For House Kheperu’s open house this year, I was on a three-person panel on the intersection between psychology, identity, and magic. For my part of it, I mapped out identity development models for otherkin identity and for vampiric identity.
I looked heavily to James Marcia‘s model of identity statuses and to the Cass Identity Model when developing these models. Please note that these are mostly descriptive, and I purposefully borrowed Marcia’s use of the word “status” rather than Cass’ “stage” because these statuses aren’t necessarily linear, and it’s possible (and not uncommon by my observation) for people to vacillate between statuses. Do note as well that not everyone goes through each status; I know quite a few, for instance, who never experience the Identity Pride statuses in both models.
These are works in progress. Constructive criticism is very much appreciated! My sample for developing these models are 10 years of observation of the otherkin community (and personal experience with otherkin identity development), observing a friend go through all the statuses of the vampiric model over four years (my main informal case study, heh), and talking with a number of vampire-identified persons. As such, alternative perspectives are exceedingly helpful.
Otherkin Identity Model
- Awakening Status
- Task: Determining whether one is otherkin or not. The answer to this may be acceptance of the otherkin identity, denial of it, or rejection upon deciding it doesn’t fit.
- Description: The individual starts to question what they are. They may have encountered the concept of otherkin online or through friends; or they might relate instead to the concept of shapeshifters, werewolves, Lord of the Rings elves, etc. They might examine their history, past behavior, childhood tendencies, and current leanings for evidence one way or another. They might feel like the concept is “crazy”, wishful thinking, or imagination. Sometimes they may want very badly to be otherkin and seek an “awakening experience”. They may go back and forth between acceptance, denial, and rejection of the identity, between doubt and belief.
- Identity Confusion
- Task: The individual seeks to determine what kind of otherkin they are, and begins developing their identity.
- Description: The individual accepts that they might be otherkin, and begins to develop that potential identity further (into “elf” or “dragon” or “squirrel” or “crow”). They continue examining themselves and their behaviors for evidence, clues, and/or validation. They may also research myths, animals, and engage in meditative practice. The individual may attempt to dredge up past-life memories. They may join a forum or read articles and essays on otherkin self-discovery. They may continue to have internal conflict between enthusiasm and positive feelings about being otherkin, and doubt and negative feelings about it.
- Identity Comparison
- Task: Compare experiences and identity with like others; deal with sometimes isolating feelings of being “other” and “different”.
- Description: The individual comes to some tentative conclusions on their other-than-human identity, and seeks corroboration and validation of their experiences and perceptions. They may join forums or online communities, or look to werewolf fiction and media, or talk to animists about totems, or read and watch a great deal of fantasy relevant to their identity, or seek out pagans and new-agers. They’re still struggling with some doubts and internalized negativity. They may have rapid identity adjustments and changes at this status, and possibly be highly suggestible and hypersensitive to. They may also vacillate wildly between human and other-than-human aspects, with pronounced shifting, intrusive memories, and poor control. They may also dissociate their otherness, speaking of their kin-side in the third person or even perceiving it as separate from them-as-human.
- Identity Acceptance
- Task: Achieving control and balance; learning how to function and deal with the implications and effects of an otherkin identity.
- Description: The individual accepts that they are otherkin. The challenge now is to figure out how to deal with it, function with it, and how it affects them; they need to learn control and balance. At this status, they may still be suggestible or hypersensitive to both internal and external stimuli, vulnerable to groupthink. While they have accepted their identity, they are not necessarily confident or secure in it yet. They may engage in validity-seeking or feel a need to defend their fragile and developing identity. Alternatively, they may be cautious about sharing their identity with others for fear of criticism or rejection.
- Identity Pride
- Task: Deal with the incongruous messages from society and subcultures.
