Anima and Animus

invisible partners

Jung identified the anima [an-uh-muh] as being the unconscious feminine component of men, and the animus [an-uh-muhs] as the unconscious masculine component in women. However, this is rarely taken as a literal definition: many modern day Jungian practitioners believe that every person has both an anima and an animus. Jung stated that the anima and animus act as guides to the unconscious unified Self, and that forming an awareness and a connection with the anima or animus is one of the most difficult and rewarding steps in psychological growth. Jung reported that he identified his anima as she spoke to him, as an inner voice, unexpectedly one day.

Often, when people ignore the anima or animus the complexes, the anima or animus vies for attention by projecting itself on others. This explains, according to Jung, why we are sometimes immediately attracted to certain strangers: we see our anima or animus in them. Love at first sight is an example of anima and animus projection. Moreover, people who strongly identify with their gender role (e.g. a man who acts aggressively and never cries) have not actively recognized or engaged their anima or animus.

Jung attributes human rational thought to be the male nature, while the irrational aspect is considered to be natural female. Consequently, irrational moods are the progenies of the male anima shadow and irrational opinions of the female animus shadow. Because a man’s sensitivity must often be repressed, the anima is one of the most significant autonomous complexes of all. It is said to manifest itself by appearing in dreams. It also influences a man’s interactions with women and his attitudes toward them and vice versa for females and the animus. Jung said that ‘the encounter with the shadow is the ‘apprentice-piece’ in the individual’s development…that with the anima is the ‘masterpiece.” Jung viewed the anima process as being one of the sources of creative ability.

In the book ‘The Invisible Partners’ by Jungian psychoanalyst and Episcopal priest John A. Sanford it is said that the key to controlling one’s anima (or animus) is to recognize it when it manifests and exercise our ability to discern the anima (or animus) from reality. Jung believed anima development has four distinct levels, which he named ‘Eve,’ ‘Helen,’ ‘Mary,’ and ‘Sophia.’ In broad terms, the entire process of anima development in a male is about the male subject opening up to emotionality, and in that way a broader spirituality, by creating a new conscious paradigm that includes intuitive processes, creativity and imagination, and psychic sensitivity towards himself and others where it might not have existed previously.

The first is ‘Eve,’ named after the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. It deals with the emergence of a male’s object of desire. The second is ‘Helen,’ in allusion to Helen of Troy in Greek mythology. In this phase, women are viewed as capable of worldly success and of being self-reliant, intelligent and insightful, even if not altogether virtuous. This second phase is meant to show a strong schism in external talents (cultivated business and conventional skills) with lacking internal qualities (inability for virtue, lacking faith or imagination). The third phase is ‘Mary,’ named after the Christian theological understanding of the Virgin Mary (Jesus’ mother).

At this level, females can now seem to possess virtue by the perceiving male (even if in an esoteric and dogmatic way), in as much as certain activities deemed consciously unvirtuous cannot be applied to her. The fourth and final phase of anima development is ‘Sophia,’ named after the Greek word for wisdom. Complete integration has now occurred, which allows females to be seen and related to as particular individuals who possess both positive and negative qualities. The most important aspect of this final level is that, as the personification ‘Wisdom’ suggests, the anima is now developed enough that no single object can fully and permanently contain the images to which it is related.

Jung focused more on the male’s anima and wrote less about the female’s animus. Jung believed that every woman has an analogous animus within her psyche, this being a set of unconscious masculine attributes and potentials. He viewed the animus as being more complex than the anima, postulating that women have a host of animus images while the male anima consists only of one dominant image.

Jung stated that there are four parallel levels of animus development in a female: The animus ‘first appears as a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or muscle man, such as ‘the fictional jungle hero Tarzan.” In the next phase, the animus ‘possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action…the romantic man – the 19th century British poet Shelley; or the man of action – America’s Ernest Hemingway, war hero, hunter, etc.’ In the third phase ‘the animus becomes the word, often appearing as a professor or clergyman…the bearer of the word – Lloyd George, the great political orator.’ ‘Finally, in his fourth manifestation, the animus is the incarnation of meaning. On this highest level he becomes (like the anima) a mediator of…spiritual profundity.’ Jung noted that ‘in mythology, this aspect of the animus appears as Hermes, messenger of the gods; in dreams he is a helpful guide.’ Like ‘Sophia’ this is the highest level of mediation between the unconscious and conscious mind.

The four roles are not identical with genders reversed. Jung believed that while the anima tended to appear as a relatively singular female personality, the animus may consist of a conjunction of multiple male personalities: ‘in this way the unconscious symbolizes the fact that the animus represents a collective rather than a personal element.’

The process of animus development deals with cultivating an independent and non-socially subjugated idea of self by embodying a deeper word (as per a specific existential outlook) and manifesting this word. To clarify, this does not mean that a female subject becomes more set in her ways (as this word is steeped in emotionality, subjectivity, and a dynamism just as a well-developed anima is) but that she is more internally aware of what she believes and feels, and is more capable of expressing these beliefs and feelings. Thus the ‘animus in his most developed form sometimes…make[s] her even more receptive than a man to new creative ideas.’

Both final stages of animus and anima development have dynamic qualities (related to the motion and flux of this continual developmental process), open-ended qualities (there is no static perfected ideal or manifestation of the quality in question), and pluralistic qualities (which transcend the need for a singular image, as any subject or object can contain multiple archetypes or even seemingly antithetical roles). They also form bridges to the next archetypal figures to emerge, as ‘the unconscious again changes its dominant character and appears in a new symbolic form, representing the Self’ – the archetypes of the Wise Old Woman/Man

Jungians warned that ‘every personification of the unconscious – the shadow, the anima, the animus, and the Self – has both a light and a dark aspect….the anima and animus have dual aspects: They can bring life-giving development and creativeness to the personality, or they can cause petrification and physical death.’ One danger was of what Jung termed ‘invasion’ of the conscious by the unconscious archetype – ‘Possession caused by the anima…bad taste: the anima surrounds herself with inferior people.’ Jung insisted that ‘a state of anima possession…must be prevented. The anima is thereby forced into the inner world, where she functions as the medium between the ego and the unconscious, as does the persona between the ego and the environment.’

Alternatively, over-awareness of the anima or animus could provide a premature conclusion to the individuation process – ‘a kind of psychological short-circuit, to identify the animus at least provisionally with wholeness.’ Instead of being ‘content with an intermediate position,’ the animus seeks to usurp ‘the self, with which the patient’s animus identifies. This identification is a regular occurrence when the shadow, the dark side, has not been sufficiently realized.’

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