Written: June 2011
Table of Contents
II. Physical Solutions
b. Pet Toys
c. Specialized Therianthropic Activity
III. Mental Solutions
IV. Emotional Solutions
b. Emotion Management
V. When things go wrong…
a. Back-up Plans
Many therianthropes experience problems, whether these start early on or begin to surface during the awakening. Newly awakened therianthropes may find that they are overwhelmed with new challenges and ordinarily, you would not be taught what you need to know to get the situation under control. You may be told off, punished, and even make some enemies before you learn the hard way.
Here, you will be presented with many options as to how to contain and conceal your therianthropy. You will also be counseled in emotional matters, as these can tend to exacerbate things.
I. Physical Solutions
An excess of energy can contribute to behavioural issues, but a lack thereof can have the same effect. This is one example of why therianthropy can be such a difficult condition to manage; it is different for everyone, and any advice given may or may not work depending on the individual.
It is not certain who will need more energy and who will need less, but it is possible a therianthrope’s theriotype plays into it. If your theriotype is a border collie, you are far more likely to need rigorous daily exercise, and especially an activity similar to herding, if your are having difficulties trying to control your herding instinct.
Take a good look at your daily regime, and how it affects your theriotypical behaviour. Are you more likely to ‘act out’ when you have more energy, or less?
Exercise is not just a must for therianthropes, as I’m sure you’ve heard. It is an important means of maintaining your all-around well-being. The recommendations for weekly exercise vary depending on who’s giving the advice; you’ll hear 30 minutes of brisk activity every day, an hour for five days a week, and a set amount of time each week, regardless of how you allocate it. You’ll need to do your own research and decide what best fits you. Provided you heed the necessary safety precautions and guidelines, any form of regular exercise is better than none at all.
It can be difficult to keep up any routine, and you’ll likely find yourself getting lazy about it after even as many as a few days. Before you decide that you just need to keep trying at it, first consider whether or not the routine is even working for you. If you’ve got social anxiety issues, for example, you shouldn’t set yourself up for failure by committing to work out at the gym every day. Work out a plan you’re comfortable with. Aim to make it enjoyable, but at the very least, it should not put a bad taste in your mouth.
b. Pet Toys
Not everyone lives out in the country. Some may not even have access to a safe place to, as they say, ‘unleash the beast within’. This can be very worrisome, as any therianthrope will be quick to inform you that suppression of your theriotype will only make matters worse. However, there are alternatives to these retreats.
If you are like most therianthropes, your theriotype is of either the canine or feline variety. This opens you up to what is called ‘environment enrichment’. Even as a member of the genus panthera, you might find that you enjoy playing with cat toys. In the smaller felines, these toys are meant to simulate real hunting activities and get rid of excess energy. After a kill, a domestic cat will often play with it’s food before eating it or bringing it home to present as a gift.
This indoor exercise has health benefits as well. Playing with pet toys can help relieve anxiety, frustration, stress, and boredom. Playing with the right toy for you on a routine basis will induce the shifts necessary to help eliminate inappropriate behaviour.
How do you know if a toy is right for you? You will need to experiment a bit. A good bet when buying your first toy is to consider your natural prey or your predatorial instincts. If you are triggered by movement, any toy which will make enough of this is a good choice, such as a ball or a mouse toy with a long tail. It is also important to have a variety of toys available; you will inevitably get bored of the same few toys.
Accompanying the health benefits of pet toys are numerous health hazards. That rawhide chew may smell enticing, but it is drenched in chemicals, including ash-lye, bleach, and lime. This is just one example of what’s out there; it is a fact that there are currently no safety regulations on pet toys. Do your research before buying any pet toy or treat.
c. Specialized Therianthropic Activity
Along with getting regular exercise, it is important that you find an outlet for your natural behaviours. If you cannot get to a park or trail nearby and shift with any privacy, you might consider looking for an activity that closely mirrors one of your theriotype’s own.
For instance, a casual game of Frisbee can be had amongst friends whilst at the same time working out that urge to chase and retrieve. For therianthropes of the feline persuasion, rock climbing will almost surely satisfy any lateral appetite. These types of hobbies can also reward the committed therianthrope with new friends and improved fitness.
There is one hidden danger, however. It can be all too easy for a hobby to become a shift trigger. If you are unsure of your control, it may be best to refrain from these public activities for the time being, or to participate with trusted friends or family who know of your condition.
III. Mental Solutions
This is a technique designed to snap you out of your animal mindset with an activity or object that is distinctly human. What you choose is up to you; in order for it to work, it must be something personal. Following are a few examples to demonstrate my point.
Let’s say you enjoy doing something, a hobby… and that hobby makes you feel very human. Perhaps that’s because it activates a part of the brain that is human, or that humans are more dependent on. You could carry with you an object that reminds you of that hobby. If it’s drawing, a pencil; if’s reading, a bookmark, or possibly even something to read. Ideally, you would bring that hobby with you so you could fully engage in it when problems come up, but that may not be possible.
