19:06
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WolfVanZandt
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Post: #4
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
One thing is certain. If we're going to talk about therianthropy, especially on a word intensive venue like the Internet, we have to have words. What we don't need is endless generation of trivial terminology.

Also a big problem is the presentation of opinions as though we know what we're talking about when we clearly don't, giving advice about things we don't understand.
2018-07-25 4:29
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Ishvala
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Post: #5
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
At the end of the day I'm yet again forced to agree with WolfVanZandt here. Words, no matter how tedious they may seem, are necessary for both self-expression and presentation. Perhaps having terminology for every single experience is tiresome and on rare occasion more destructive than helpful, but not having lingo to better present an experience or help someone else better understand and pin point their experience defeats the purpose of cultivating a community setting. If we are to stand up for what we identify as, then we must do so as a unit...and nothing unifies more than solid communication.

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(This post was last modified: 2018-07-25 14:20 by Ishvala.)
2018-07-25 14:17
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elinox
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Post: #6
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
I see the point and the necessity of defining our terms. That's what words and labels are for, after all. If I say "Feed banana sit bird" that doesn't make much sense, but form it into a cohesive sentence and it becomes "I feed the banana to the bird that's sitting". The first isn't useful at all, the second conveys something though. So we need to define the words we need in order to communicate to others. Otherwise, what's the point of having an online forum if you don't know that I just sat on my phantom tail and it hurt? You need context to understand me. Wink

As Lyc said, everyone's going to experience this a bit differently. And that's okay since we don't have much research into what is/is not therianthropy. We only have our own individual experiences to compare to others in the community. Yet we still need some way to communicate to each other what we're experiencing.

Have the terms and definitions evolved over the years? Yes, words do that and that's a good thing. But the core definitions of those words should stay relatively the same, or else the original words hold no meaning and we loose context and the history of the word itself. Basically, you can't just take an existing word and use it for a completely different thing: else we'd all be perpetually confused and English is already confusing enough!

The issue I see more that's the bigger problem is that people are finding these already defined terms, figure it's not quite what they're experiencing, so they create a new term that sort-of-like-the-original-but-not-exactly. Hence why we have all these new, similar terms when we don't need them. People need to understand the terms we have, and if they match them (if even only a little bit) then fine. And if not, then fine, don't use the words to describe what you're not.

Honestly, if even one online community could agree 100% on a definition for therianthropy we'd have a leg up in explaining ourselves to others in places like Tumblr. The issue is that it's such a varied, hard to define concept that even one large community can't pin-down the exact definition for it.

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2018-07-25 14:23
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Syraphin Faelad
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Post: #7
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
I bot agree and dis-agree with the statement. we need definitions to connect ourselves to each other and the community as a hole. finding an identity can be beneficial and a hand to hold in the dark. however as individuals, placing ourselves into boxies achieves nothing and doesn't allow for goth.
i believe we should have terms but keep their definitions open ended or unspecified. differences are needed. in life 10 people with the same experience will view it differently. we need to take this into consideration with therianthropy.
social media seems to hinder rather than help in this case. some seem to be claiming that their way is the only way. i think it just comes down to respecting others and their options. after all only the individual can confirm their own identity. even if it takes a lot of research and changes.
2018-07-25 18:24
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LycanTheory
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Post: #8
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
I've been thinking about this and I can't help but wonder if the words "identity" and "identify" in themselves aren't somewhat flawed in describing therianthropy.

Identity itself may be formed, adopted or taken on by an individual without the need for any explanation as to why.

I wonder if proclaiming that therianthropy is "experiencing life, to some extent, as a non-human animal" would better suffice to describe this fundamental experience?

To me, the latter would seem much more accurate in describing my own personal experience and it would seem to hold true for most therians and otherkin.

Just a thought.

Lyc

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2018-07-25 19:14
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BearX
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Post: #9
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
The "identify" terminology is rather recent. It certainly wasn't in common use even 10 years ago as far as I can tell. I feel like it is a consequence of the "identity politics" that have been going on for awhile, and the description was chosen in order to line up with that. Perhaps I'm just a little jaded.

I quite like @LycanTheory 's approach... because it really is about experience and perception rather than identity. (I know my experience of therianthropy is confusing for some and that description lines up better)

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2018-07-25 19:34
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WolfVanZandt
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Post: #10
RE: Is trying to define Therianthropy bad?
Syraphin, the problem is that we need words to communicate with each other so, if the same word means different things to different people, they're pretty much worthless. Weres are a lot less word-bound offline. We have visiting Weres and have no problem communicating, but we also don't use a very extensive vocabulary.

On forums (all forums) it's seemed to me that people are just talking to themselves with little concern with being understood.
2018-07-26 0:32
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