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, the archetypal, and thus unconscious, feminine aspect. As a psychic structure, it transcends gender, although by way of introduction I’ll write with reference to Anima influence among men first. Because the anima is an archetype, it also informs and resides with the collective unconscious, exerting a powerful influence on culture.

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 malaise 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 naturally 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 as Eve, Helen, Mary, and Sophia according to classical stages of eroticism.

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 the woman as a 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 easily falls prey to being controlled by her. He may suffer impotence or have 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 Helen of Troy, the Anima is sexual being with collective appeal. 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: he has a fickle heart, and 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 (meaning “wisdom”), 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 still rings true today.1

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.


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.” 2

Suggested Reading


1 Jung, Carl (Ed.). Man and His Symbols. (New York: Dell, 1964) 195.

2 Ibid., 198.

50 responses to “The Anima”

  1. Eve Avatar

    P. P. S. I wrote “pretend to love them” (minorities) because I think that our culture does project them out there because we, in fact, do NOT love them as we ought or will.

    I say this because there’s too much evidence to the contrary (it’s called bigotry), and yet we’ve also made progress. Everyone says they are not prejudiced, but if you could see every single person’s immediate reaction if their beloved [insert family relationship HERE] came out of the closet or came home married to a black man or woman, or [insert minority identifier HERE], well then the truth would be out.

    I see this as a mother of minority race children all the time. My black son is pulled over by white cops 6-10 times for every one time as my white son of about the same age, and in similar, four-door sedans. He has been questioned for simply walking through our neighborhood.

    Anyway, I think the culture over-compensates and we think it’s good news (like the cheers breaking out at Rowling’s announcement over Dumbledore), whereas a *real* action (IMHO) would have been to have him be openly gay from the very beginning, end of story. For the love of God, what is wrong with people when we are so easily fooled?

    Oh, yes… what’s wrong is that we aren’t seeing our own stuff. Maybe we can work on seeing it together, for (again IMHO) there is a bigot in every single human being. Yes, I said “every.”


  2. Eve Avatar

    P.S. Rizzo, yes, I do think your anima is crying out. You might as well ask her what her name is and take her to “bring your anima to work day” (isn’t that at the end of this month?).

    It seems to me that you’re right on target with knowing yourself. And do read Iron John when you have time (you can get the audio book you know).

    You surprise me with every comment.

  3. Eve Avatar

    Rizzo, now they have me calling you Rizzo for some reason. It sounds spicy and Italian, and then it makes me think of Primo’s and… well, you know that a dinner is well past due. Park the baby, grab your wife, and let’s go drink wine and eat Italian food and talk about archetypes. We can read poetry too if you want. ;o)

    When I finish this thing on Once Upon a Time, I think I will take the plunge into homosexuality and try to work it through Biblically and archetypally to see what happens. I think it wants to be worked through. I think so for a variety of reasons, only one of which is “The Family Stone,” which was my favorite movie of the holiday season last year (though it wasn’t new).

    I saw it at the theater and loved it, but hubby (at that time) couldn’t bring himself to love it because of the gay couple who adopted a child. We have a deceased gay brother we’re missing and dealing with, and we have lots of adoption. But I loved that couple in the movie. There’s a scene toward the end where these partners are turning out lights in the kitchen, preparing to walk back to their little bed and breakfast, and their love for one another, their tender looks, are just, well… real. They are an archetype of what partners of all types ought to be, really. And they happen to be gay.

    Now, for sure, I didn’t like that we now seem to have an obligatory gay or lesbian couple in every damn movie. I am getting sick of that. It’s becoming a stereotype in the worst way, as if every single thing we do has to be politically correct and we have to include every single freaking type of person in every single freaking thing we write, view, think, say, sing, or dance.

    Really, that would only be necessary if we as a culture were so full of ambivalence (or hatred) of all our archetypal minorities that we had to project them outward so we could pretend to love them there, rather than regarding them as part of our inner landscapes and really loving them because we lived with them every day.

    Oh… wait a second… oh, ho hum. Looky here what I just noticed…! There’s that elephant under the rug.

    So, I love the movie. Not only because of the gay guys (darling men), but because of the whole movie, the projected animas and animuses running wild, the shadow, the whole man archetype (the father, the professor, played by Crag T. Nelson), and so on. But, that movie inspired me to go down many thought paths, and issues surrounding homosexuality was one of them.

    I never thought about working through an issue publicly like this. I’m not sure I have a complex, because I don’t have a lot of emotion attached to it… but I do have what I think is a healthy amount of self-curiosity and a need to think this through for myself. I’ve thought through a great many other things from a Biblical and Christian perspective, but this is one I’ve neglected. I need to go back to it again, in my second adulthood, and see what I see.

