Anima Possession: Are you a spineless wimp?

Anima Possession: Are you a spineless wimp?

animaThis is the second part of two posts on the Classic version of Jung’s Anima and Animus theory in which I condense the information from Marie-Louise von Franz’s book Anima and Animus in Fairy Tales [1].

This post focuses on the malevolent, destructive, dysfunctional Anima and how that affects a man and also attempts to address the approach to take in order to integrate the Anima and thus render her benevolent and constructive.

In the classic version of Jungian psychology, the Anima is the man’s internal other, and the Animus is the woman’s internal other. In other words, if you are physically a man, you will have an inner Anima, a feminine image which guides and shapes the way you relate to women and the world at large. Whilst Post Jungian theory is in line with Post Modernity and more ambivalent about gender, the classical model, as described by Marie-Louise von Franz in this post, is still incredibly useful and very interesting. The information and knowledge that Marie Louise von Franz extracts from the Fairy Tales is fascinating.

As this post focus on the man’s relationship with his Anima, what needs to be understood is that this feminine image is unconscious, and has her roots in the relationship he had with his mother. A man’s experience of his personal mother puts the flesh on the inborn archetype of the Anima and both define his attitude towards women and the functioning of his inner feminine principal. In Jungian psychology, the first step is to individuation is integrating your shadow. After that follows the integration of the Anima and/or Animus.

Anima Possession:

When a man’s Anima is not integrated, it wreaks havoc in his life. The Anima possessed man is a spineless wimp who does not know when or how to take action in the world. He is moody and sulky and throws tantrums like a toddler. Although very passive, he totally overreacts to slights and confrontations. He is not appropriate in his actions, either he is paralysed and can’t find the energy to do what needs to be done, or he jumps into action when he should be thinking about it first. He is usually in a relationship with an Animus hound [2] who knows it all and makes all the decisions in the relationship.

The Anima possessed man is stuck in a fate that his repetitive patterns choose for him. The Anima spins a cocoon of fantasies and illusions. He repeats the same dynamics, dates the same type of women, and experiences the same resistance in the world again and again.

Any numinous experiences he has, she quickly attacks and he is left with a feeling that he experience was “nothing but”… She is a master of creating doubt and he finds himself always doubting his options and choices. He gets lost in contemplations and thinking and this is what prevents him from taking action. At night he dreams about his Anima, she appears in his dreams as a monster, attacking him, threatening him and dismissing him.

The Anima attacks the man’s inferior function, and to explain this I need to quickly divert to Typology. In Jung’s personality type model, each person has four functions, namely Thinking, Feeling, Intuition and Sensation. These four functions identify the way you relate to, and take in information from the external world. An individual will always favour one of the four as their superior function. To explain this, I will use the example of wanting to buy a new car. A thinking type will analyse the performance, fuel consumption, motor plan deal etc. A feeling type will evaluate which vehicle is best suited for his purposes. An intuitive will select the vehicle that he “knows” is right for him. A sensate will choose a vehicle that feels great to drive and is in the right colour. Now if you are a Thinking type, your inferior (opposite and underdeveloped) function would be Feeling (and vice versa). If you are an Intuitive, your inferior function would be Sensation (and vice versa). Coming back to the Anima, she always attacks the man in his inferior function. So where most men are thinking types, typically, his feelings will be poorly developed and here the Anima takes control. She plays his emotions like a fiddle. He is moody, sulky, throws tantrums and gets really upset. When he has the rare moments of happiness and elation and has a fabulous time, she quickly casts doubt and destroys the experience for him. And naturally, as a consequence, his evaluative ability tends to be poor.

Generally this man, who’s inferior function (feeling) trips him up all the time, experiences his emotions and mystical numinous experiences as a handicap. He finds himself disillusioned with his feelings and often tries to escape into the thinking realm, but this does not help his cause at all. He is afraid to trust his feelings and consequently makes a complete mess of his life.

Integrating the Anima

The Anima represents the divine aspect of the human being. She is a goddess that imbues everything with numinosity and mystery. The human being tries to bring the divine into the realm of reality and thereby reduce the mystery to the banal. This attempt to rob the Anima of her divinity is evident in the Western culture where the feminine is reduced to base and crude sexuality.

The Anima has fallen into the unconscious, especially in the protestant cultures, where the idealized feminine is projected onto the Virgin Mary and the dark aspect is projected out onto women who fascinate and capture the passions of a man, who then grants her the status of witch because he feels as if he has been bewitched.

The danger with Anima possession is when the man takes on an average, reluctant, undifferentiated attitude. His attitude towards risk is to avoid it, because he simply does not believe that anything he undertakes will succeed. This hopelessness opposes the hero within. As the Anima is an Archetype, to realise the Anima instinctively will release overwhelming emotions. This is why the man must develop his inferior function, to prevent the Anima from possessing him. To redeem the Anima, she must be allowed to reveal her divine nature.

Here are some guidelines for dealing with the dysfunctional Anima.

One of the main problems with the Anima is that she lies outside time. This results in men who act inappropriately for their age. They are either childish old men or wise young boys. This time related issue affects the man’s judgment in relation to action. He either totally overreacts to small matters, or does not act when he needs to in big matters. This must be opposed in the following manner.
The quick to react Anima:
When the man is riled up, emotional and has an urgency to react then and there, he must wait and put off his response to the given situation. Sleeping on it does wonders, and a new perspective will emerge. This man has gotten himself into many undesirable situations because of this need to react immediately and some perspective on the situation will allow him not to fall into the trap of repeating his neurotic dynamics unconsciously.
The Anima creates a pressing urgency to send the email, confront the person, phone immediately. This impulse must be resisted in order to change the Anima in the unconscious. Delay the excitement, delay acting on it, and it will lose its urgency and the man will tire of it.
With time and practice the man will be able to enter the situation consciously, without falling prey to the emotion. Once he is able to hold the opposites in consciousness, not to commit to any action, he will be able to integrate his Anima. This struggle is the battle for moral responsibility, the search for light and meaning.
The slow to react Anima:
When the man finds himself lost in ambiguity and at a loss on what to do, he needs to act. The Anima is an expert on implanting doubt. He must step into life to get out of this trap. He needs to act in some way. He must escape the repetitive pattern of getting excited about ideas and then discussing it to death until he is totally uninspired. He needs to develop a disciplined consciousness for solutions and directions. The correct attitude is to accept that it may not work, or that it is possibly not the right thing to do, but taking action anyway. One must take action based on the knowledge an understanding available at that point in time. Overcoming the Anima is through experiencing reality and the unknown, not talking about it.
Developing the inferior function:
The integration of the Anima requires the balance between the intellect and the instinct. One must not sacrifice the intellect for the Anima either, because this will also develop an unbalanced relationship with the Anima. Whatever the inferior function is, the man must engage it bravely and enter into it slowly. He must not use the inferior function to govern his external realm, but use it in the internal realm. As long as he tries to use his feeling function in the external realm, he will be heavy, slow, mystical and inarticulate. But if he turns his feeling function inwards, and allows himself to feel, no matter how silly or infantile, he will slowly develop his feeling function. This ability to think naively, without rules, allows the libido (energy) to rush forth and re-energize the psyche. But to give a voice to the unconscious inferior function, the man must learn to sacrifice the superior, ruling attitude of rules and structure, which is not easy.

Conclusion:

As with the Animus, the Anima is the bridge to the unconscious and the roadmap to this unconscious realm lies within the inferior function of the man. The ultimate goal of this journey is individuation, which is the most authentic and whole expression of an individual. Integrating the Anima and Animus is a vital aspect of this journey.

Until next time
Anja

[1] Von Franz, M. L. (2002). Animus and anima in fairy tales. D. Sharp (Ed.). Toronto: Inner City Books.
[2] Read the blog Animus Possession: Are you a ball busting bitch?

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Comments (24)

  • michelene Reply

    Only just starting to explore this in my journey.

