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.
differs from the masculine and feminine stereotypes.
- It has contrary
- We need to express it.
- It becomes
more apparent at midlife.
- We project it.
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
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.
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 female's animus.
- 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
- 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
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
- We are refusing the balancing input from our anima/us, so our
gender identification becomes a caricature:
We experience the same problems which occur whenever we
repress, or when we mismanage our shadow. For example, if a man
has repressed his anima, he cannot use its qualities, e.g.,
tenderness when a situation requires tenderness.
- The man might become a macho, power-hungry, overly
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.
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 moreso 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
The projections cause problems in our relationship.
- 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.
The projections fail eventually. During the "falling in love"
stage, the individual might enjoy receiving the energy-charged
projection, and being treated like the consummate man or woman.
However, no one can live up to the expectations; eventually we
notice that the person's behavior doesn't completely match our
picture of the anima/us, and the person becomes uncomfortable in
the realization that we are in love with an image rather than the
individual. At that point, our choices are:
- 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,
- 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
- 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
- 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
We withdraw the anima/us projections, and we create a
relationship between two human beings who each take responsibility
for their own anima/us. We can accomplish this feat by learning
about the anima/us -- within our partner and within ourselves:
- 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
- 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
The projection process becomes less active. The reason the
projection occurred initially was because we weren't utilizing the
anima/us inside; the energy and image had to be projected outward
in order to be recognized at all. But now we see the anima/us
within us. (Some projection will continue to occur, because we are
never fully aware of all aspects of the anima/us.) Our outer
relationships, to an extent, have been mere substitutes for the
relationship which we needed with the anima/us. We continue to
need relationships with both our anima/us and with people of the
opposite gender; some contemporary women are trying to become free
and strong by creating a relationship with their animus instead
of a relationship with a man. However, this can lead to
problems internally and externally: the women might experience an
overdevelopment of the animus, and a disturbance in relationships
- 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.