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).

Theoretically, a man’s anima development proceeds through these stages as he grows older. When the possibilities of one have been exhausted, the psyche stimulates the move to the next stage. This move seldom happens without a struggle or a crisis of some sort that helps to move a man forward in his anima development, but the move forward is always worthwhile, for it leads him ever onward, to his true inner home.

Pitfalls

As with any psychological content, anima relations have their pitfalls. For example, a man may be captured by his anima, so to speak, and so identify with her that he finds her in an actual woman, marries or partners with her, and is led away from his responsibility to himself. In fairy tales, this problem is often represented by the false bride character.

When inner realities are not recognized or owned, they appear in the outside world through projection. Thus, if a man’s anima is lonely and desperate for attention, he will tend to fall in love with dependent women who demand his time and energy. The man with a mother-bound anima will choose a woman who wants to take care of him. The man not living up to his potential will be attracted to women who goad him on and make more of him than he would otherwise be. In other words, whatever qualities a man does not recognize or develop within himself will confront him in real life.

Negative manifestations of the ignored or repressed anima can be seen in a man’s waspish and poisonous remarks, whereby he gives the image of a person playing a destructive intellectual game. He may become such a pseudo-intellectual that he loses all joy and spontaneity in life and becomes stalled by always ruminating on it.

Jung pointed out that the problem of admiring or worshiping the anima in a collective sense, as in goddess worship, is that she loses her individual aspects as soon as she is shared. A man’s anima is meant to be his and his alone; once she is projected into the world rather than integrated into his very being, a man becomes either a “victim of his erotic fantasies or compulsively dependent on one actual woman” (Jung 198).

How She Serves

The anima serves the man by working as his guide to the unconscious. Like the animus in a woman, the anima also becomes the mediator of the religious experience “whereby life acquires new meaning” (Jung 207). Without the anima development, a man finally arrives at a place in his life where he realizes his life is without meaning. This is an indication that he has some work to do with his anima. The man who recalls his anima projections and becomes to himself what he longs to find outside himself finds that his suffering is worthwhile, for it makes him a deeper, more vibrantly alive, and creative human being.

Suggested Reading

References

Sharp, Daryl. The Survival Papers: Anatomy of a Midlife Crisis. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1988.

Jung, Carl (Ed.). Man and His Symbols. New York: Dell, 1964.

 

37 responses

  1. Pingback: [ENTP] so what do you think of the idea of archetypes? - Page 2

  2. Great information:

    A Jungian writer I was communicating with mentioned these stages (generically, as “biological mother”, “romantic and erotic lover”, “spiritualized muse”, and “a source of inner wisdom”.
    A man stuck in the mother phase is a “puer” (exemplified by Peter Pan and other similar characters), who will often suffer the “madonna/whore syndrome”, marrying an innocent woman but being drawn to less innocent mistresses on the side, or just not being able to settle down.

    It’s clear what a projection of the first two phases is like, but I was wondering what projection of the “spiritualized muse” (“Mary”, it seems; though you would think Mary would represent the “Mother”) is like. You say he “is able to see a woman as she is, independent of his own needs” and “he can tell the difference between the object of his desire and his inner image of woman”. Does that mean seeing a woman as inspiring, and liking her a lot (as a woman), but being able to separate this from being driven to pursue her sexually or romantically?

    I take it the fourth phase is not projected onto women at all, because this is when we’ve integrated it, right? (Though I was told we cannot completely own the anima, and the most we could do would be like bringing home a bucket of water from the ocean rather than owning the ocean. The ocean I imagine, representing the depths of the entire unconscious).
    Have no idea what this phase is like. Must be nice to have it all inside and not project onto women.

    • I understand them all to be mythical aspects of women. Even Sophia. But they go from the instinctual to the spiritual, so in that sense there is a development. And a man with a developed anima can see a woman through all these mythical lenses, even the lower stages: a caregiver, a lover, a friend, a source of wisdom. So I think Sophia is still a projection, but a more spiritual one, and at that stage the man has also the capability to see the lower stages. But I’m no expert on this, but that’s how I’m thinking now.

