ANIMAL IDENTITYYou are welcome to think this page through with me – it's based on my imagination, i make no claim to scientific research – i'd appreciate any extra ideas.
So, for animals, what is identity – what is constant, what is security, 'what am I?'.
Animal identity is based far more on their inner body feeling than among humans. They have and give mutual confirmation within their social group. They usually identify with their territory, a trait still shared by humans.
There are only around 10 animals who can recognise themselves in a mirror. Animal identity is based on something completely different to our modern human sense of identity.
BASIC SELF-IDENTITYI obviously have no proof, but i suggest the central factor in an anmals identity, is being in touch with the inside warmth and the feel of their own bodies from the inside, this is a very intimate sense of being.
The taste and smell of their own bodies is conscious, they notice when it changes, in the same way that humans will often notice visual symptoms. I suspect that even sounds like their stomach rumbling are felt far more intimately by animals than humans, i also suspect that animals with a high visual accuity would have a vivid imaginary picture of how they looked inside.
Smell, breath and taste stimulate and are regulated by the lower brain. These basic senses existed long before animals developed eyes and ears. Animals are far more in touch with and reliant on their lower brain. I feel sure this connection with the lower brain has a far greater significance than i can decribe, experts in the field would know more.
Added to this internal self awareness, animal identity usually involves their territory and a deep unquestioned sense of belonging and social confirmation with their partners or social groups.
THE TWO MODES OF SENSINGAnimals are not lost in abstract thought about their identity and their needs. Life is immediate, and everything they want, like a child, has to be now. And animals have two different sensory systems for relating to the outside world now. Focusing and broadband.
And in the same way as : how we sense the world, determines how we we understand it and ourselves, – an animals sensory abilities, determines their understanding, their relationship with, and their feeling of identity in the world.
An animals experience of focusing must result in a feeling similar to ours – of being an active subject doing something to, with, or at, an object.
But throughout evolution, the broadband mode has been their natural way to switch off, stop doing everything and be still and receptive for a moment. It evolved because it is the most direct connection with everything happening in the immediate environment. And so for animals, this is a constant reminder of how it feels to be still inside, now, and connected with everything around them.
So i believe, in the few moments animals have, when they can just doze and don't need to fight for survival, they are far more practised than we are, and much more able to turn off and just be, and feel their bodies warmth and reality. It's a habit, an habitual rut which animals have. And this inner sense of self sufficiency in their own bodies, gives them an underlying background sense of peace in and with the world.
This is all only guesswork, ... but i suggest animals have an ego identity based in their internal body awareness, at the same time as a sense of integration and connection with the world outside ... together with a social sense of bonding and belonging far deeper than our human ideas on social confirmation. It's all very different to how humans sense their self-identity and the world around them.
See also Do animals have an ego?