Weresides Versus Procrastination
A few Augusts ago, not long after I had awakened as a wolf therian, I fell into an obsession with the game Guild Wars. I was in college as an English major at the time and had only a little homework each day. I had my evenings and weekends relatively free but still had many creative projects on which I needed to work, including a novel manuscript that I had committed myself to working on every day, even if it didn't work on it all that much in a sitting.
As I have done all my life, I would often use games as a distraction from work to give my creative energy time to recharge. That can be healthy, to a point. But as these things can too easily go for someone who also has obsessive tendencies, I ended up taking the path of least resistance and playing and playing and playing--often for three to five hours at a time, doing arena fights with other players. This pattern of behavior continued for weeks, with some slow-ups and some more intense binges. But it didn't go away, and the quality of my writing started to suffer. Instead of feeling creatively reinvigorated after the distraction of playing, I just wanted to keep playing and felt mentally whiny if I thought of actually sitting down to work. In addition to this, I didn't let myself shift nearly enough, if at all.
During one weekend in which I had been particularly bad about this, my brain started to freak out a bit. I could feel migraine-like symptoms coming on--felt my mind go into a bit of a haze. Then, when my dial-up Internet unexpectedly lost its connection during a match--booting me back to the game's login screen--I felt unease welling up inside of me. I felt a strong subconscious urge to get--away--from the--computer.
Despite this urge, being almost totally shifted as a human still, I started to type the necessary password to log back in.
As soon as I attempted this, though, something snapped in my head. It wasn't dramatic, but it did the trick. I felt my mindset shift unexpectedly toward a balance of human and wolf--such that some of my wolf impulses were rising up and forcing my human side to reevaluate the situation.
As I recorded in my shifting journal, later ... "This shift caught me a little off guard, but I didn't try to hold it back because I got the impression it was in my best interests. I swiveled my chair and hopped on all fours onto my futon, looked at the login screen in disgust, and lay down and whimpered. I understood that the wolf part of me felt sick and tired of being subjected to bright lights and flashy colors for extended periods without accomplishing anything that would promote my overall well-being. I viewed my desire to log back in as nothing more than an urge to procrastinate (since I still had reading and other writing to do that afternoon), and I knew I wouldn't be able to sit back and enjoy the game until my daily tasks were out of the way. I ended up lunging for the mouse and closing the game, and what followed were three of the most productive hours I've had in the past few weeks." I got all of my homework done early and had the time and energy to write on my novel as well.
I still play Guild Wars occasionally, to this very day, but I've never felt fully obsessed with either it or any other video game ever since. There have been close calls, but I've always had a friend or my wolf side (or both) to draw my mind away from it.
Kicking a habit in that way left me feeling hopeful about myself and how my sides relate to each other. In the months preceding the Guild Wars obsession, I had been making it a point to find the necessary time and privacy to be able to shift without fear and explore my wolf side. My prayer life as a Christian had also grown, and I felt spiritually supported by God while exploring my wereside. Because of all of these developments, I had started to learn things as a wolf that would end up helping my human side too. When I'm shifted as a wolf, gaming for its own sake doesn't make sense; it feels like bright lights and a waste of energy and leaves my head feeling bad. So I turn and walk away from it.
Things that a human consciousness may find addicting can potentially have no effect on an animal consciousness. That's not a guarantee of any kind, mind you, but thinking of it in those terms has helped me realize what a great boon shifting can be in trying to overcome anything that's a uniquely "human" difficulty. If the problem comes from thinking too abstractly and kidding myself, shifting can bring me back down to earth on all four paws.
That's also no way of guaranteeing that the human mindset will have learned its lesson when the shift ends. But the shifts can provide temporary relief in the first place while showing how life can feel without the incessant tugging of procrastination or obsession.
For the geeky out there, you might think of it as being similar to having a computer set up to dual-boot Windows and Linux. If your Windows (human) boot gets infected with a nasty computer virus (obsession), you can switch to booting Linux (nonhuman) for the time being until your situation with the "virus" gets sorted out, since Windows-specific viruses don't do anything to Linux (and vice-versa). The tricky thing, of course, is that while a dual-booting computer keeps the two operating systems on completely separate sectors of the hard drive, a typical therian seems to have one big gooey mind whose memories and fixations get written and overwritten by each side in a sloppy, organic way. But that makes it dozens of times easier for my wolf side to pull stunts like that and create lasting changes for the better in my human side.
Taken together with a supportive atmosphere (be that friends, family, therapists, or what have you), I would imagine that taking time to shift and reflect upon one's activities in this way could help a good number of therians' odds of success at beating repetitive, time-killing behaviors. It's been helpful to me, at any rate.
Of course, if it turns out that one's wereside(s) enjoy a harmful behavior just as much as the human side, then the situation gets more complicated. In that case I suppose it would become necessary to try to step completely outside oneself and ask, "What exactly is hurtful about this, and what about it is so appealing? How can I rebalance my life to make sure good needs are being met, without so much of the trouble along with it? Who could help to motivate me as I do this?"
That could become the topic of a different essay. For dealing with those bright lights and flashing numbers, though, shifting has taken me back to reality like no other mental process.