I'm hoping you could shed some light on a personal issue I've been having for some time now. I've been involved with the fandom for nearly 12 years and the people and community have been a key part of my life through the most critical stages so far. This is how I came across your page actually, and I feel like If I can trust anyone's opinion it would be another fur's.
My problem is that I feel very disconnected from others, especially furs, and this problem has been getting worse over the course of about 3 years. More specifically I feel as though I can't seem to connect with anyone and my previous relationships (both platonic and otherwise) have grown stagnant and faded. I've fallen away from those I used to associate with and there honestly hasn't been much effort on my part to prevent it. There is a constant turmoil inside me of a want for romantic/social satisfaction/acceptance and my lack of motivation to achieve it. I feel exhausted just trying to maintain a basic level of conversation with those I genuinely care about. It's important to note that this is in every aspect of my life and not limited to those associated with the fandom. Recently this has become even more of a burden as most of my social connection has been through the fandom. The need to be a part of something is still there even if I don't have the energy to deal with it. I've tried to become more active by attending con's and connecting more through social media. The issue however seems to be me as I can't form any new friendships or bonds.
Now I know this is not really a critical issue, and through the course of time shouldn't continue but the mental aspect of being completely out of touch with everything and everyone has been taking a toll. I'm beginning to feel more and more out of place and what I can only guess is anxiety seems to be getting the better of me. So all that being said I guess I'm asking if you have any advice for me to fix myself. Are there any key behaviors that are commonly associated with driving people away that I may be engaging in without realizing it? I appreciate any and all advice you are willing to give.
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Thank you for your letter. I have some questions, if you don't mind, about your background first.
Thank you. I look forward to your reply.
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Dear Papa Bear,
Thank you for responding,
I appreciate you taking the time to address my letter. In regards to your first question, I believe I might have some form of moderate social anxiety. I've always been a very reserved and shy person. When I was younger, I would often get nervous around people I didn't know. A lot of progress was made through my teenage years though and up until I started having my current issues it wasn't much of a problem.
As far as personal turmoil, I did experience a non-life-threatening gunshot wound injury roughly around the time frame this started that left me with limited use of my left hand and arm for approximately 8 months. (This was the result of negligence and happened in a controlled environment.) I've since regained about 90% use. The biggest issue I can pull from that experience was it caused me to start having anxiety attacks. Over time, though, this has gotten significantly better and has become pretty rare.
I apologize for not giving more clarity about my lack of effort. The easiest way for me to say it is I just stopped trying to connect with people who were close to me and gave up those friendships. Over a about a 3 year span, I've gradually stopped communicating with people. I've started to lose a sense of connection with people in my life. Things like going out with friends has become more of a chore than something to look forward too. I want to have a social life and enjoy the company of others but now I just feel exhausted trying to start a conversation. It's incredibly confusing to me because I want to have people to cherish in my life but at the same time I feel like I don't have the energy to deal with them. I can't really say why, either. It's not a conscious decision so much as it is a sudden realization.
Life started feeling like a haze somewhere around the time I started going back to work. This was the time that everything seemed to change. Once I got back into the swing of working and dealing with everyday life, I would often forget to talk to people and wouldn't realize it until several weeks had passed. It was odd because it's like I would just forget they existed. I started to really notice that I had distanced myself after It became apparent that many individuals were no longer trying to contact me and I hadn't seen or heard from them in months. I did try to reach out to them but the conversations are typically very dull now and don't get very personal. I don't believe they have much interest in renewing our friendship. (I basically cut them out of my life, so I don't blame them). I've tried to start over by attending cons and utilizing social media more frequently in an effort to motivate myself. So far, this method has failed and I'm at a standstill.
I don't have much of a relationship with my family to be honest. I don't know most of my extended family and I rarely talk to my parents or sister. This is not due to a falling out, we've just never been very close. As for coworkers, I enjoy the people I work with and there have not been any major issues. Any disagreements have always been solved just by talking through it.
