Yesterday I wrote about the anima, a man’s inner feminine guide, so it is only fair to write today about the animus, which is the female’s inner, masculine counterpart. If we look at the psyche as a totality, we know that it must contain opposites. Even if one aspect is dominant and another recessive, still they must exist consciously and unconsciously, obvious or not.
The Chinese yin-yang symbol is a beautiful symbol showing male and female principles, light and darkness, and other opposites that, taken together, make a whole. This symbol signifies opposition in unity to the Chinese, which is the highest balance of which humanity is capable. Yin is the dark half, the female; Yang is the upper, light half, the male. Thus we find that the male is associated with the sun, the sky, and daylight, while the female is associated with the moon, the night, the earth, the deep ocean. The two halves of the circle are equal, but they are different. And each has a spot of the opposite within it; the light spot within the dark might be considered the animus of the woman; the dark spot within the light might be considered the anima of the male.
Writing from an archetypal perspective–this is not about sex or gender identity, but archetypal qualities–the characteristics of Yin, the female, would include:
Receptive, containing, gestative, bearing; earth, darkness, womb; knowing from experience; instinctive earth wisdom; indirect, diffuse; not consciously thought out; subjective, personal, related; experience, being, existence.
The archetypal qualities of Yang, the male, would include:
Creative, arousing, generative, begetting; sun, light, penetration; conscious knowledge, discrimination, law, order; direct, to the point; objective, impersonal; understanding, meaning, essence.
As I’ve explained earlier, the anima represents to a man his contra-sexual elements, symbolized by figures ranging from the whore to the virgin to the spiritual guide. She personifies the feminine principle in man that expresses love and relatedness. When a man projects his anima, he “falls in love,” which language suggests that he is not consciously responsible for what is happening, but is in the grip of some thrall. If a man identifies with his anima (i.e., considers himself identical to his anima), he becomes effeminate, sensitive and resentful, fickle, capricious, moody, uncontrolled and emotional, sometimes gifted with demonic intuitions, ruthless, malicious, untruthful, bitchy, two-faced, and mystical. In short, he behaves as an inferior woman.
Anima moods or states of anima possession, in terms used by analytical psychology, are recognized by their characteristic features of resentment and emotional withdrawal. A man is reduced to being little more than a moody, sulking child. The woman with whom he most closely relates is most likely to see this side of him.
On the other hand, a man with a healthy ego who is psychologically developed will be led by his anima to deeper understanding of his own psyche as well as insights from the collective unconscious. He will become, in effect, a Renaissance Man by embodying the Yin-Yang principles.
But what of the animus, and his relation to a woman? The animus is the corresponding representative of the masculine contra-sexual elements in a woman’s psyche. He can be identified with numerous masculine images, from Tarzan the ape man, to threatening male figures such as rapists or molesters, to the Logos, the word incarnate.
Just as a man’s projected anima causes him to “fall in love,” so does a woman’s projected animus elicit the same response. Just as a man is likely to marry a woman who reminds him of his mother, or (conversely) to marry his mother’s polar opposite, so too a woman’s choice of mate will tend to be psychologically like her father or, again, his opposite.
A woman who is unconscious of her masculine side, but identifies with her animus, soon loses contact with her feminine nature and behaves as an inferior man. She becomes opinionated, rigid, and aggressively bitter, becoming more interested in power than in relatedness. Jung said that a woman overtaken by her animus is obstinate, lays down the law, harps on principles, is a word-mongerer, and is argumentative and domineering.
As with the man’s anima, the animus is most often activated in relation to an emotionally significant man, such as the husband. In fact, the anima and animus have a marked affinity for each other, so the least bit of an appearance of one is likely to evoke the other in a partner in a sort of psychological balancing act.
If a woman develops psychologically, the animus can help her to function with objective rationality and open to her the collective unconscious. A woman’s animus is helpful to her only when she can differentiate between him and herself. She must do this by carrying on an eternal, inner dialogue during which she questions her own opinions; or, as Jung put it, she “must find the courage and inner broadmindedness to question the sacredness of her own convictions” (207).
Stages of Animus Development
Jung suggested four stages of animus development in a woman, similar to those I described earlier for the anima development. In the first stage, the animus appears in dreams or fantasies as the epitome of physical power, such as Tarzan, James Bond, or an athlete. He is the Adam to the anima as Eve. At this stage of development, the animus is a woman’s stud-muffin, who exists to make babies, to satisfy her, and to protect her.
