This page is mostly empathic guesswork – a necessary starting point.

How do animals sense themselves, 'what am I?'

Animal identity is based on their internal body awareness. In addition they often have a life long identity with a specific social group and territory.

Their inner-body sense and their relationship with the world are experienced and understood by all of their physical senses and both the panoramic and focused use of these senses.

Basic Self-Identity

Inner-body feelings, both tactile and sensual, are central to an animals survival and identity. And these feelings are conscious, unlike the human subliminal inner-body awareness and reliance on doctors.

For warm blooded animals, the sensation of warmth and all the feelings inside their own bodies is a very intimate sense of being.

Animals have a very intense awareness of the tastes inside their own bodies.

Perhaps it will take a few years of body-taste awareness to fully appreciate this idea, but to summarise:
Most animals only eat one type of food at a time. By contrast humans often eat such a complex mixture of rich foods at mealtimes that they overwhelm all the subtle tastes of our own body. Start to notice the tastes in your own body. Notice the differences between the taste on your lips, the back of the throat and in your stomach. Start to appreciate how the entire body has a sense of taste. (see Chapter 6 for more on this.)

Sounds like stomach rumbling and heart beating are felt far more actively by animals than humans. And animals with a high visual accuity would have a vivid imaginary picture of how they look inside.

These ideas may seem highly speculative, but apart from doing body mindfulness yourself with the senses (not only touch), the only method of getting near to the truth would be to get a consensus of opinion from small children.

Animals also identify intimately with the sounds they make, (rather than with the abstract meaning of that sound, as humans do with words).

Those animals who lick themselves clean, have a very clear sense of how they and their siblings taste from the outside.

It is generally acknowledged that animals are far more aware of smells. Many animals know themselves and others by their scent, especially those leaving territorial markers.

Dogs can sense in the 4th dimension – time. Their smell receptors are so refined that they suppress the smell of poo and can determine the mood and character of other dogs who have long passed by any marker tree.

Though i have no scientific evidence i imagine this is one very good reason why dogs don't like soapy baths: it destroys their self identity.

Smell and taste are stimulated and regulated by the lower brain. (The senses of taste and smell existed long before animals developed eyes and ears.) Animals are far more in touch with and reliant on their lower brain. This means a far greater direct connection with the autonomous functions of the body.

This active connection with the lower brain has a far deeper and greater significance than I can explain, experts in psychology would, or should know far more about this than I do.

Human vs. Animal Social Identity

Animal identity usually involves a life long relationship with the same land or sea territories, and a deep unquestioned sense of belonging and social confirmation with their partners or social groups.

These traits are to some extent evident among humans. However modern human social identification is far more diverse and often established on abstract levels of beliefs and ideas. (See Chapter 3 for more on this).

Humans also identify strongly with visual appearance and display. This is confirmed with mirrors and selfies. Animal identity is completely different. There are only around 10 animals who can recognise themselves in a mirror.

Animals have no choice about clothes or hair styles, even chameleons and stick insects who disguise themselves don't do this for social recognition. Birds who visually display their hair styles at mating times are exceptions.

Animals' social identity is grounded in the same areas as their individual identity, in sounds and scents, taste, visual, and tactile reality. Animals are not involved in abstract thoughts about their social confirmation.

The Two Modes of Sensing

Animals have two different pragmatic sensory systems for experiencing themselves and the outside world. Focusing and panoramic.

And in the same way that 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 the panorama mode is also fundamental to their survival. And this repetitive experience is a constant reminder of how it feels to stop thinking, be still inside, receptive, and directly connected with what they are sensing.

It's an habitual rut which animals have. So, whenever animals feel safe enough to doze – we can easily understand that they are far more practiced than we are at turning off any form of thinking, and then sensing their bodies warmth and vitality directly with all of their physical senses.

And I believe it is this inner sense of self sufficiency in their own bodies which sustains them, it gives them an underlying background sense of peace with themselves and the world. A sharp contrast to their daily fears of being eaten alive.

Both the abstract and concrete walls humans have around us, create a vastly different basis for identity and how it feels to be alive.

This openness, even nakedness, to an outside world without any walls; makes an enormous difference to a creature's sense of self and others, in terms of vulnerability, and also connectedness. Their ability to love and also to fear is understandably, very high.

I repeat, these explanations are mainly guesswork based on feeling empathy with animals, and this is the best we can do without a consensus of opinion from small children.
If you want to, you can compare the above viewpoint to Wikipedia: Animal Consciousness. I find scientific and objective sources miss the point. Please contact me if you have any other insights or interesting perspectives.

Please continue with Body and Breathing Awareness
Supplementary Pages Animals Play Ego and Mirrors
Animal Rights in the Modern World

Back to Chapter Seven : Creative Dozing
Back to THE SENSE OF IT ALL Priority Pages