There haven't been any conflicts that would have put a strain on my friendships that I know of. Before I fell away from everyone, things were actually going very smoothly.
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Hmm, well, sounds like the gunshot injury occurred at a firing range? Not sure why you still seem to be holding back information on this and are being coy about it. I’m not here to judge you; you can just tell me what happened straight up. This is important because, apparently, your troubles began around the time of the gun accident (perhaps exacerbated by the new job, but since you get along with your coworkers, I’d guess work is not the problem).
My guess at this point, and given the information that I have, is that something happened at that gun range, something that shook your trust in other people (unless this was self-inflicted, but it doesn’t sound like it). I am squinting my eyes between the lines and guessing that someone you trusted very well accidentally shot you, and even though you are recovering from the injury this has caused you great physical and emotional pain.
I don’t feel you are being honest with yourself that this event is all in the past and you’re over it. I really don’t think you are, and because you are suppressing something, it has to get out somehow; with you, the way it is getting out is by affecting your ability to socialize—trust—others. You become disinterested in really trying because whatever happened to you is blocking your ability to relate to others.
If I am right about this, the way to handle it is to face whatever happened at the gun range and deal with it. This means talking openly and honestly to the person who hurt you. You probably don’t feel you can do this because you feel the person didn’t mean to shoot you—and I would believe that to be true, as well. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be upset about what happened; it doesn’t mean you can’t be upset at the person who did this. You can say, “I forgive you,” but you still need to have the catharsis of releasing all the pent-up anger and hurt inside you.
Again, if I am right, it would be a good idea to find a qualified counselor to help guide you through this process.
Let me know,
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Dear Papa Bear,
I've thought a lot about what you've said, and a lot of it does ring true. I'm trying to look at my actions and thoughts now through a different perspective. It's true I didn't want to give details about the incident for a number of reasons, but I can't ask for advise if i'm not willing to tell you the problem. The injury did occur from a friend, it was a complete accident and I know this so I don't like mentioning it. It is difficult for me to go into detail because the whole situation at the time left me feeling vulnerable in a sense. This was a routine trip to a shooting complex and my friend who I'll just call "Fred" was a regular shooter there with me. The golden rule of safe shooting is knowing where your weapon is pointed at all times, well Fred just so happened to forget that rule when his weapon had a malfunction and failed to fire. The slide was locked on a live round and he couldn't unload it, so he turned around keeping the weapon pointed straight out from him which left the barrel aligned with me. He was trying to ask me to hand him a tool to fix the problem, but before he could finish the weapon discharged and sent a bullet through the top of my left hand up into my wrist.
Ever since then when I've talked to Fred we just kind of brush of the whole situation, we never really talked about it. I really just try to avoid thinking about it because there isn't anything I can do to fix it. I don't know if whats going on now is related to that, but I do see your point and I probably should address it with him. It was a scary situation and I've never felt that helpless before so I really don't like bringing it up.
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I understand your reticence, and we both recognize "Fred" didn't mean to hurt you and this was an accident. Even so, you have not emotionally resolved the hurt from this incident, and I truly believe that by pushing those emotions inside you it is now affecting your ability to trust other friends. This might not seem logical, but it is psychologically valid. As you know, I'm not a trained counselor, so I don't know the best way to go about helping you resolve your feelings so you may truly forgive Fred and regain your trust to form friendships and maintain the ones you have, but I think we've really found the problem here and if you talk to a counselor about it who is trained to help you in such matters, I think it will go a long way to helping you.
I have a question related to role playing, ERP [Erotic Role Play] partners and art, and I thought this would be a proper place to ask for help since, being in a community where these interactions are frequent, you might have a better understanding about how it can be more significant to an insider (if that wording made any sense, I hope it did).
I have a serious problem with (sex/intimate) roleplay partners in general and seeing them get it on with others. It's rather common to see art of role players with their partners, and when I get to see art featuring a partner of mine (particularly if it's someone I RP with frequently) with someone else in an intimate/kinky/suggestive situation, I get so upset that I either throw a tantrum at them and make everything go to sh!t, or go dead quiet and block myself from associating with them without telling them why (so as not to be all mopey around them).
