We like to think of ourselves as a unique and whole individual who is in control. Maybe you also like to think of yourself as purely masculine. If you are a man, or as purely feminine if you are a woman. That is where Carl Jung, the founder of analytic psychology and one of the pioneers of psychodynamic psychology, brought in concepts that will turn this on its head. He proposed that surrounding the conscious ego that experiences the world, thoughts, emotions, etc and sits right at the junction between the outer world and the inner world, there are a bunch of subpersonalities gravitating around it. And to top that off, those subpersonalities are not under the control of your conscious ego but they represent primordial images or thought forms that live out their meaning in our lives, if we don’t consciously recognize them.
They are what Jung called the archetypes. To simplify and briefly recap this, Jung believed that we are not born a tabula rasa if you will, but that each of us carries within us, those archetypal images that shape how we perceive, function, solve problems and navigate the world and our lives. Going back to the subpersonalities that surround the ego is one that is related to the inner psychic reality of the collective unconscious, namely the archetypes of the soul. For men it’s called the anima and for women the animus.
Story about Animus and Anima
When I talked about the shadow, I mentioned that for Jung in the process of individuation encountering the shadow was considered much easier than encountering the anima or animus. Why is that? Jung lays out that encountering the shadow is easier because we are in a way educated to assume that we all have a dark side.
He says that “… everyone immediately understands what is meant by “shadow,” “inferior personality,” etc. And if he has forgotten, his memory can easily be refreshed by a Sunday sermon, his wife, or the tax collector.
” So, one thing that makes it harder to recognize the workings of the animus or anima is that we are not educated to recognize them. What exactly are they then? As all archetypes, that of the soul is known by its manifestations when it is projected.
Then the archetypes of the soul assumes the form of an ideal feminine figure in man, the anima, and in woman the form of a masculine one, the animus, representing the complementary nature of man and woman. Jung suggests that both men and women hold in their unconscious an ideal representation of the other.
Whereas the persona, meaning the social mask we present to other people, mediates between the ego and the environment, the animus and anima mediate between the ego and the unconscious.
As I said before: archetypes are known by its manifestations when projected, so the existence of, for example, the anima is manifested in the manner in which a man distorts the representation of the real women in his life: his mother, sisters, friends, love-objects, and spouse. The same holds true for women and the manifestation of their animus that distorts the representation of the real men in her life. In short, the anima in a man balances his dominating Logos (the rationality) with her Eros, meaning relatedness and wholeness. On the other hand, the animus in a woman balances her relatedness and wholeness with the rationality of the Logos.
Animus and Anima
The anima is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies. In a man’s psyche Such as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature. And—last but not least—his relation to the unconscious. Because remember the animus and anima mediate between the ego and the unconscious.
If a man is what Jung called “anima-possessed”. It can play out all sorts of negative ways: They can then show extreme concern with their personal vanity or a man can then show irritable, depressed moods, uncertainty, insecurity, and touchiness. These “anima moods” cause a sort of dullness, a fear of disease, of impotence, or of accidents. The whole of life takes on a sad and oppressive aspect. In an extreme case: the anima becomes a death demon, the femme fatale.
The Greek Sirens or the German Lorelei personify examples of this dangerous aspect of the anima. Which in this form symbolizes destructive illusion. As with any archetypes there are a lot of positive outcomes related to the anima as well. It provides the ability to find the right marriage partner.
Whenever a man’s logical mind is incapable of discerning facts that are hidden in his unconscious, the anima helps him to dig them out. The anima can put a man’s mind in tune with the right inner values and thereby opening the way into more profound inner depths and paving the way for wisdom and creativity.
Animus and Anima Relationship
Where as the anima usually is only one female figure. The animus is often a plurality of male figures and the projection of the animus onto real men can also have negative effects. It can lead to a distorted perception of her husband or other male figures in her life. It may also give rise to fixed ideas and stubborn, irrational opinions which are the source of irritating discussions within the woman’s own psyche. On the other hand, as a positive influence the animus can also become a source of intellectual poise and balance. If we assume like Jung that men carry an anima and women carry an animus inside of their collective unconscious – what happens if both of them meet?
With Jung’s own words “the animus draws his sword of power, and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seducyion”. The outcome of that can be very positive and even result in love at first sight.
For Jung, in archetypes the more emotions are involved in this process. The more the two individuals actually just act out the collective situation of the archetypes – while believing that they are related to each other in a very special, unique way. Jung describes that either way. let it be positive as I just described, or negative. The anima and animus relationship is always emotional, usually full of “animosity”. Whereas in the man it’s made out of sentimentality and resentment, in a woman it expresses itself in the form of opinionated views or interpretations.
For men it then it is about their own personal vanity and for women it becomes a question of power. This then provides us with the second reason that it’s really difficult to recognize the anima and animus because they fill the ego “with an unshakable feeling of rightness and righteousness.” Plus, we believe that the cause for all this trouble lies outside ourselves with the person of the opposite sex. This is what makes any progress so difficult because, according to Jung, through the belief of self-righteousness we end up forgoing any possibility for mutual recognition and ultimately taking back the projections to integrate them into consciousness so that they stop running our life.
Jung, CG.The Archetypes and The Collective Unconcious.New Jersey:Princeton University Press. (ebook)