The contrast of language between Therian and Otherkin
Preface: I am in no way asserting that I am "right" about this topic. I welcome all new or contrary information or views. The following is simply where my mind is on this stuff, it is subject to change as does everything in life.
One of the things I have been considering recently is if the experience of therian/theriomythic is comparable to the experience of someone who "identifies as", considers or feels themselves to be something that would fall outside the confines of what we consider a therian or mythic experience. An example of "Other" in this context would be humanoid fictionkin, machinekin, superheroes, cartoon characters, The list goes on.
First off, I'm not looking to "invalidate" whatever anyone says they experience or feel so let's take that one off the table, straight away. That's not what this is about.
The main difference I often observe between these two is that the therian/theriomythic experience seems to be far more primal, basic, straightforward and centered in the practical world. This correlates with what WolfVanZandt has written on Therian Timeline.
The Mind of the Were Wrote:The animal mind and the theriotype - The major distinctive between Weres and Mainstreamers is the Were's animalistic nature. What does it mean to have an animal mind - and, here, I mean "animal" in contrast to "human"? Following are some mental traits that characterizes the Were's mind.
Hypervigilant: Once, when I told an acquaintance about my therianthropy, she said that it made sense - that I was always "casting about like a dog after a scent." Weres are usually very connected to their surroundings and will generally be surveying their environment. They tend to be especially sensitive to motion.
Language: Weres' first language is not words. They are strong on empathy, on reading nonverbal cues fo information. If one does have strong language skills, it's because they have intentionally gone out of their way to learn. Learning disabilities related to language seem to be common in the Were community.
These are very good, observable animal/creature traits of a therian/mythic. I'd like to focus on the latter, however. WolfVanZandt goes into much further detail about empathy, it's meaning and why it is so fundamental to the therian experience.
The Mind of the Were Wrote:Empathy and language
There are two English words that are very similar and, like most words, they have several meanings apiece and, in places, the meanings blur together, but they have meanings that are more precise which distinguishes them and that is how I will be using them here. "Sympathy" is "feeling with something" - you share the same feelings with the Other but the feelings are genuinely yours. You sympathize with another person's misery because you have been through the same thing and their trouble brings your own feelings back to you. You sympathize with modern art because you naturally have the feelings that are supposed to be elicited by modern art. You sympathize with a particular movement because you already have feelings that are shared with members of the movement.
"Empathy", on the other hand, is feeling the same thing that the other feels, not because you have generated the feeling within yourself, but because you resonate their feeling. In some way you have "picked up" their feeling and felt it in yourself. It is not genuinely your feeling - you're feeling their emotions.
It's easy enough to understand how empathy could be beneficial to a social animal. It is an effective way to share information and it can be a very efficient way to build bonds within a group. It's easy to speculate on how empathy occurs - one person simply needs to be aware of subtle, nonverbal cues that the other generates. The actual cause, though, is rather less well known, because you can empathize with another without even being in their presence, perhaps, for example, by knowing them so well that you know how they would feel under the present circumstances. The situation is more complex than it would seem at face. So I am not sure if anyone knows precisely how empathy occurs. Yet empathy is a common element in most Were's lives. They are natural empathizers.
They may empathize not only with other Weres or with other people, but also with other animals and non-animate items in their surroundings. The empathy can be so intense that many Weres express an avoidance of crowds because the intensity and variety of emotions they receive can be overwhelming.
A language is a system of communication that has two components: semantics (meanings) and syntax (formal structure). For verbal languages, the meaning is contained in words and groups of words. There is a grammar, or a way that correct messages are to be constructed - that is the syntax. Nonverbal languages do not use words but they nevertheless have semantics and syntax. For instance the meaning of a raised eyebrow is generally known within a culture and when combined with a shrug, the meaning is modified. Note that, often, with nonverbal language, the syntactic form is spatial (position of body parts) or temporal (sequence of gestures). Nonverbal languages can use any of the senses: sight (gestures), hearing (grunts or howls), smell (scent marking), taste (seasonings of food), and feel (embraces). Note that sign language is a verbal language - signed words are combined using established syntactic rules to compose messages.
Humans are just about the only ones that use verbal language. You read quite a lot in sacred literature about people who have received verbal messages from God or a god, but it's very rare to run into anyone who will say that they've experienced it - and much fewer who actually have. So it might be said that empathy is the language of animals and God. Empathy is a holistic language that conveys emotional content. Verbal language tends to be specific in message but, for instance, when a wolf howls, they are broadcasting general information about their whole state - where they are, what direction their moving, and especially, how they feel. Postures denote things like happiness, wellness, anger, friendliness, curiosity - in other words, emotions.