Well, it's almost as bad if I happen to run into them with another partner in a chat room or whatever other place where it could be happening, or if my partner tells me about the stuff they do with others and whatnot. I've gotten myself used to interpret it as "them rubbing it in on me", and only relatively recently I started trying to interpret it as "them sharing what makes them happy with me", but still to no real avail, I still get unreasonably upset and it's almost like an instinctive reaction.
I feel jealous, envious, and left out. Jealous because I instantly assume that I'm no better than these other people my partner/s get it on with and get mad or sad at it, and I feel something getting crushed inside me, like an illusion that my partner would have had me up high in some sort of pedestal and then finding out that I wasn't the absolute most special person in their life; envy, because I have no money nor drawing skills to show off like that, it's art that I like a lot and that I would love to either pay for or be able to draw myself, and it's all quite far from my possibilities at the moment; and lastly, I feel left out because I feel like I don't have "what it takes", or that I "don't belong". Similarly, to a call of mating (for lack of a better comparison on my part), someone with either money or talent to have a gallery to show themselves off, is much more likely to draw more interest from either one or multiple people. I kind of see it as a competition internally (which I feel isn't really a good thing), one that I see myself losing at over and over.
Basically, I feel jealous, envious and cast out when I see my partner/s getting it on with others, especially if it's on fancy art, and it does not only keep me from enjoying that content as much as I would otherwise, but it also makes things ridiculously awkward or downright depressing with these people.
How do I do to get myself to enjoy seeing my partners share their joy with others, or at least stop getting angry and sad at it?
Best wishes, and thanks in advance for giving me the opportunity to come at you for advice.
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You’re suffering from two very common problems I see in the furry community: 1) art envy, and 2) low self-esteem. They are related, of course. And your upset over partners’ flirtations with others is more a reflection of how you feel about yourself than how you feel about them.
It’s interesting that you say you have partners (plural), rather than just one partner, which indicates that you yourself are not really into monogamy, so why expect others to be monogamous with you? That seems an unreasonable expectation on your part.
As for art envy, you have two choices: work at becoming an artist yourself, or stop competing with people who have a talent that you do not possess. Just because you don’t have artistic gifts shouldn’t mean you have nothing to offer a partner. You need to find out what your own personal and unique gifts are and work on those. Competing with people who have a gift you don’t possess is nonsense. Competing with others is nonsense, period. There will always be people more talented than you, so don’t trouble your mind about it. That’s a recipe for misery.
To get over your jealousies and, let’s face it, paranoia that others are somehow mocking you by their behavior with others, what you need is to work on your self-esteem. Once you accept yourself as a valuable person in your own right with good things to offer a partner, your insecurities will fade away and you will no longer be jealous.
As for relationships, if you are going to have multiple relationships, then it is only fair you allow your partners to, as well. If, on the other paw, you want a more committed relationship, then you need to express that to your partner of choice and find out whether they want the same thing as you do before you proceed. Always define the acceptable terms of a relationship for both parties so you know where you stand.
Jealousy stems from your fear of being alone, left out. But if your partner(s) doesn’t/don’t know that you want commitment and validation from them, then don’t be surprised if they don’t express those traits. Suffering in silence just exacerbates the problem.
Reading between the lines, however, it seems you are jealous of your partners doing the wild thang in artworks and role play, not reality. Correct? You see the fursona of one of the people you are attracted to getting it on with some other character on paper or in a jpeg or in a chat room. And then you somehow equate that with a betrayal. Then you feel bad because you can’t draw something equally sexy with your fursona and your partner making love. Then you feel as if you will somehow lose them because you can’t create that art or, perhaps, you are not very good at online role play.
