Anima and Animus
Note: In some cases, the anima and animus have different characteristics and behaviors. However, because the same statements can often be made about both, I have shortened the phrase "anima and animus" to the abbreviated "anima/us."
Jump to the following topics:
- What is it?
- We are androgynous.
- It differs from the masculine and feminine stereotypes.
- It has contrary qualities.
- We need to express it.
- It becomes more apparent at midlife.
- We project it.
- Many of our relationships are based on projections of it.
What is it? Carl Jung said, "The anima is a personification of all feminine tendencies in a man's psyche ..."; thus, the animus is the personification of all masculine tendencies in a woman. Beginning in childhood, we create our gender identity and roles (consciously or unconsciously) by enhancing the qualities which characterize our gender, and repressing or suppressing the qualities which characterize the other gender. But those repressed or suppressed qualities are still within us -- the feminine qualities within the man and the masculine within the woman. (This sorting-out process is similar to the one by which we create our ego through the enhancement of particular qualities while putting the opposite qualities into our shadow.)
We are androgynous. "Androgynous" means that we have both male and female traits. We can view this androgyny from various perspectives:
- Spirit -- the substance of which both the soul is composed -- is androgynous, in the sense that it contains all "opposites," including male and female. Thus, soul can incarnate into either a male body or a female body.
- Even in the biological realm, we are somewhat androgynous; Jung noted that men contain some female genes, and women contain some male genes.
It differs from the masculine and feminine stereotypes. Society has created those stereotypes arbitrarily, by encouraging men and women to have different behaviors, attire, occupations, etc. However, Jung presented the concept of the anima/us not in the sense of those stereotypes but as the archetypes of Eros and Logos. Eros (the female) is associated with human relationships, earthiness, receptivity, creativity, and passivity. Logos (the male) is identified with power, abstraction, and action. We don't experience the Logos and Eros as archetypes; we experience them in their manifested forms which have the peculiarities of our culture and of the people whom we have known of the opposite gender -- particularly our father or mother.
It has contrary qualities. Just as the anima and animus are opposites of one another, they have opposite traits within themselves.
- The male's anima.
- The anima has positive traits. When the anima is allowed to express herself through a man's psyche, she brings the attributes of feelings, emotions, tenderness, relatedness, commitment and fidelity, friendship, love and compassion, imagination, gentleness, romance, creativity, intuition, and a sense of aesthetics.
- The anima has negative traits. If the anima is rejected, her traits are deformed: feelings and emotions are replaced by moodiness, sentimentality, hysteria, or bitchiness; fidelity becomes possessiveness; aesthetics become sensuality; tenderness becomes effeminacy; imagination becomes mere fantasizing (particularly of sexual adventures); love and romance are twisted into a series of turbulent relationships or the man's withdrawal from his wife and family. The spurned anima does more than thrust her own feminine qualities into expression (however warped); she also disturbs the man's masculinity by, for example, degrading his thinking into the weak opinionating.
- The animus has positive traits. The animus can endow a woman with assertiveness, courage, analytical thought, strength, vitality, decisiveness, a focused attentiveness, and a desire for achievement.
- The animus has negative traits. If the animus must push his way past the woman's resistance, his qualities are corrupted: assertiveness becomes aggression and ruthlessness; analytical thought becomes argumentativeness; focus becomes mechaniztic behavior.
We need to express it. Like all archetypes, Logos and Eros are autonomous, impersonal entities which demand expression through every human being -- either internally (through our association with them in our own psyche), or externally (through relationships with people of the opposite gender). When we allow the anima/us to express itself, it enhances our lives. However, when we deny it (i.e., repress it), or we are unaware of it, it forces itself into manifestation anyway, with the following results:
- We are refusing the balancing input from our anima/us, so our gender identification becomes a caricature:
- The man might become a macho, power-hungry, overly competitive brute.
- The woman could become a fluffy, passive, Marilyn-Monroe-type figure with a vague ego and persona.
It becomes more apparent at midlife. During midlife, our repressed qualities become more persistent in their demands for expression. Ideally, our ego has been developed and defined, and so the ego's antitheses can emerge -- the shadow and the anima/us. (Until we have sufficiently strengthened the ego -- including our gender identity -- we do well to retain the anima/us in the shadow, allowing it to express only as much as our ego can tolerate without being overwhelmed.) At mid-life, many people acknowledge their anima/us qualities; we often see post-midlife couples in which the formerly dominant husband has accepted a passive, contemplative role (in the marriage and in society) while his wife has become the invigorated businesswoman or community leader.
We project it. If we do not claim the anima/us as an active part of our lives, it is projected, as we would do with any other psychological force which we do not claim and use; this is like the "projection" of a picture onto a movie screen. As in all types of projection, an anima/us projection is not indiscriminate; it is "hooked" to particular people, depending upon various factors:
- It is a person who closely matches our an image which we took from our earlier experiences with people of that gender. For example, if a woman's personal image of the animus is based on her father's aggressiveness, she would project her animus upon an aggressive man.
- It is a person whose level of refinement matches that of our anima/us. For example, a woman who has cultivated her animus might be drawn to a man who displays intellectual power rather than a man who displays brute physical strength.
Many of our relationships are based on projections of it. We follow this process which is similar to this one:
- We project the anima/us onto a suitable person of the opposite gender. The projection contains more than just an image; it is contains a highly charged energy.