    May 19, 2015 at 19:37
  • Pat Reply

    I found this very helpful thank you… I think I am possessed, but making progress toward integration. I have what i think must be a very strong Anima projection on a particular person because they literally matched many dreams ive had in such a synchronized way it still looks and feels like ‘destiny’, or that our paths were meant to cross(but I guess that’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy now depending how you look at it). I fell madly for her, obviously, and did both too quick and too slow reactions, but finally managed to get her attention from the other side of the world online. Sad part is she seems possessed herself so it has been extremely difficult to connect, but I have a strong sense that we are both ‘bewitched’ and I can’t shake the feeling that I need to stay around and be as loving, honest and supportive as possible. I can see the potential to have great chemistry but it’s really been difficult to deal with how one-sided it feels because of her Animus and/or sense of self-defence over anxieties and echos of past trauma.. and I am beginning to doubt that my practically worshipping her helps much as I struggle with my own possession. ANY thoughts on this would be much appreciated. Thank you for reading, and again, for the article(s).

    August 2, 2016 at 09:46
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Hi Pat. It is difficult for me to comment without knowing your past Anima projections. Is this a pattern? Or rather what is your pattern in terms of relationships? Only then can you evaluate what is driving this possession / obsession. One thing is for sure. A human being can never live up to a goddess projection so I would be very wary pursuing this. Our teacher use to advise us to.focus on the Shadow in order to break the projection. But perhaps this status quo is exactly what you want? It needs a lot of reflection.

      August 3, 2016 at 08:25
    • Adam Reply

      Careful Pat. I chased a woman for five years. Declaring undying love and making promises I could never keep, just to win her attention and then if I was lucky, her affection. She was flighty, which gave her a mystical quality, creative, seemingly unaffected and I thought, extremely sexy. The way she moved… everything shouted “goddess”. I chose to ignore her traumatic childhood, thinking that we were meant to be together and she just needed my love and support and all would be well.
      Eventually we got together and had a disastrous 3 month relationship. She wasnt the goddess. She was incredibly manipulative and often over reacted. Her cryptic and poetic way of talking lost its mystical appeal and became increasingly frustrating to deal with. Obviously this sent me into a confused and anxious state. She could never live up to my projected goddess and I could never live up to whatever she was projecting. When the end came it was abusive, items thrown, physical scuffles, threats to burn down my house.. and she (falsely) accused me of rape and assault. I was cleared immediately but the experience took well over a year to recover from.
      I will say this. It will likely go wrong. If you follow through and it ends you will be in torment and it is a long climb out of hell. However, the fall and climb is worth it. I no longer feel overpowered by anima projections. I see and recognise the projections and now I stop to consider what it is telling me about me, not about the woman in question.
      I chose the path of ego gratification which ended in a painful ego death. If you can find a way to rid yourself of the power of this projection, do it. This might mean severing yourself from all contact. Hard. I tried it several times with limited success. Lonely nights were weak points. Otherwise prepare yourself for a fall. Good luck!

      October 20, 2017 at 21:06
  • zv Reply

    Greetings! This article was of immense significance for me, really appreciate Your work! Now, I have a question I hope I can put well. 🙂 As a jazz musician, I sometimes need to “unleash” the anima in order to play the music of the present moment (to connect with the “great unknown”). The problem is, once it is “unleashed”, it is very hard to control it: on one hand, yes, it brings great inspiration, but on the other hand, aside from playing some beautiful music, there are no good things it brings – i have all the symptoms of anima opssession, and it’s really painful sometimes and it takes a lot of effort to “push it back into its corner”(sorry for the lack of more appropriate expression). Now I’d like to know if it is possible that I make only benefits from my anima, or does it always come as a “two-edged sword”, because many texts say that it actually always brings both good and bad.