At the second stage of animus development, he is imagined as a man of action, a Bob the Builder, a war hero, a hunter, Mr. Fix It, an Ernest Hemingway. He is a generic husband-father, the guy she lives with who fixes the leaky faucets and brings home the bacon, a one-dimensional, dated, cardboard cutout of a man. The anima corollary is Helen of Troy.
In the third stage, which corresponds to the anima’s Mary stage, is the man of the Word, personified in dreams as a professor, priest or preacher, or elder statesman such as Lloyd George. A woman with this animus development has a high regard for traditional learning; she is able to sustain creative work and looks for ways of exercising her mind. She can relate to a man not only as a husband and father, but as a lover and individual in his own right.
The fourth stage animus incarnates spiritual meaning and is exemplified by figures such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, or Hermes, the messenger of the gods. I like to also consider the Archangel Gabriel, patron saint of communication, as a type of fourth stage animus figure. He corresponds to the Sophia image of the anima, mediating between a woman’s conscious mind and the unconscious. If a woman allows her animus to be her guide, he may become “a mediator of the religious experience whereby life acquires new meaning” (Jung 207). He gives the woman spiritual firmness which compensates for her outer softness and can ultimately make her more receptive than a man to new creative ideas. Jung comments that it is for this reason that in primitive cultures, women were often used as diviners and seers.
The Dark Side of the Animus
If a woman lives on the dark side of her animus, it can cause marital problems that correspond to those mentioned with regard to the anima. She probably will activate the anima in her husband or partner, making for two inferiors fussing with one another interminably. Jung wrote that “animus and anima always tend to drag conversation down to a very low level and to produce a disagreeable, irascible, emotional atmosphere” (207).
One of the greatest dangers of unconsciousness is that the unconscious female will be seduced by a man’s anima, strange as this sounds. The reverse is true as well: a man unconscious to his anima may also be seduced by his lover’s animus. As Daryl Sharp points out, “theoretically, there is no difference between an unconscious man and a woman’s animus” (69). Sharp explains,
The more differentiated a woman is in her own femininity, the more able she is to reject whatever unsuitable role is projected onto her by a man. This forces the man back on himself. If he has the capacity for self-examination and insight, he may discover in himself the basis for false expectations. Failing inner resources on either side, there is only rancor and animosity (69).
A woman’s undeveloped animus can capture her in feelings of worthlessness and despair, or tie her outer life to an authoritarian father figure or an abusive partner. A healthy and true relationship to the animus, on the other hand, will give her more self-confidence, and will support her creativity and intellectual efforts.
I love the advice Daryl Sharp gives to couples who are aware of theory in analytical psychology and who are working to individuate within the “container,” or temenos of their marriage. He writes:
You work on a relationship by shutting your mouth when you are ready to explode; by not inflicting your affect on the other person; by quietly leaving the battlefield and tearing your hair out; by asking yourself–not your partner–what complex in you was activated, and to what end. The proper question is not, “Why is she doing that to me?” or “Who does he think he is?” but rather, “Why am I reacting in this way? Who do I think he or she is?” And more: “What does this say about my psychology? What can I do about it?” Instead of accusing the other person of driving you crazy, you say to yourself, “I feel I’m being driven crazy–where, or who, in me is that coming from?”
It is true that a strong emotion sometimes needs to be expressed, because it comes not from a complex but from genuine feeling. There is a fine line between the two, and it is extremely difficult to tell one from the other without a container. But when you can tell the difference you can speak from the heart.
Work on yourself and a good relationship will follow. You can either accept who you are and find a relationship that fits, or twist yourself out of shape and get what you deserve. The endless blather that takes place between two complexed people solves nothing. It is a waste of time and energy and as often as not actually makes the situation worse. As Jung put it, when animus and anima meet, the animus draws his sword of power and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seduction (71-72).
The next time your loved one misbehaves and fails to live up to the image you have of him (or her), stop for a moment–right before all hell breaks loose–and ask yourself the great Buddhist question, “Are you sure?” Are you sure that what you think you see is what you see? Are you sure that what you see isn’t your own self, reflected in a mirror?
- She: Understanding Feminine Psychology, by Robert Johnson.
- The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship, by Linda Leonard.
- Animus Aeternus: Exploring the Inner Masculine, by Deldon Anne McNeely.
- Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride, by Marion Woodman.
- The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation, by Marion Woodman.
Jung, Carl (Ed.). Man and His Symbols. New York: Dell, 1964.
Sharp, Daryl. Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My Life as an Elephant. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books, 1998.