  3. Hello everyone, I’m writing a piece about the designer Alexander McQueen and how one of his collections was influenced by his anima. I’m aware that Jung had the four stages, namely Eve, Helen etc. The earlier stages seem to be described above in terms of man’s DonJuan complex etc, lusting after women. How does it manifest in the world of a gay man not interested in pursuing woman as sexual objects of desire. Clearly McQueen was gay, thus the question. Any help would be superbly appreciated. Namaste.

    • Hi, Linda. Thanks for such a great question! I’m so intrigued. My initial response is that the anima and animus are simply words for the masculine and feminine principles. Thus, a gay man would have an inner masculine principle, and an inner feminine principle. These aren’t strictly gender-based. For instance, the masculine principle goes and gets something; it’s the focused part. I call the masculine the pointy part, the compass needle. Its characteristics arise from our biology, to be sure, but also go beyond biology since at our highest level of functioning we are one and experience oneness (no male or female, as I think Christ said).

      The gay man who isn’t interested in pursuing a woman as a sexual object of desire nevertheless experiences (theoretically) all of the stages of his own inner development of anima and animus. He may relate to them differently than he would were he straight, but he’d still experience movement from a less mature state to a more mature one as he moved through life with intentions of growth.

      In the case of McQueen, what does the collection show about the anima influence? I mean what do you see (not what you think you should see, or what you think Jung might say–Jung said, “I thank God I am not a Jungian!” haha!)… but what do you see? When you look at earlier collections and later ones, what in particular stands out about the collection to which you refer?

      I did some in-depth work on Van Gogh one year for a master’s degree, and was amazed and thrilled to see changes in his mental or spiritual state objectified, as it were, through his work at various times. If you try to understand the work as symbolic (and not mere signs pointing the way), then you may be able to see what McQueen was showing of his inner life. Whether his anima relation was as a friend or lover, sister or mother, doesn’t really matter. Do we even know that it *was* something that came out of his relationship to the anima? What if it was his animus? And, remember, these are just handy terms. It’s always a temptation to look at the pointing finger instead of at the moon it points to. Look for the moon, see what you see, and stick with it. Hope this makes sense!

  4. Once at 23, I escaped from the Anima and Shadow. It was through 3 months of self energized mindfulness training. No sex and no masturbation. Acting totally and purposefully out of character on whatever occasion it was possible; constantly questioning choice and outcome, to the massive confusion of others (but so what, projections are there to be explored and broken, everyone is free to do this, so no guilt attached). At the end of three months a portentous dream. Flying down stairs with a 23 year old female dressed in a virginal white dress with a ‘hoodbog’ a James Dean Shadow character chasing me. The Anima calling to him “capture him’. And ‘i’ running away from them, while they were fast gaining. They caught up again with me again. Projections returned. Now starts the second attempt. This time as a Buddhist monk in 10 years time. The anima and shadow can be transcended. All the archetypes of the CC can be left behind. In this way you are no longer human, but a arhat (a noble being, beyond definitions of good and evil, a noble one. Inert. Consciousness free from the bind of energy and matter, the content of the archetypes, archetypes lose their ‘inflation’ and eventually disappear. Never really had a need for them anyway. Not when Nibbana beckons. “You may call me a dreamer, but i’m not the only one.” One day you’ll join us, and the world will be one (in consciousness – projection free – Jung was good, but his ego got in the way, as does ‘mine’, ‘me’, ‘i’. Whatever they ‘really’ are. Illusions as illusive as the archetypes that underly them). There always equations to balance. As i am seeing with my daughters choice of partner, my sons behavior, my niece and nephew, even my ‘exteriorized’ anima wife. Interesting to see the connections that the CC creates to balance equations. No longer it matters to ‘me’. For the freedom ‘i’ seek is no stranger to ‘me’. Purpose and toil take their toll, but no longer a sage to them am ‘i’. No sage at all with care minimized, no longer caring if its day or night. Seeing all as one, no longer death being the final one.