    October 6, 2016 at 21:54
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Interesting question ZV. I am of the opinion that you can work with the Anima and utilize her in the appropriate fashion. I think the main issue with the Anima and Animus is that they are activated in the wrong place. So e.g. where the Anima is the lens with which we should relate to our inner world, she is often used as the lens to relate to the external world; And the Animus is used as the lens to relate to the inner world instead of the external world. That is when things go awry. But as you mention, you access her in order to play music which I would think is an internal lens function as she is used by you to access your inner experience in order to reflect it through your music. Not sure why she sticks around then when you stop playing and start interacting with the external world. I would love more detail in terms of what happens in this scenario for you.

      October 8, 2016 at 15:02
      • zv Reply

        Thank You for Your quick responding! Now, as far as I can understand, once accessed, my anima becomes my lens both for the external and the internal. The same is with, if i may put it this way, my animus. Once I’m in this modus operandi, i cease to relate to my inner world, the same way I cease to relate to the external world properly when I’m anima possessed. Writing this, I’m starting to understand that my problem is actually not the possession of anima (or animus), nor the transition between these two moduses, but my inability to make a clear distinction between the external and the internal. And this is not the first time, I’ve come to this conclusion. Now, does this mean that I should introvert my anima, and if yes, how? Thank You in advance!

        October 10, 2016 at 11:04
        • Anja van Kralingen Reply

          Hi ZV. Again interesting insight and question. First of all, let me qualify my answer by saying I am not sure! But I would imagine it is a similar process as with complexes, being the first step is to realize and identify when this is happening. The clearer you are about the qualities and experience of the anima introversion, the easier it will be to identify you are in it. I would suggest then symbol work to introvert it, so perhaps access a symbol for the ideal introverted state and then find that symbol in the external world in the form of an object which you can then place somewhere to allow the psyche to make the shift. E.g. if your symbol for the anima in her functioning state is a red scarf, then tie this to something in your office or house when you are feeling ‘possessed’. This will help to shift.

          October 20, 2016 at 15:27
  • Chris Roberts Reply

    I’m curious how one can identify their dominant function when it feels as though there may be two main functions at play.

    Thanks,
    ~Chris

    January 18, 2017 at 20:56
  • Ragga Reply

    Hi Anja,

    I am not sure how I identify with the label “spineless wimp”, and whether or not it adds any qualitative purpose to your post. I figure this incisively profound article could have benefited even without its use, but maybe you can clarify why that specific phrase was used.

    In any event, I am in my late 30s and have been experiencing the torture of the moods, overreactions, dualistic thinking, alienation. I am an analytical type, and I do see the anima bombarding my inferior function. I am not sure what it is, but being single and not dating, I feel strong sexual desire welling up, and often ponder visiting clubs etc. to get laid. To me this is an infantile response of the ego to the discomfort engendered by the negative anima. So my question is, how does one address such erotic desires? Does one go inward and learn to tolerate those feelings, absorbing their full depth and thereby enlarging one’s psyche, or does one respond to the instinct regardless of whether one is objectifying women, or simply getting laid to escape or even anesthetize one’s existential loneliness and pain?

    So many writers and experts comment on the anima, but few ever offer any solution or means of integrating it into one’s psyche. This has been one of the frustrating experiences I have had in all forms of therapy, including Jungian therapy.

    I would truly appreciate your reply.

    April 2, 2017 at 04:43
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Great question Ragga! I am sure that you are aware that integrating the Anima and Animus is the most challenging part of the Jungian individuation process. I hear from your question that you suffer with relatedness problems to the feminine, and if you are in analysis the analyst would probably work on the archetypal anima relationship, which is the one with your mother. The problem with the anima and animus is that we project an idealised (godlike) image onto a human being, who can never live up to it. We are all experiencing the same disillusion with our parents – they should have behaved like this or that. Where does this perfect image of mother or father come from?

      And of course as an adult, you still expect the other to capture those perfect qualities that you desire and need to feel safe and loved and contained. There is simply no other way to integrate the Anima and Animus other than to confront these ideals that you project out. It is only once you are able to see the other as a human being, and not a goddess/god, that there can be any type of relatedness to them.

      In the meantime, don’t forget that woman have the same issues, and if you want to get laid and objectify someone, then do it, chances are she too will objectify you. My take is that any interaction with the other, whether it is deep connection or a one night stand, will still stimulate internal dialogue, realisations and integration if you do reflection and internal work.