- We are attracted to this image and energy (perhaps more so than to the person). In some cases, the energy is intoxicating; thus, we experience the phenomenon of "falling in love" -- the emotional, sexually charged, fantasy-filled, head-over-heels, mythologized, quasi-spiritual, electrifying, larger-than-life, you-make-me-feel-alive-and-whole, idealized fascination toward someone. However, in truth, we are falling in love with our own anima/us; i.e., we are falling in love with ourselves. Although anima/us projection causes an unintentional deception (leading us to believe that we adore the person when we actually adore the anima/us), the projection is a useful mechanism, for various reasons:
- It creates enough attraction toward the opposite gender to sustain us through the difficulties of a relationship.
- We are able to learn about the anima/us through our interactions with that person.
- A projection distorts our image of the person. When we are with that person, we are talking primarily to the projection, and we are interpreting the person's words as if they came from the projection, and we are expecting the person to fulfill the role which has been cast onto him or her. Thus, we might experience confusion, unfounded hopes, strife, disappointments, and anger.
- We are offering an incomplete person to our partner, because we have projected out the qualities of our anima/us; thus we are missing the parts which we could otherwise contribute to the relationship, e.g., our power, our vitality, and our flexibility and range of potential behaviors. Ideally, we could use the full spectrum of our capabilities, for our own happiness and for the well-being of the relationship; each person could add his or her own talents, without regard to stereotyped gender roles.
- We lose our identity in co-dependency and a "participation mystique." We are merely a "spouse" rather than a full person.
- We place a burden onto our partner to be the things which we refuse to be. For example, an overly feminized woman might expect the man to express his own strength and also to express the strength of the woman's projected animus; although some domineering men enjoy this situation, the task is tiring -- and it is inherently frustrating, because a woman's power and perspectives can accomplish tasks which a man cannot accomplish. Ignorance of this fact, and the resulting failure to utilize the resources of women, has been one of the tragic errors of patriarchal societies.
- We might feel dissatisfaction and envy as we see our own qualities in our partner. For example, the man needs to express his feelings (as a natural part of communication and self-expression)-- but, because he has relinquished that part of himself to his partner, he can no longer articulate the feelings himself; thus he envies his wife who does have this capability.
- The negative side of the anima/us must be confronted. As explained earlier, the anima/us has both a positive and a negative side; the unpleasant side is almost certain to appear occasionally -- in ourselves and in our mate. If we are not aware of the dynamics of the anima/us, we will mistakenly try to deal with an unhappy anima/us as simply the person's "bad mood" rather than as a valid "complaint" of an archetype. One way to respond to our mate's antagonistic anima/us is with a natural, poised strength; for example, when a woman's male animus arises, her husband can reply calmly with his male vitality to soothe both his own anima and his wife's animus. The woman's animus might have become quarrelsome for the specific purpose of provoking the man's masculine response in a case where the man has been too passive; following that masculine response, the man, woman, anima, and animus can return to their proper, constructive roles.
- The anima/us imposes its own moods into the relationship, complicating our circumstances with the person, because we are actually dealing with four individuals: ourselves, the other person, our anima/us, and the other person's anima/us.
- The anima/us introduces an alien element into relationships. When one person's anima/us emerges in anger, it generally causes the other person's anima/us to rise up in defense. As the people vocalize the argument between these impersonal, nonhuman archetypes, their words can have a coldness and cruelty which the humans never intended to say. To lessen the imposition of these nonhuman archetypes, we can try to speak in personal, human terms without referring the anima/us per se at all.
- The anima/us can lead us to select a partner simply because he or she is a close match to the image of our anima/us. We have lost our freedom to choose partners based on their capacity to fulfill other needs in addition to our need to explore the anima/us. We can even be diverted into a same-gender relationships solely because we, as an effeminate male or a tom-boy female, have identified with our own anima/us and thus we have projected our actual gender identity onto a person of our own gender. (The latter statement does not imply a negative valuation onto same-gender relationships in general, nor is it presented as an explanation for the cause of homosexuality.)
- To try (consciously or unconsciously) to change the person to comply with the image. The manipulation will cause stress which can lead to the failure of the relationship.
- To look for someone else to fulfill the image. If we select this option, we will probably experience a series of brief relationships, in a futile attempt to find someone to be our anima/us.
- To realize that we have been projecting. If we want to cease the destructiveness and unintentional dishonesty which have been caused by the projections, we proceed to the next stage.
- Learning about the anima/us within ourselves: We can become aware of the anima/us by noticing the impulses which are contrary to our gender stereotyping: the man observes his moments of tenderness and other anima qualities; the woman recognizes her animus' desire to achieve. Then, instead of squelching these impulses, we accept them as usable resources which will broaden and enrich our life. We can experiment with the traits which are generally associated with the opposite gender; for example, a passive woman can use the as-if principle to "try on" the behavior of male-like assertiveness. Our anima/us and our partner are of the same gender, so our understanding of our anima/us helps us to understand our partner; conversely, our understanding of our partner helps us to understand our anima/us. We seek a balanced relationship with the anima/us; we allow its expression, but we retain our gender identity so that the anima/us will not overwhelm us (thus, creating a macho woman or an effeminate man).
- Learning about the anima/us within our partner. We look for the presence of the anima/us, to see how it influences our partner and our relationship. Because we are the same gender as our partner's anima/us, we can be a role model to help our partner in expressing this contrary part of himself or herself.
- Learning about our partner: We dismiss the archetypal projection with its universal qualities; instead, we discern the individual's unique qualities -- the unique needs, quirks, history, and personality. We discover this individuality by listening carefully to the person's statements, and closely observing his or her behavior. This is not an archetype; this is a human being.