If your capacity for language is not typically compromised during a shift, you might create a mantra for yourself. A mantra is, at its most basic, simply a set of words. It might be used in meditation as something to direct the focus, or it can be something of an affirmation. The former definition applies more to our situation, in this case.
But how could a mantra ‘unshift’ a person in this way? You’ll need to prepare the mantra ahead of time. Choose words that make you feel especially human, and then practice them in a safe environment.
You may find that simply giving yourself a difficult problem to solve is distracting enough, and this is a very portable solution. You can choose any sort of problem, from math to philosophy… whatever gets the gears in your brain turning so that you are completely absorbed in finding the answer.
If you plan to go this route, write down a few problems on some slips of paper, and carry them with you at all times. Don’t rely on yourself to figure something out when you’re in the middle of an intense mental shift. When you start to feel yourself shift, just excuse yourself…manners matter, after all… and take out a problem to work on.
One of the most obvious solutions to our problems is simply to not put ourselves in a vulnerable position to begin with.
First off, if you feel an untimely shift coming on, consider your options. Can you get to a less public place until the shift subsides? If you are en route to a friend’s house, do you have some time you can kill before arriving? Depending on the intensity of the shift, you may even want to cancel that trip to the grocery store. Letting slip some animalistic behaviour around strangers can be even more awkward than if done around friends.
Some therianthropes experience ‘triggers’. Examine your own shifts closely… is there any close correlation between them and a certain object or event? If this is the case, then you will want to try to avoid that in public settings, and eliminate it altogether where possible. Your work environment is one place where you wouldn’t want a shift to be triggered, for example.
One of the most important things you can do to get control over your actions is to truly want to make a change. Newly awakened therianthropes can tend to glamorize their condition due to what they see on TV. They believe that they are now special and mysterious, and for a while, it may take over their lives. They want everyone to know how interesting they are, so they do little to control their slip-ups, being genuinely under the impression that these slip-ups will make them seem ‘cool’.
Here is the reality of the situation. When you bark, hiss, or growl at someone, you look ridiculous. No one is going to be intrigued or impressed by your outbursts. What they will think is that you are a freak, are mentally unstable, and need to be avoided.
When you growl at a family member, how do you think they feel? Did you ever stop to consider this? It’s vital that you do. Knowing why you’re putting so much effort into these techniques will be key in getting things under control. The truth is that when you growl at someone close to you, it upsets them.
Even something seemingly benign could put your friends and family in a lot of discomfort. If you haven’t explained therianthropy to them, then they are going to be confused and alienated by your actions. It might feel better to you to just let the animal out at any time, but you have to consider the impact this has on those around you.
To treat the symptom of any issue, it is ideal to treat the root cause. Many problems associated with control are reflexive. They originate from our own human reflexes, but become influenced by our theriotype. For example, a rattlesnake therianthrope would easily find themselves hissing when startled. A therianthrope cannot simply choose not to respond to frightening stimuli; they, like any other human being, are subject to some basic instincts that have been perfected over the course of human history. However, with work, the repertoire of human reflexes can be improved upon.
Martial arts are one instance of an activity in which reflexes are honed in tandem with various moves. However, there are other practices which include re-wiring functions and mastery of the self. Of particular use to therianthropes are those which are both highly physical and require fast response times. Through long-term training in these areas, it is possible to gradually improve the amount of control had over therianthropic reflexes.
IV. Emotional Solutions
There is a subtle distinction between species dysphoria and species dysmorphia which is worth noting for our purposes. Species dysphoria is depression and discontent associated with having been assigned the wrong species. Species dysmorphia has specifically to do with possessing the wrong body. There are many ways to deal with both.
For starters, if you have not done so already, becoming a regular on one of many online therianthropy support forums can be an immense help. Here, you will find countless others who share in your struggles and can even offer solutions and advice. Many other therianthropes experience species dysphoria to varying degrees and will be able to tell you how they have learned to cope with it.
Activities such as those listed in chapter I can be effective, if temporary, cures for species dysphoria. The closer you can match your lifestyle with that of your theriotype… in a safe and healthy manner, of course… the better it will be for your feelings of misplaced identity. Career, home, diet… all these aspects of lifestyle and more will be factors in this change.
For instance, as a hawk, you may find you have an appreciation for park management, particularly watching for forest fires from up high in a ranger tower. As a squirrel, you may want to find a way of collecting and preserving foods, as your species would do in the wild in preparation for winter.
As for species dysmorphia, keep in mind that the human body is capable of a great many things. It may not be able to grow or shrink in size, sprout fur, or fly, but with the proper training, tools and mindset, there is little else it can’t do.