    You guys are helping me to be real about doing this, Rizzo and “A” (and also Hymes), and so thanks. And yes, Rizzo, I’d love to chat with you about this. I think you should skip the email and we better go straight to Primo’s, post haste.

  4. Smiler Avatar

    And a lovely sight that must be. ‘-)

  5. Eve Avatar

    Smiler, I’m glad you’re enjoying the archetypes series. I’m going to be completing it this week (I hope) with a view to illustrating through myth how the story of individuation is told over and over again from age to age. It’s exciting and captivating stuff!

    I’ve written about archetypes before, including for my last master’s thesis. However, I haven’t had it published yet. There’s already a great deal of stuff already published out there (Inner City Books, for example, publishes so many wonderful little depth psychology books) that I don’t see the need to re-hash most of what I’m publishing here.

    However, I have my archetypal hobby horses I like to ride, and ride them I will. Perhaps even to a publisher eventually. For now, I’m just practicing writing, and getting back out into the world after living in my ivory tower for a long time.

    Just imagine me tossing my hair like Rapunzel. ;o)

  6. Smiler Avatar

    I’m loving this series. I want to come back and read it again and again. Are you considering publishing it? Because you should.

  7. Frank_Rizzo Avatar


    Let me go ahead and air something before I address your comment. I believe the act of intercourse between the same genders is wrong. I also am one of the few intelligent conservative Christians who can and will have an intelligent conversation with someone I disagree with. I will not yell at you, condemn you to hell, make fun of you, or preach to you. I am not here to change your mind, I am here to discuss and learn from you. Hopefully we will sharpen each other. So, whatever I may say; you as a person I do not judge. You as a person I accept with open arms.

    So, I have to ask, does being gay change yourself identifying as a man? Does being gay somehow change the very nature of your being? If so, I would wonder if transgendered is the correct term. Therefore I would have to agree with Eve, in saying that Jungian archetypes apply to men, regardless of being gay or straight. At least these are my current views on this subject. I find that if this is not the case, something must be deeply different within a gay person. There would have to be something that makes them so drastically different that developmentally they are not the same as I am. I have to admit that I do not think gay men to be that dissimilar to me developmentally. You or someone else may have something else to say however.

    Eve, the more you talk about homosexuality, the more impressed I am. You are not saying much on the subject, but what you have said interests me greatly. This is also something I have been struggling with lately. With many of the statements you have made I wonder if we are finding the same things. Perhaps I will send you a private message one day with my thoughts on the issue and we can compare and see how similar they are. Unfortunately they are quite jumbled and I am a bit too lazy to organize them right now.

  8. Frank_Rizzo Avatar

    Thanks for the explanation Eve, it was very interesting. May I proudly say that I have Iron John on my bookshelf? May I hang my head and say that I haven’t read it yet 🙂

    I find it interesting that I said in an earlier post that most of the feminine qualities that I find myself attracted to internalizing are usually from artistic people that I know. You mentioned in the Sophia section that she serves as the artist’s muse, which I find intriguing. Perhaps my own Sophia is trying to point me towards these attributes in other people? I also find it interesting that these are people who only a couple years ago I looked at as wusses, overly feminine. Now I don’t necessarily think any different, I just find attributes they possess that I am sometimes envious of.

    Take for instance my brother-in-law. He is quite the artist. He floats through life, no direction, no care to how he will support himself, he just wants to perform. My deep masculine side despises him for not being that provider. Then I see how much he cares for his friends, how he internalizes their problems, empathizes with them, and cares so much he finds himself depressed about his friends struggles. I don’t want this to the degree that he has it, but am finding the “It’s your own damn problem, deal with it” attitude to be most unhelpful also.

    Is this perhaps my anima overpowering my animus and saying “Hey, I need to get out and breathe a little”?

  9. Eve Avatar

    To answer your question about archetypes, A, yes and no. Yes, if we are talking about archetypes of the collective unconscious. They are generalized because they’re common to all of us. For instance, we “get” Harry Potter because he’s that orphan archetype; we “get” Dumbledore or Gandalf as the Wise Old Man, McGonogal as the Wise Old Woman, etc.

    In terms of personal archetypes, there are not as many generalizations to be made. We can say that a man with too much anima can be bitchy at his worst, or that a woman with too much animus can be rigidly opinionated and controlling. This would be true whether a person was straight or gay.

    The balanced, individuated person should be able to integrate his or her personal archetypes, such as shadow, anima/animus, wise old man, hero, divine couple, etc., along with the persona and the ego. They work together rather like aspects of temperament.

    I heard on a Jungian book on CD the other day that at a very early biological stage of gender identification, there’s a sort of cellular struggle between male and female to see which ‘side’ will win out. The winner determines the fetus’s gender identity, but the loser’s genetic stuff remains buried in the biology of the fetus.

