The Anima

 I wrote earlier about archetypes and their function, briefly touching upon the anima and animus.  In this post, I’ll write about the anima, since one of the commentators to another post asked for more information about this, the man’s inner female self.

Psychologically, the anima functions in a man as his soul, so to speak. Jung described the anima as “the archetype of life itself,” and maintained an ongoing dialogue and partnership with his personal anima. When a man is full of life he is “animated.” The man with no connection to his soul feels dull and listless; he also appears to be dull, listless, and boring. Whether we call it depression or boredom, this particular loss of soul has been around since the dawn of time. For thousands of years, among so-called primitive peoples, this state of being has been known as loss of soul.

This inner feminine often appears in a man’s dreams about the same time as his shadow self appears. His anima will be a female figure, while his shadow side will be male. A man’s inner image of woman is initially determined by his experience of his personal mother or closest female caregiver. It is later modified through contact with other women–friends, relatives, teachers–but the experience of the personal mother is so powerful and long-lasting that a man is naturlaly attracted to those women who are much like her–or, as often happens, her direct opposite. That is to say, he may yearn for what he’s known, or seek to escape it at all costs.

The anima personifies all the feminine psychological tendencies within the man, such as prophetic hunches, intuitions, moods, receptivity, capacity for personal love, a feeling for nature, and his relation to the unconscious. Just as in ancient times, females were used as diviners to fathom the divine will, to translate it, and to make a connection between man and the gods, so too the anima connects a man to the great unknown.

Stages of Anima Development

Jung distinguished four broad stages of the anima in the course of a man’s psychological development. He personified these, according to classical stages of eroticism, as Eve, Helen, Mary and Sophia.

In the first stage, Eve, the man’s anima is completely tied up with the mother–not necessarily his personal mother, but the image of woman as faithful provider of nourishment, security, and love. The first eve represents all that is natural, instinctual, and biological. The man with an anima of this type cannot function well without a vital connection to a woman and is easy prey to being controlled by her. He frequently suffers impotence or has no sexual desire at all. Other ways in which this type of anima possession manifests are through fear of accidents or disease, or in a sort of dullness of personality. The Greek Sirens or the German Lorelei personify this dangerous aspect of the anima, which may even lead a man to his death. This illustrates what is true of other psychological content, namely that it has two aspects, benevolent and malefic.

In the second stage, personified in the historical figure of Helenof Troy, the anima is a collective sexual image. She is Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Angelina Jolie. The man under her spell is often a Don Juan who engages in repeated sexual adventures. These will invariably be short-lived, for two reasons: (1) he has a fickle heart, and (2) no real woman can live up to the expectations that go with this unconscious, ideal image.

The third stage of the anima is Mary, who raises love to the heights of spiritual devotion. It manifests in religious feelings and a capacity for genuine friendship with women. The man with an anima of this kind is able to see a woman as she is, independent of his own needs. His sexuality is integrated into his life, not an autonomous function that drives him. He can differentiate between love and lust. He is capable of lasting relationships because he can tell the difference between the object of his desire and his inner image of woman.

In the fourth stage, as Sophia (called Wisdom in the Bible), a man’s anima functions as a guide to the inner life, mediating to consciousness the contents of the unconscious. Sophia is behind the need to grapple with the grand philosophical issues, the search for meaning. She is Beatrice in Dante’s Inferno, the creative muse in any artist’s life. She is a natural mate for the archetypal wise old man in the male psyche. Jung commented that “in the psychic development of modern man this stage is rarely reached,” a comment first published in 1964 and which I find very interesting indeed (195).

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: