A few weeks back, some friends and I were talking about therianthropic integration, what it means, and what different levels of integration a person might experience. Different people of course use the word "integration" to mean subtly different things. For the purposes of this post, it's going to refer to how much of a distinction there is between a person's therioside(s) and the humanside (if indeed they exist distinctly at all--see contherianthropy down at the bottom).
Since integration (or lack thereof) is the topic at hand, this list will make frequent references to shifting. My presumption would be that non-shifting therians would be contherians (as this list is set up). I would probably need to know more people who don't shift to be able to offer much useful information about that type of experience.
This list has been put together over a period of weeks after thinking about what I've seen people say about their own experiences within the community. I've made up a couple of terms along the way (but tried to make them fun-sounding so that they hopefully don't make the presumption of sounding too official).
So, without further ado, let's see what we've got:
Multiple personalities, no sharing of memories.
-The therioside and humanside are totally separate egos during day to day life and do not share memories with one another. When one "wakes" up, the other "blacks out" or "loses time" ... and then returns just as abruptly to concsiousness when the other relinquishes dominance again.
-->Probably extremely rare. I list it here only as a hypothetical "least-integrated state." I have seen more posers/role-players claim to be this way than real people--though that does not by any means suggest to me that it could not actually occur under certain circumstances.
Multiple personalities, shared memories.
-The therioside and humanside have their experiences as separate individuals, but they can recall each other's experiences at will. If the human recalls the therioside's memories (or vice versa) they will most likely feel like they "happened to someone else" even though they can be freely remembered.
-->Wolf VanZandt's therianthropic identity started out manifesting itself in this way. This one doesn't seem terribly common in the online community, and may (again) have a tendency to be abused by role-players who want to make drama about how deeply separate "the animal" is from "the human" ... but I figure there are also quite a few sincere people who experience(d) it.
-The therioside and humanside blur their experiences into that of a single "I" or "self" or "ego," but the two mental modes still tend to operate almost entirely distinctly from each other. In most circumstances, the therian in question is either in full shift toward the theriotype or not shifting in that direction at all, similarly to how a typical lightswitch has an "ON" position and an "OFF" position. It seems likely that the therian might still commonly talk about "the animal" as if it's a separate part of himself or herself, while still noting that they're one and the same.
-I don't doubt someone could find a way for this type of shifting/integration pattern to work out healthily. For others it might be a distressing and confusing experience.
-Some people who normally tend to be down past this on the integration scale have reported ending up in this kind of state, following a period of extreme stress and suppression of the therioside over time (a "caged animal" type of experience). Your mileage may vary.
-->I don't have a deep personal familiarity with anyone who fits into this category, although I've heard of people who went through a phase like this or largely do fit within it.
-->If anyone typically shifts like this and can comment, please feel free to do so. Savage often seems to fall somewhere around here, but I'll let Savage comment on that directly if so-desired.
The bubble in the wallpaper / therianthropic whack-a-mole.
-The therioside and humanside have not only blended their experiences but also share their airtime. Elements from the humanside may be strongly present in the consciousness at the same time that elements from the therioside are. However, the exact expression of these elements may be quite irregular and unpredictable. Partial shifts (often highly varied ones) are likely to be common.
-Can be illustrated by thinking of a piece of wallpaper with bubbles in it (regions of "shiftiness") or a whack-a-mole arcade game in which the therioside (or humanside) is continuously "popping up" and "going back down" along various channels and outlets within the mind.
-For example, the therian in question might experience extremely vivid phantom ears, then stop feeling them much (or at all) and experience an extremely vivid phantom tail, and then feel it disappear and have a powerful mental shift or bout of phantom fur--and then get the ears and the tail together again--while otherwise remaining largely humansided in mentality and sense of body. The reverse could also be true in various circumstances--the therioside being mostly at the foreground of the mind while the humanside continues strongly influencing a few important thought processes (e.g., as a safety measure against committing social faux pas). Therians in this general area of integration may commonly say things like, "I always feel like the animal is trying to get out in any way that it can" (often followed by a memory of how a small but powerful shift occurred during a tense situation).