Empathy is the only language necessary for survival of a group. Individuals connect empathically and they orient themselves together with the group in respect to group tasks via empathy. If you have ever seen a video of wolves hunting, you notice the amazing amount of collaboration between individuals using only nonverbal language.
Verbal languages are shared and they're standardized. In preliterate societies, they're standardized by tradition; literate societies have dictionaries and style books. Nevertheless, languages drift. Over time, word meanings change and their accustomed places in sentences move around. You would think that in literate societies, language would change less than in preliterate societies, but it doesn't seem to be the case. Dictionaries have to be rewritten frequently to keep up with the drift.
Empathy is much more malleable. Empathic language between individuals in a society varies significantly; empathic language between societies varies more. Empathy is subjective; everyone has their own language. One individual's empathic language is called their "empathic signature".
Like any language, to communicate using any empathic language, you have to learn it. Since empathy tends to be subconscious (though it doesn't have to be), you learn an empathic language by prolonged exposure.
Although many Weres are somewhat weak in verbal language, typical Weres are empathic geniuses. They pick up the emotional content - the internal weather - off others quickly and effectively. They quickly learn others' empathic signatures. In common language, they are very good judges of character.
Although the Neuri remain mysterious - there are an abundance of theories as to who they were - I see little in the literature that seems like doubt that they existed. One of the serious barriers to research is the lack of material residue. They didn't leave much behind and, especially, they did not leave an oral tradition. Kostiantyn Tyshchenko, the Ukrainian linguist speculates that the Neuri were a Celtic tribe in the Ukraine and points to the occurrence of Celtic elements in Ukrainian placenames as evidence, but even that is sparse. If the Neuri were the predecessors of the Modern Were community, the lack of a linguistic tradition would make sense. The ancient Neuri would have had no reason to rely on language and no predisposition to do so.
If Weres are hard-wired for empathy, a couple of ways that might happen are: inhibitions on the part of the brain that handles instincts and reflexes are removed, or the part of the brain that manages language is subjugated to the more primitive parts that process nonverbal language reception. Research might look for differences in the frontal cortex and limbic system in the first case, or in the temporal cortex in the second. I will be discussing some reasons to believe that there are differences between Weres and Mainstreamers in the temporal lobe in the section on Neuropsychology below.
Vocalizations are nonverbal, vocal communications - grunts, growls, coughs, howls - and they tend to sound like the communications of nonhuman animals. Weres tend to produce vocalizations at a somewhat greater rate than Mainstreamers, but I'm not so sure that vocalizations are an inherent difference between Weres and nonWeres. I suspect that Mainstreamers would be fine with them if they had not been brought up to believe that it was bad to "behave like an animal." The advantage of vocalizations is that they're economical; a lot of information, including emotional content, can be packed into a vocalization. The disadvantages are that vocalizations are not very good for the communication of technical content, and that it's hard to lie using vocalizations. Vocalizations express the conditions of the inner environment and what really is in there tends to come through. They are empathic expressions. Of course, a skilled actor is able to compose their nonverbal content to deliver fictional or untrue content.
Empathy as a language is a dominant trait of the therian experience. Personally, I would argue that it is one of the fundamental traits which is core to being a therian. We find it difficult, with varying range, to empathize with "mainstreamers" as WVZ calls them. We empathize with each other and with non-human animals because we are therians. In absence of a live sample of animals to empathize with, mythics often have centuries worth of history and storytelling of a particular creature upon which they may draw this core feeling of empathy with their type.
This model is, of course, incompatible with a large portion of "othered" identities/experiences which don't fall under the animal/creature criteria. Machines have no feelings, humanoid types appear to empathize more with mainstreamers or otherwise communicate in the same core way as mainstreamers do, through the complexity of verbal communication. Non-animal fictional characters present a bit of an enigma in drawing contrast with because of the strength and depth of connection felt by some fictionkin to their character. I believe this is a very strong relation due to sympathy - feeling for a character's experiences rather than empathy - feeling with someone because you have walked in their shoes.
Regardless, when we consider the dominant language of therians/weres/mythics being empathy, this often is not the case with non-animal fiction types.
I believe, for everything aforementioned, that empathy as a language may be a stark divide between therians/mythics and the rest of the otherkin community and may often be the reason we are speaking two different languages...
We actually are.
(This post was last modified: 2021-02-06 17:27 by LycanTheory.)