If your theriotype is an acrobat, why not look into Parkour? At the least, you will learn how to land properly; at the most, you will scale tall walls, vault over large obstacles, and so much more. Parkour teaches you how to use your body; master it, and you will win a much greater sense of physical freedom.
But there are other less extreme ways to ease dysmorphia. If you feel vulnerable with your lack of claws and fangs, taking up self-defense is a wise course of action. Theriotypes fleet of foot can train athletically to sprint; wolves and other such animals that wear down their prey over long distances will want to know more about long-distance running.
These are just a few of the ways with which to treat species dysphoria and dysmorphia. The only limit is your own creativity.
b. Emotion Management
It is not uncommon to hear of triggers involving emotions. Sometimes, it’s easier to communicate our feelings in the way that feels natural to us, especially those involving fear and anger. This is particularly the case where such feelings are put to the wayside, neglected, and regarded as ‘bad’. Your emotions will always struggle to find an outlet, whether that be your dreams or your shifts.
This is why it is important to find an emotion management plan that works for you. If you are suffering from depression, this is especially important. Pharmaceutical drugs are not a permanent solution. You will need to learn to work with you emotions, instead of against them, as you have likely been conditioned to do.
Maybe the answer is to find a more appropriate outlet for your emotions. Both exercise and video games, whilst they are nearly opposites, have proven to be suitable, but you will need to find the outlet that works best for you.
On the other hand, there’s little that works better than confronting your emotions directly and working through them to get at the root of the problem. Always remember that there is no such thing as a bad emotion, only a bad action. If you are experiencing an emotion, then it is there for a reason. Why else would we have evolved with them?
A common trigger for sudden therianthropic outbursts, and indeed, any outburst in general, is stress. The word itself means applying pressure to an object, testing its breaking point. For the ordinary human, sudden outbursts related to stress will appear normal, for the most part, unless the build up results in an emotional breakdown, which can cause a scene. But these, too, differ from our own reactions.
In cats, there is something called ‘redirected aggression’. The cat may see a trespassing tomcat out the window, but be unable to do anything about it, trapped inside. He then violently turns on his owner.
What did she do? Nothing. But all that aggression had to go somewhere. It is the same with stress-induced shifts. Stress causes a person to tense up physically, mentally, and emotionally. They are stiff and taut, ready for the fight they would have encountered in days long past where the fight, flight or freeze response developed. Their brain is in overdrive, possibly overworked, but going a mile a minute and ready for the next challenge. Emotionally, they’re a wreck. A state of prolonged stress isn’t what nature had in mind.
So naturally, a fairly stressed-out therianthrope is easy to set off, just as it would be with anyone. The difference is, of course, that a therianthrope with undeveloped control over their behaviours will likely react to the perceived aggressor in an animal fashion.
Luckily, in this fast-paced world of ours, there is no shortage of books out there on stress management. Plenty are available at the library, but if you find one that is especially helpful, a purchase could be a wise investment not only for the sake of self-control, but for lifelong health and emotional wellness.
V. When things go wrong…
a. Back-up Plans
Some tracks cannot be covered once they’ve been made. If you have ever made any strange vocalizations, sprayed a section of carpet, or otherwise exhibited behaviour that was unmistakably animalistic, then you know that it cannot simply be brushed off.
However, there are less obvious mistakes that can be made to look more appropriate. For example, you might take up photography if you are especially prone to running after the local wildlife. Carrying your camera with you wherever you go, you will henceforth be known as ‘the guy with the camera’ to the general public. Your behaviour may be a little odd to others still, but they will now have a suitable explanation for it.
Therianthropes inevitably ponder the question of ‘coming out’ to friends and family members at one time or another. This group comprises some of the most important people in your life, and there is bound to be some pain and confusion if there is no explanation for your strange behaviour.
But the necessity of a confession must be weighed carefully against the consequences. There is a good chance that your friends and family will not accept what you have to say. They may even find cause for concern in your words.
It is not recommended that you tell anyone of your therianthropy until they know you and are very comfortable around you. This will provide some basis for understanding, should you decide that an explanation is in order.
Our friends can be essential supports in our lives, or shadows that come and go. One man’s friend is another’s acquaintance. It is not unreasonable to expect some level of acceptance from your friends, but this is a two-way street. You must also accept that they may be very uncomfortable at first, and may even be hostile. There is no ‘right’ way to tell another that you are a therianthrope. Whether you say you have the soul of an animal, you feel like you are an animal, or simply that you are an animal, each sounds equally ridiculous, when you take the time to think about it.
The standard rules for any sort of ‘coming out’ confession also apply here. Practice what you are going to say, and give your friends and family time to adjust. Make certain you are effectively communicating what you want to say and give them plenty of time to ask questions, as they will inevitably have many for you. Be ready to answer these questions as well.