-Alternatively, the shifts might not be nearly so strong in the first place, but still have that kind of variable, always-looking-for-some-little-way-out quality to them.
-Whether these types of experiences are taken with joy and humor, or doubt and uncertainty, will probably depend on the disposition and life circumstances of the therian in question.
-->I personally experienced a lot of this pattern of shifting shortly after I awakened as a therian. In my case, it seemed to be part of my development, as my therioside reached out and determined where it could affect my human consciousness and be of the most benefit, without compromising its own integrity either.
The sliding scale / vacillant therianthropy.
-The big, nebulous category that it sounds like a lot of us probably fall into. Refers to a therian whose animalness and humanness are largely blobbed together into one big mental soup, but their existence is such that one may still come to the front of the mind noticeably more strongly than the other, as needed or as desired. Shifts seem to tend to follow a more consistent pattern here (for instance, I always feel my phantom muzzle, ears, and tail these days but may also start feeling paws and the sensation of having full-body fur if I get "shifty" toward wolf).
-Although many people on "the sliding scale" report their shifting experiences being fairly gradual, slow-but-persistent things, it seems that certain stimuli may still trigger rather sharp shifts. For example, if someone honks a car horn within a few feet of where I'm standing, and I'm not expecting it, I am apt to end up in full m-shift (as full as my m-shifts get, anyway) immediately.
-From what I've seen, people at this stage of integration seem to talk less and less about their therioside feeling separate and more and more about how it and the humanside have mixed, or about how they have one unified internal image of themselves that may vary with shifting and with time. This is a generalization though.
-->Vacillant therianthropy was a community-coined term, I believe on Awereness Forums, to represent something like this. Jakkal or other AF regulars may need to clarify the meaning a little if I'm off.
-->This is probably where I'm at right now.
The barely-wobbling-at-all scale / suntherianthropy.
-As vacillant therianthropy above, except the changes are consistently tiny--comparable in scope to the way a person's overall emotional mood might gently range from day to day.
-->WordWolf coined suntherianthropy to describe his own therianthropic experiences; I figured I'd include it here as an additional point of reference for this list.
Total integration / contherianthropy.
-The therioside and humanside no longer exist distinctly from each other in any capacity at all. One has absorbed the other, or the two have blended their traits homogenously--so completely that there are no longer shifts between them. If there's a phantom body, it's always present (though how noticed it is might understandably be affected by how much attention is being paid to it, not unlike how paying attention to one's physical limbs affects how fully one experiences the sensations from them). Mentality is likewise fully integrated. Parallel thought processes in which the therioside thinks one thing and the humanside thinks something else have ceased to occur.
-->Wolf VanZandt is this way now, and I've heard of several other contherians, though he's the only one with whom I exchange frequent emails.
-->The term "contherianthropy" was originally coined by Lion Templin years ago. Its meaning has since been the subject of endless debate. I have tried to be accurate about its intended meaning here, but someone with more experience on the topic may likewise need to clarify things.
-A person's position in the above categories seems apt to change with time, depending on a variety of factors.
-It is apparently not necessary to move "up" or "down" the list step-by-step, either, as I've heard of people jumping from one of the much "less-integrated" states directly into a contherian one (and then remaining there for a long time--possibly the rest of their lives so far).
-My point with this list isn't to argue that any particular level of integration (or non-integration) is better or worse than any other, but rather to show some of the common experiences that seem to be associated with them among the people I've seen post about how their therianthropy affects their daily life.
-When people say they're "partially integrated," they usually seem to be talking about something from the region of the whack-a-mole, vacillant therianthropy, or suntherianthropy. Technically (if we're looking at it in terms of psychology and ego/consciousness) someone with a lightswitch shifting pattern is also partially integrated. But in common community parlance it probably refers to the stuff a bit farther down on the list.