    For his genius Jung was still a product of his time. With a ego to boot. Buddha the teacher, is greater than he, the path blazed, is the path for me. The 3 states of reality, consciousness, energy and matter, through this realization, all intertwine. Give shape to the form and the structure that confines. Boundaries no more, freedom beckons, of to Nibbana the trail to blaze.

    • Wonderful comments! Yes, indeed; I think probably Jung would agree with you that he had far to go as a person (or non-person, as the case may be). He was contributing what he had, which was monumental; I think this was his task rather than actually doing what he saw *could* be done. I so enjoyed this comment. YOu are on a good path, Demar Mau. Thank you for sharing.

      I’m reminded of this: “If you see a Buddha on the path, kill him.”

  5. Stranger, no, the anima and animus don’t merge; they remain archetypes in their own right, each individually. This is the theory. However, another archetype, that of the Divine Couple or Royal Couple, may be what you’re intuiting when you ask this question. We know somewhere deep within us that we’re meant to contain it all, to “enlarge our hearts,” as the Bible says, and to grow into wholeness.

    Jung suggested several representations of wholeness such as the mandala, the Divine Couple, even the hermaphrodite.

  6. Hi, could you answer this question.
    If I’m stuck in the first stage of development, Eve, how do I move out of it? Consciously I realise that I’m just projecting the ability to provide love, nurturing and security onto women, which is unhealthy, but how do I move past that? My conscious realisation of this fact hasn’t removed the desire to receive love, nurturing and security. All I’ve been able to do is grieve over the fact that nobody can provide me with these.

    Regards

    • Yury, hello and welcome. If you already realize you’re projecting, then you are well on your way. If you’ll read through some of what I’ve written about projection (such as the information about how we recall our projections and begin the inner work), that can point you in the right direction. Jung taught that no one is ever entirely free of projections or entirely conscious, although we have archetypes and historical role models (Buddha, Jesus, etc.). It’s a lifelong work, but a very exciting and meaningful one, no?

      I think I understand what you mean about grieving over the fact that no one else can ever entirely contain you or gratify you. What we did not get from our parents we can never fully regain. Many argue that we could never have fully gotten it from our parents, either, because we are spiritual beings who need Spirit to fill the voids. If not spiritual, then we go inward, becoming spelunkers into the caves of our own unconscious. You can learn to love yourself, nurture yourself, and find security in a vast and unpredictable universe. I do believe there is love, and I believe that if you give your self the time he needs, you will find your anima (your female half) in there longing to help. Let me know how you are doing!

      • I was wondering if it was possible for the anima and animus to bacome one being? I mean the anima and animus becoming genderless.

        • I don’t think they can become one; not in this incarnation. But I do believe that they can reach such a tremendous harmony (say with Buddha and Jesus) that their different aspects blur into one. I think that is what is exciting about working through each of the stages of Anima/Animus development.

  7. I’m curious about what you think of the symbolic interaction of two archetypes, for instance an archetype paired together as a couple, specifically homosexual couples.

    I’ve noticed in todays society that two women together sexually is highly appealing to men as well as homosexual women. For homosexual men to women and society it seems the opposite because of their feminine attraction to another male is viewed as weak.

    Of course there is a following of women being attracted to the thought of homosexual men but its not as prominate in society or a women would never admit it because they think it would bring shame on them.

    So what do you think? two women archetypes being mates somehow provide a symbolic double-whammy for a man or two swords paired together is double the masculine archetypal power? I think I formulated my curiousity to this matter well enough to my knowledge and understanding of this article, so excuse me if it seems silly, I am primarily a hobbyist when it comes to psychology.

  8. On the topic of ANIMA, readers may want to read my (lengthy) Jungian-derived movie review that I hasd published in ERBZINE last year: “See Tarzan and Jane Finally Meet Their Match! Archetypal Images and Erotic Sub-Texts in TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934)and TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD (1966).” In this article, I identify JANE of the Tarzan films as an iconic/cinematic re-presentation of first-stage anima EVE.

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