    Supposing this is true, then at some point the lost material is going to want an influence, too. We see that often older men become much more feminine after retirement, and older women become more masculine. Their social roles have given way to more balanced identities.

    I don’t have many answers in this area because I haven’t had the reasons to think about it as you have. I do think that more students of these issues are needed who will grow up to be theorists. Perhaps you’re one.

    The area in which I have given more thought to it is Biblical and I have much work to do still in that regard, to try to work through questions that remain for me. Having said that, might I suggest that perhaps “original orientation” is something of an error in thinking, regardless of where a person is going with it?

    “Originally,” what are we? Male? Female? Straight? Gay? No. When the Bible says “two become one,” it takes us back to the time when all was one and points us to oneness again. We know that only one marriage will exist (Biblically speaking) in eternity, making what I think I know here rather moot, right?

    We could probably speculate about female attraction. Just because you don’t externalize it through attraction to actual females doesn’t mean you don’t have the attraction. Maybe you find your own anima enough? That would still be attraction to the theoretically, symbolically feminine, no?

    Put another way, supposing a woman like my grandmother is widowed. She never marries again, saying that one marriage and one love was enough to last her a lifetime. Does this mean my grandmother wasn’t attracted to men any more? No. It meant that my grandmother transcended the need for marriage and entered into advanced widowhood (Widowhood 4113, heh). She didn’t need another man for companionship or love, as her relationship to God, family and herself was enough. Nobody would suggest that she was unbalanced for these reasons.

    I don’t think that God made us to carry sexual issues with us eternally, and I think that we have to look beyond them if we can, to see what’s actually going to last. Sex is great and all, but if given the choice between carnal knowledge or merging with the God of the universe, I’ll take the God merge, thanks!

  10. A Avatar

    Thanks for the response (and research), Eve! I really appreciate your thoughts on the matter. At the moment, I don’t have the time to spend on reading much outside of assigned reading. Interesting as it is, I sometimes wish I could read some heavier stuff on the side, but it’s just not possible (I tried last year and ended up with a “B” in a class. Unacceptable.)

    The reason I ask is that I don’t identify at ALL with the “bitchy gay man” that you mention. And it would seem that my personality/psyche would fit more with this progression, but minus the female attraction. I have grown to believe that I have always had same-sex attractions, and there wasn’t a point in time when my “original” orientation was damaged, altered, etc. to result in a homosexual orientation. If this is the case, then there are some stages that I didn’t pass through at age-appropriate times. Internally, probably, but you can only get so far without a third part in terms of psychological (or sexual) development, and I just didn’t have this “third party.” So many social norms stood in the way, so any that I did have were guilt-ridden and negatively-associated. I’m learning how to change that, and it’s a process. I understand what you’re saying about “identifying with an archetype” and how that can be damaging in the long-term. Archetypes only serve a purpose insofar as they put a description to a general phenomenon. Am I right in this? I studied archetypes and wrote a term paper on them for a wonderful English professor in high school, but my understanding may have been just that – sophomoric.

    I’ll certainly look into that book. I may be able to get it through the university library. There’s an inter-school loan program that allows me access to many California university libraries.

  11. Eve Avatar

    Alida, hahaha! I can so identify with you. I’m still raising children, myself, which is exactly why I keep my buddy Jung and his cronies handy. They keep me on my toes!

  12. Alida Avatar

    Hold the tylenol, I’m getting the hang of this. I’ve been raising kids for the past five years. So great to read something stimulating. My son is just learning to read and as much fun as it is to hear him read “Tub Fun”, I was afraid my brain was turning to mush.

    You’ve saved me Eve, I owe you.

  13. Mary Joan Koch Avatar

    Eve, I am reading these wonderful posts. I just haven’t had time to write a thoughtful comment yet.

  14. Eve Avatar

    RG, thanks for the proofreading! You’re correct, I did mean to write anima.

    Deb, yes, men can get stuck in their anima development, and often do. Most men, Jung said, never reach the fourth stage (nor do most women ever reach the last stage of animus development).

    One could speculate about whether compassion is exclusively the realm of the feminine or not; but, to answer your question, what a man who refuses his anima might be faced with would vary (as you suggested) by the individual. Though it paints my answer broadly, I’d guess that a man in that situation might choose a partner or spouse who embodies his outcast compassion; or his unconscious parts might be sentimental and emotional (dreams, fantasies, etc.). Or he may go the other direction entirely and become mean. The basic rule of thumb is that whatever is denied internally, manifests externally. Or, as Jesus put it, whatever his whispered in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. His handicap would be obvious in some way to everyone but himself, probably.

    “A,” this is a good question. My short answer to your question is yes, I think that the progression would be the same for a gay man, and I’ll ramble on a bit and tell you why I think so.