If that’s the case, then I really think you need to get real. Get your head out of the fantasy world of furry and start having real-life relationships with real people in the real world because what you have been doing is emotionally unhealthy. Please turn off your electronic devices, knock off the role playing, open the door, step out into the real world and experience real relationships.
And good luck!
Dear Mr Papabear,
Losts my beloved Husbear/Daddy Bear a year now. I am looking for love again, but there is a guy who loves me and I don't love him. Since keep triggers me a lot. I want love again. I don't know how to tell him it is over. I am tired of being alone and hurt. Do you know where I can find love again with a bear as well?
Lil' Gothcub (age 33)
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Hi, Lil' Gothcub,
I am very sorry for your loss, hon. Glad you have the courage to move on with your life, though.
You don't really find love; it comes to you. But you have to be ready to receive it when it does come. That's the key. To do that, you have to do a couple things:
As for the person who loves you but you don't return the love: rip off the bandage. Tell him now that you simply don't have those feelings for him. You can soften the blow by telling them that it's not because they aren't a good person; you just don't have that spark of emotion for them, but you are sure that someday they can find someone who will love them.
Hope that helps,
I have a strange issue: I have fallen in love with a fursona/fursuit. I really like the person that is the creator of this character. When I see them, or are close to them, I feel like a teenager again. I feel my cheeks flush, and feel something stirring inside of me I thought was dead. When they are with me, I feel proud, like that guy who has the most beautiful girl in the room. I feel like I am in a bad SoFurry story. I know this isn't right. I have told them about my feelings.
Sadly, I love the person on the inside, but not romantically. I feel my feelings for the character may cause the person to feel I am romantically attracted to them. It makes me feel horrible, and I am afraid I will hurt their feelings, and that will just kill me. I do not know how to reconcile this in my head, since I know it is all fantasy, even though I wish it was real.
Xela (age 55)
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Thanks for your letter. Question: what is it about the fursona that you really love? Is it just the appearance, or something more?
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I will be honest. There are several things. Lookswise, I am immediately attracted in several ways. Someone I would love to be seen with, I find the attraction in my heart, I feel so up to be with her. And as much as I hate to admit it, she turns me on, as well. If anthros were real, I would do anything in my power to be her mate. Also, the hugs are magnificent, and she treats people so good, and has a great outlook. I realize the person inside has this component, but my mind makes all of this one package. When we are apart, I can rationally think this. When I am with her, my heart beats faster, my temperature goes up, and I just want to hold her. Like a teenager in love.
I hope this helps show my thinking. Thank You!
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Sounds like you are attracted mostly to the appearance of the fursona. This is not at all an unusual phenomenon, and it happens not just in the furry fandom but across the board with fictional characters (cf. http://www.themarysue.com/the-psychology-of-fandom/). People often become enamored by characters and then associate that character with the actor who plays them, and it can be difficult to disassociate the two. An extreme example might be someone falling in love with Captain Kirk and then having feelings for William Shatner, even after discovering that Shatner, in real life, is, well, kind of a big jerk.
You say you really love the fursona, and even though you like the person who created it, you don’t actually love them. You’re worried you might somehow be leading them on, but has she ever expressed any emotions toward you? My guess is no and that you are worrying about nothing. Now, if she behaved as if she was falling in love with you, you might have a problem and have to have a sit-down with her, but unless she does that, I would just say continue as you are and have fun with it.
Since you aren’t deluding yourself that the fursona is real and you could somehow have a genuine romantic relationship with it, you must have a solid grasp of reality, and that’s great.
You should be less hard on yourself and less fretful that this is all so so serious. It isn’t. This is all fantasy, and you acknowledge that. So have fun with it! There is actually nothing wrong with indulging in a little fantasy, allowing yourself to get twitterpated over the sexy, huggable, friendly furry and just be happy with that. Who knows, you might also gain some experience in having a healthy relationship in the real world, such as getting lots of practice with hugs and displays of affection and kindness.
My advice, in conclusion, is to just enjoy the moment; don’t worry about the girl inside falling in love with you unless she actually does; and just be happy and furry.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.