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).