The Need to Belong
An essay I wrote a few days ago about the therian/Otherkin community and connecting to other people. Thoughts/comments/critiques are appreciated! And many thanks to freelanceangel who was the beta!
The Need to Belong
In the time I’ve spent in the online communities, which all things considered, isn’t really all that long, I’ve noticed that the majority of therians and Otherkin have this deep-seated need to belong. They form meet-ups or howls, search for people with the same or similar ‘kin types as themselves and they enjoy talking to others who share similar experiences.
With the internet, this is relatively easy as it connects us worldwide with people we’d probably never come into contact with without it. However, I’ve noticed that people tend to gravitate to others of their same ‘kin type and I’ve begun to wonder why. Isn’t it enough that, besides the fact that we’re all human on the outside and have various likes/dislikes, we’re also something “other than human” on the inside? You’d think this basic idea, that everyone in the therian and Otherkin communities identifies as some non-human creature, would help connect us. It seems that people are never satisfied with just finding someone else online who shares the therian or Otherkin label with them. They need to be the same; share the same theriotype or ‘kin type so as best to understand each other and to satisfy that belonging urge inside all of us.
But where does this need to belong come from? I believe that it comes from that ingrained instinct where there’s simply safety in numbers. Herd and pack animals alike understand that not only is it easier to attain food with help, but it’s also safer and comforting to have others just like you nearby. Humans are, after all, animals and their instincts are to gravitate to groups that share similarities.
Think about the last time you went to a movie, you probably went with friends that also wanted to see the film because you all share a similar interest in that particular movie genre. Or what about at work; people tend to make friends at work with people who share like interests with them. It helps them to feel more comfortable, not only with themselves, but it also gives them some common ground with the group at large.
The therian and Otherkin communities are no different. The question often arises as to why there are so many wolf therians. Perhaps it’s because not only are humans more comfortable in groups where they share interests, but wolves too are pack animals and are really only successful (although not always the case) when they work together. It would stand to reason that because of their human and lupine nature, a wolf therian would gravitate more to a community because they would feel the community pull from both sides of his/her nature. But why there are so many wolf therians is not the topic here. The need for people to belong is.
People feel the need to belong, and it’s because of a very simple reason, because then they don’t feel so alone in this wide world. We’re all aware of how different one person can be from the next and it can get frustrating when the people around you in your everyday life don’t agree with your opinions or don’t “understand” you. Seeking solace in an online community is a good way of soothing that anxiety and communicating with other people of a like mind. And it only makes sense to join communities where you will find people with similar interests. Obviously we’re all different and we’re all going to have a different favorite color, etc. but it’s still nice to find people who believe that inside they’re something other than human. It helps in dealing with your own everyday life if you can share your experiences on shifting or past life memories with people who are aware of and accept the concepts. It makes it easier to talk about it. There will always be one person who nitpicks or disagrees with you and your opinions, but most people find that an online community relating to their interests is generally accepting and helpful.
The issue comes up as to why do people feel the need to seek out others with their exact therio or ‘kin type online. The answer is much the same, because of the deep-seated desire to find someone else just like you. If you can share your experiences with someone who shares an understanding of the concept, that’s great. However, if you can find someone who’s had the same experience or same sort of experience, because you’re of the same ‘kin type, all the better, right? I disagree. I think that no matter what the ‘kin type, what matters is that you’re sharing your experiences with other people who understand. The focus shouldn’t be on ‘kin type. To me, it doesn’t make a difference if I’m reading about a rabbit therian who experiences mental shifts when faced with a salad or a demon who sometimes feels like a kleptomaniac. What matters is that we all identify as something other than human and we’re all going to have different experiences based on external and internal circumstances. The most important point is sharing what you experience with the community.
Would I love to meet another wolf therian in real life? Of course I would, but then I’d be just as happy (and thrilled) to meet a bandicoot therian, or a dragon, or an elf. To me, it’s about meeting someone who A) believes and accepts therians and Otherkin and B) simply meeting a therian or Otherkin in person. A meeting between two therians or ‘kin types shouldn’t leave the people involved focusing on their differences. Rather, they should leave the experience happy to have met someone else who feels “other” and is open to discussions relating to therians and Otherkin. What we should take away from the experience itself is that while we’re different, we also share common ground and are open-minded individuals.
The need to belong can create a very strong pull to join a specific group or community. And while the community at large can provide a place to connect with others, it comes down to the members that make it what it is. So while it may be nice to sometimes seek out others exactly like yourself, keep in mind that we all identify as one thing or another. The most important thing is to share the sense of community with all of those who can see to it that our questions keep each other honest, our differences make the community diverse, and our likenesses - whether we identify as therian, dragon, celestial, fae, demon, etc. - keep the community strong. It’s that connection, the connection of being different, that brings us together as a community.
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"You're the best kind of crazy." -Murphy, The Dresden Files