The Animus

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.

Anima Redux

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.

The Animus

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.

Relationship Work

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?

Suggested Reading


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.

22 responses to “The Animus”

  1. Aaron Avatar

    Good morning, I hope you’re keeping well.
    I would really appreciate it if you could tell me where exactly Jung speaks about the stages of the animus or whether you drew this from a different author.

    All the best

  2. Xrisi Avatar

    Thank you so much for this eye-opening article. I have copy pasted the chapter Relationship Work to my phone screen to serve as a reminder that i need to adjust my mindset when i catch myself blaming my partner.

  3. Viv Avatar

    A very helpful article. I’ve just come across the concept of animus possession and am reading round the subject; I’ve read some of the books on your list of suggested reading and one is in the post.

  4. erictb Avatar

    I see you mention “Logos”, as associated with the animus; though you don’t mention Eros, which is usually associated with the anima. Actually, someone pointed out to me that Eros should be associated with both anima and animus. (After all, women do have a sex drive, which figures in their attraction to men, whom the animus is projected onto).
    Jung’s thinking reflected a time when women were seen as sexual (in terms of receiving or being objectified) and emotional but not logical to men. Hence, women’s “contrasexual other half” assumed to give them “greater intellectual clarity” and other stuff I’ve read elsewhere.
    That assumption shaped old gender roles, but has changed a lot now.

    But you still wonder, since Jung is the one who also introduced type, why he didn’t take into consideration his Thinking vs Feeling, which parallel his descriptions of the animus and anima, which would stereotypically assume men as Thinkers and women as Feelers, but it is possible for women to be Thinkers and men to be Feelers. That will definitely figure in the dynamic he’s describing.

  5. Raggles Avatar

    Nurturing food for healthful thought. And thanks for turning me on to McNeely’s work!

  6. Cerena Avatar

    Wow, this blog post really started me thinking about my relationship with my animus–externally and internally. I also appreciate how you followed up this article by writing about how you are developing your own relationship with the animus through creativity. Thank you for your synthesis, personal sharing, and book references!

    1. Eve Avatar

      Cerena, you’re welcome. I’m glad you benefitted. Come back and let me know how your own relations with your inner masculine are going. I’m always curious.

  7. yinyin Avatar

    Your true yin yang symbol is like a relic. That yin yang can be found somewhere around Bejing, which is, is , AMAZING! I love it!

  8. woohoo Avatar

    woohoo=lamberakis, by the way

  9. woohoo Avatar

    Eve, You seem to be saying that archetypes are jaded, fixed. I guess I was asking whether archetypes are fluid, changing.

  10. Alida Avatar

    Just think of me like the slow student, with lots of potential and you are helping me catch up. Unfortunately, I know all too well the stereotypical controlling mother in law:)

  11. Eve Avatar

    Alida… well, I suppose we can affect it by talking with it or relating to it, or at least listening to it.

    In analysis, when change occurs it occurs because what has been repressed or suppressed in the unconscious is brought out into the light of day. Then the individual changes; one could also say that the archetype, such as the animus, must change in some way also, even if only by becoming more consciously appropriated.

    For instance, let’s say the animus is being suppressed or projected out onto others. A woman recalls him and begins to deal with him directly. Theoretically, over time, she should become less and less overbearingly opinionated and controlling, and find herself much more able to use her power when it is effective.

    We all know the stereotype of the controlling, bossy mother or mother-in-law; that would be a projected animus who hasn’t been respected by the woman; and probably also an adult child who never really “left home,” so to speak. If that bossy person recalls her projected animus, he should become a more positive influence rather than only manifesting negatively.

    In that sense, I guess what you’re getting at–how our choices might affect the archetype–would be supported.

    Geez, girl, you are making me work and think! Thanks! :o)

  12. Alida Avatar

    Thanks for the clarification. I get it. It’s there and can affect us, but we can’t affect it. In a nutshell. I know it’s more complex, but you know I’m still taking baby steps.

  13. Eve Avatar

    Alida, no, it doesn’t make sense to me, but this is because I clearly haven’t communicated well or often enough about the nature of archetypal figures. I’ll keep working at it, though.

    When children lack a father role model, the actual children are affected–not animus development. The animus affects us, not the other way around. The animus in a woman exists rather independently, almost as if a woman might be possessed by him if she ignores him. She may divorce because of him, but the divorce should not (technically) affect him. He’s more mythical, symbolic, and magical–like an impossible-to-control Peter Pan (though Peter Pan isn’t exactly the best example, except for his uncontrollability)–than like a male figure we can imagine.

    Now, a complex related to growing up fatherless, that could cause a person to “swing too far in either direction.” But the anima? No. He causes a fuss when ignored, suppressed, repressed; but even if a woman totally succeeded at ignoring him for a lifetime, he would still be himself, and she would be the one affected by his outward manifestation which he would do, not her… archetypes have lives of their own, according to Jungian thought.

    I know, it sounds whacky. And it is.

  14. Alida Avatar

    While I agree that they may have little to do with gender roles, I think Lamb brought up a good point in the single mother scenario. When children lack the father role model, doesn’t effect the development of the animus? It seems like there is a lack in balance there. Something that perhaps as they grow the children would swing to far in either direction? Does that make sense?

  15. Eve Avatar

    P.S. I realize that when I write quickly, a lot, and extemporaneously about gender differences, roles, and identities I risk sounding like a person who sees women as stereotypical cookie-bakers and men as stereotypical hunter-gatherers. I do not; but in the interest of brevity (and my brief is not brief!) and attempting dialogue, I am going to communicate large stuff in a small way. Bear with me. In time I think it will become pretty clear what I really think.