    Jung didn’t write at length about homosexuality, but what he did say is interesting and seems balanced to me. He didn’t see being gay as an aberration of a natural orientation, or as a pathology, as you suggested–not as an illness in itself. He saw the potentially neurotic effects of the lifestyle, and acknowledged that it was so widespread that seeing it as a perversion or an illness was “dubious.” Instead, he regarded homosexuality as arising from possibilities, among which were a partial attachment to the hermaphrodite archetype, or an over-identification with the anima; or, then again, in some men it might be a compulsion to identify with a one-sided sexual being. Any of these reasons for being gay might or might not be negative, depending on the individual and how he lived his life in relation to other aspects of wholeness. He wrote somewhere that Adam was, in effect, also a one-sided sexual being and that some homosexuals might be trying to regain their Adams, so to speak.

    My own thoughts on the possible relation between being gay and being over-identified with the anima is to look at the description of the bitchy anima and then think about gay men I’ve known or know now; some are exactly the picture of the bitchy, moody, less-than-a-woman anima. Others are normal gay men. I’d say that if the over-identified-with-the-anima shoe fits, a guy should wear it. What he may think comes off as gay may be no more than neurotic over-identification with his anima, which does no one any good and is merely grating. Make sense?

    Freud considered homosexuality a perversion of a person’s sexuality, even though he also taught that humans were innately bisexual–to which I think that Jung’s theories of the anima and animus proved a sensible and beautiful counterpoint. Jung didn’t write much about homosexuality, and since he wrote at great length and deeply about a variety of other topics, my best guess is that he didn’t see it as compelling enough to pick on. During his time, other theorists such as Freud did openly state that homosexuality could be a perversion (or was one… I have to check my facts so I hesitate to stick with “was”); I have to conclude that Jung was not being “politically correct,” since in his time being homophobic was being politically correct. Rather, I think he takes the sensible position of expecting the homosexual to make a case for his own psychological health–the proof’s in the pudding, then.

    There has been some writing on Jungian thought and gay issues. Men’s Studies Press has a journal article here that sounds interesting, and possibly addresses your question by indicating that the same archetypal myths apply to people regardless of sexual orientation. Also, Robert Hopcke has written a book called Jung, Jungians, and Homosexuality about the issue. I haven’t read the book, and don’t really want to buy it at $24.00 (ouch)… but if you decide to buy it and read it, I’d like to know what you think.

    The reviews I’ve read on his book seem neutral enough, but fellow Jungians are saying that Hopcke stretches things by inferring from Jung’s few comments about homosexuality that the gay man does embody the hermaphrodite archetype and it’s OK to do so. If this is Hopcke’s thesis (and I can’t know it is without having read the book for myself), I would have to disagree with him, namely because Jung repeatedly wrote that identifying with an archetype is a psychological mistake and cannot be sustained over time due to its destructive nature. Perhaps (I think) it can be sustained for a very long time, although not without very lasting consequences.

    I’m not a Jungian analyst so much of what I write is going to be speculative or simple common sense, which may or may not work for you. But, as I said, I lean toward believing that all the archetypes would function in similar ways for a gay man as for a straight one–that is, he would have an anima, not an animus; his wise old man would still be a wise old man–although we know for sure now that his wise old man archetype might in fact be DUMBLEDORE!

    Hee hee hee!

    (Now don’t get all offended, everyone… I am just having fun!)

  15. renaissanceguy Avatar

    Good job, Eve. Even a non-expert can follow your explanation.

    I don’t want to be picky, but you have an error in the first paragraph that you might want to correct. You wrote animus where you meant anima. I’m just trying to help!

    Feel free to proofread my blog anytime.

  16. deb Avatar

    This was a very interesting post. Do men always pass through these stages? Can they get stuck?

    “In other words, whatever qualities a man does not recognize or develop within himself will confront him in real life.”

    So a man who does not develop compassion, what happens to him? How is he confronted with this undeveloping quality? Or is it different for everyman?

  17. A Avatar

    Okay, question. How does this paradigm change with a gay man (obviously asking for self-interest). This isn’t an “abstract” progression, and has many manifestations mentioned in each stage. Are they similar for a same-sex-attracted man? This is assuming that Jung’s view of homosexuality is not that it’s an aberration of a “natural” orientation – in essence, a pathology.

  18. Eve Avatar

    Eh, you got me! I’m writing about the animus tomorrow. I’ll even post photos of Tarzan!

    I dunno where Rizz is… we’ll have to hunt him down. Tarzan… hunt… oh my.

  19. Lamberakis Avatar

    Where’s Rizz?

  20. Lamberakis Avatar

    Next, write about the animus, please. I’m hooked, OK? I’m sure that’s clear. I’m your groupie.

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