- Description: The otherkin is confident in their identity and has accepted it as a positive, valid experience. The task is to deal with incongruent messages from society and subcultures (ie misfit, crazy, attention seeking, living in a fantasy world). They seek to surround themselves with like others with community involvement and contribution. This may mean becoming active in forums, or seeking to form packs or other groups, or attend meetups and gatherings. They seek to express otherness via actions, writing, art, symbols, and activities. They may also engage in “us versus them” or in-group/out-group behavior, such as making othering and negative statements about humans, conceiving of themselves as entirely “other” rather than human. Validity-seeking may still occur at this status.
- Identity Synthesis
- Task: Integrate otherness into the whole self.
- Description: The otherkin accepts both their otherness and their humanity. The task is to integrate their otherness into a whole self, as part of their identity rather than the sum whole of their identity. They may have far fewer shifts and less extreme shifts. They’ve processed their memories or are actively working on processing their past-life memories. They may continue to be involved in the community on a more contributing/mentorship level, or they may withdraw from the community, no longer needing or desiring it.
Vampiric Identity Model
- Identity Confusion
- Task: Determining whether one is vampiric or not. The individual may romanticize, demonize, avoid, rationalize, or begin to accept.
- Discussion: “Am I vampiric?” The individual may feel there is something wrong with them, have unusual experiences, etc. They may identify with mythological vampires as depicted in literature and film, or in roleplaying games. They may read a book on “real vampires”, meet someone who talks about real vampires, or encounter the vampire community online. Some can experience feelings of guilt or self-loathing due to a need to feed on human energy, or may have concerns about personal sanity. They start looking for signs/symptoms, examining current experiences and past behavior. Feeding at this point might be unconscious, subconscious, or uncontrolled.
- Identity Tolerance
- Task: Defining what it means to be vampiric and decrease feelings of isolation through comparison with like others.
- Description: “I might be vampiric.” The individual is beginning to accept the potential identity and examine the ramifications of that acceptance. What does it mean to be vampiric? Good, bad, neither? Gothic, weird, normal? Powers, or none? What do other vampiric-identified people say, feel, and experience? Comparing experiences with that of others, or with mythology or novels or roleplaying games. The vampire works on building personal mythology, finding a satisfactory explanation for why and how they are as they are. They may still struggle with feelings of guilt/self-loathing or a feeling of being “crazy” but begin to deal with those feelings. The individual may seek out vampire fiction, film, and roleplaying games as comfort and/or resources. They may try out a variety of stereotypes and roles, accentuating the differences between vampires and non-vampires. The vampire may begin to experiment with controlled feeding.
- Identity Acceptance
- Task: Figuring out how to function or deal with the vampiric condition.
- Description: The individual accepts the vampiric identity and starts addressing the issue of “how do I deal/function?” Is feeding okay, not okay, or only okay under certain circumstances? They may work on finding community: online, offline, among goths, or among pagans. They may seek out community or try to go it alone. They may engage in validity-seeking or attempts to prove their identity to others, as they’re not entirely secure in their identity yet. They may strive to control their feeding and manage their vampiric needs.
- Identity Pride
- Task: Deal with the incongruent views of wider society/subcultures (ie: crazy, misfit, unethical, attention seeking, etc).
- Description: The individual has accepted their vampiric identity and attached positive feelings/traits to it. They may seek increased association with others who are vampiric or vampire-accepting. May incorporate vampirism into spiritual practice. May change clothing style or do things they associate with being vampiric or that they feel expresses their identity (dress more gothic, acquire false fangs, frequent goth clubs, etc). May strive for community involvement and to contribute meaningfully to the vampiric community.
- Identity Synthesis
- Task: Integration of identity.
- Description: Being vampiric becomes part of the person’s identity, rather than the entire identity in and of itself. The individual has found a healthy level of and pattern of feeding that sustains them and they work to maintain that routine while going about their regular lives. They may continue to participate in the community, seek to give back to the community through continued involvement or a mentorship role, or they might withdraw from it due to either not needing it, annoyance with people in the community who are at different statuses, or both.
- Pagan Religious Identity Development, Witchful Thinking
- Development and Identification of Ego-Identity Status, James Marcia
- Cass Identity Model, Wikipedia