  16. Eve Avatar

    Lamb, the anima and animus have little to do with gender roles, really–the apron-clad, stay-at-home mom, baking cookies or the dad leaving for work in his suit, tie, and hat, briefcase in hand.

    The collective archetypes are common to all people, theoretically; the personal ones are rather like the individual children of the great parental archetypes (loosely put). Thus, a culture has its Great Mother archetype (for instance, the Virgin Mary for Westerners), its Hero (Superman), and so on. Then, the individual will have her own animus who manifests in particular ways due to her past, her handicaps, her complexes, her particular place of development of personality, and so on.

    So, to use your example, let’s take the single woman raising children on her own. Whether her ex is available or not, much more of the fathering is going to fall on her than did before hubby left. Perhaps she will solve the inevitable tension of the absent father by becoming a mom-dad. If able, she may integrate her animus to help her. This would look, in practice, like she had more balance than the cookie-baking mom who rushes to console the six-year-old who has just fallen off his bike. If this mother thinks much about her animus and works on integrating him, listening to him, she will hesitate, perhaps, before rushing to help her son, to dry his tears. Her animus may say, “Remember, he needs a father, too,” and she may give him a quick hug, check to see if any bones are broken, and then immediately help him brush himself off and get back onto the bike and try it again, cheering him on.

    If this mother had the luxury of only manifesting the ‘feminine’ all the time, she might merely fuss over her son, take him inside for a cookie and milk, and leave it at that. She might coddle him so that he didn’t have to get back on the bike.

    Yes, this is a rather stereotypical view of gender differences, but everyone knows they exist (the differences, I mean). You can try to make your boys stop shooting one another by taking away their guns, but they will only use sticks and stones for warfare. Boys are more war-like in general; girls like babies and nests and playing house. I think you know what I mean.

    My reading of Jung shows a man who was quite aware that he was a product of his time, and that the principles he saw and taught transcended time, social custom, gender roles, and people’s traditions. This is what made Jung so great–he saw what was there and what had been there from the beginning.

    One could argue about whether archetypes evolve or not. Some would say they do not; most I think would say they do. The basic function and nature of the archetype ought to remain unchanged (theoretically). The mandala as a symbole of the whole self is always a mandala symbolizing the whole self; but what a particular person, culture, or time will do with the symbol will change over time. Does that make sense?

    About it being no longer possible to “think of men as exclusive providers,” I doubt that in reality people ever did unless as a society they were over-identifying with a particular archetype due to an imbalance that existed. Women have always provided for their households, managed money, supervised household help and children, and wielded power. The Proverbs 31 virtuous woman “considers a field and buys it.” God the father, in masculine form “tenderly cares for those with young,” and “Jesus wept.”

    I think it’s probably more useful to look at the eras during which gender roles were more rigid and ask why that was on a large scale. For instance, prior to WWII, when women were doing the bored housewife drill, a correction was needed. The war occurred and suddenly we needed Rosie the Riveter. Women went into the work force in droves and they never really returned en masse to their kitchens much. This corrected an imbalance and allowed women in a post-industrial culture to be more whole.

    I think we are due for a correction as women have become more like men with breasts, and men have become overgrown adolescents because women are better men. What form the correction will take, I don’t know; but I think that we’ll see one within a generation or two, because of the impossibilities inherent in two career-oriented parents trying to reproduce healthy children.

    Since we are energetically driven as much to the shadow as to the hero, one can only tremble with fear or with awe; but I predict a large psychic adjustment.

    1.  Avatar

      eve, I am just finished reading this article and greatly enjoying your insights. Thank you!

  17. Lamberakis Avatar

    Eve, What are the effects, if any, on animi and animae in contemporary economic life? That men are no longer the sole bread winners, for instance… Or that so many single women end up raising children on their own. It is no longer possible to think of men as exclusive providers (hunters) and of women as exclusive nurturers. Is history setting the stage for the evolution of archetypes?

    Thanks for the animus article. Still digesting it.

  18. Eve Avatar

    Deb and Hen, you both touch on parenting. Nothing has driven me to distraction or to the arms of God more than being a parent, for I do not want to hurt my children through sins of ommission or commision.

    I find myself angry when I ignored the warning signals several incidents, hours, or paragraphs earlier with this child or that. I’m bad that way sometimes, Hen… I know they’re pushing my buttons, but I must think in the moment that I’m omnipotent or am wearing lead underwear and can withstand their child super-powers. But then, BLAMMO!

    I must put myself in time out.

    Deb, I think you put it best when you said that you have to have it within you in order to give it. I guess this means that we have to be that kind and gently encouraging parent to ourselves first–or sometimes not only gently encouraging, but able to do a good cheer!

  19. Henitsirk Avatar

    Thanks for these thought-provoking essays. I think I need to work with Sharp’s ideas when I’m mad at my kids, too. Nonviolent Communication teaches us in conflict situations to ask “What are my needs?” to try to get at the root of “Why am I acting this way?” It’s another method of self-reflection, which then can lead us to be able to ask the other what they need.

  20. deb Avatar

    Again, more food for thought. I’ll have to reread it a few more times to make sure I understand it. It reminded me a little of a book I just finished reading, “Becoming the Kind Father”. It encourages men in particular, but I just want a kind parent, to develop their own kind father. An objective, loving parent who gently encourages instead of criticizing.
    Something I wish I could give to my own children but I guess before that can happen, I have to have it within me to give.
    I enjoy your writing, makes me think.

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