      April 3, 2017 at 08:08
      • Ragga Reply

        Thanks for your response, Anja. I read somewhere that one way of addressing the anima is to recall the projections by concentrating inwardly the emotions and difficult feelings which arise. For instance, I find when loneliness grips me, I reach for compensatory means of relief, and afterwards, there is a sense of guilt and sometimes despair. I am working to avoid this cycle by learning to tolerate the feelings of loneliness and alienation and focusing on realizing my artistic talents. Robert A. Johnson speaks of Parisfal sleeping with Blanche Fleur but not consummating sexual love with her, and he explains that this is the relationship a man must have with his inner feminine: one that does not involve being seduced, or to seduce. He also speaks to the need to cultivate a relationship with the inner feminine, and not to mistakenly perceive her as existing externally. This is why I do not feel getting laid is the healthier alternative to transfiguration. After all, you also speak that if I objectify, then that is what I will get in return, so I suppose in conjunction with Johnson’s explanations, a healthier way of embracing and nurturing the inner feminine is to pursue a deeper meaning, perhaps through creativity?

        April 5, 2017 at 22:25
  • Asha Reply

    This has been really helpful. I would love to know your thoughts on this. If someone who is in a long-term monogamous, committed marriage becomes anima possessed with someone outside of the relationship, what is an appropriate way to handle that where this can be explored and integrated without violating or destroying the marriage but actually helping the marriage grow and deepen? Thank you so much for your reply.

    May 22, 2017 at 16:49
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Hi Asha, let me first mention that this is not unusual for someone to project their anima or animus on someone other than their partner. This unconscious process happens and you are not able to stop it or affect it, but acting on it is a choice. I would suggest entering into some sort of therapy to help you illuminate and uncover the meaning and magic that is contained by this person which you are projecting your anima on. This is after all a projection, but it is also extremely powerfully felt as possession (being in love). I hope this helps.

      May 22, 2017 at 18:06
  • Todd Welch Reply

    What if the inferior function is thinking? It may be so in this man… Thanks, Todd

    July 27, 2017 at 19:16
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Good question. The idea here is that the Animus (thinking function) must be used to relate to the external world and the Anima (feeling function) should be used to relate to the inner world. This is true for men and women. If you are relating to the external world from the Anima perspective, then the dysfunction will be apparent in that the relatedness to the world is formed by internally based referencing. And vice versa, when you relate to the internal world from Animus perspective, you are relating to yourself from an externally based referencing, so again the dysfunction is apparent. So a healthy situation would be to relate to the external world from an Animus perspective (objective reality) and to the internal world from a Anima perspective (subjective reality). It is a constant movement from being in the external world and relating to it, to moving to the inner world and relating to yourself.

      July 28, 2017 at 08:39
  • Brennan Reply

    I must start off by saying great article! I picked up a copy of the aspects of the masculine and feminine translated by r f c hull at my local library recently so I’m relatively new to these topics but I’m already learning so much! Now, to my query. I’m a 21 y/o who never had a dad and had a grandmother that was caring and overprotected me, even from responsibility, and a mother who had clearly been possessed by the animus (per your earlier article). My grandfather was largely unimportant but he was there. Now I deal with times of anima possession mixed with a swing to the opposite side every now and then. Do you have any insight as to how my situation came to present manifestation? I can answer more questions as you think of them. Thanks much, B

    August 4, 2017 at 23:21
  • Keyn Reply

    Anima possession, not just described, but prescribed! This post is not just insightful, but actually USEFUL for men like me. I have been destroying my relationship with my wife because of anima possession. I am literally described to a ‘T’ in this post. Fatherless, with a drug addict, prostitute mother.

    I knew I had “mommy issues”, but this is it! Now to work on integrating the anima carefully. I cannot thank the author enough. THANK YOU

    August 19, 2017 at 08:27
  • Michelle Reply

    Anja, Wondering what you think of the modern concept of “transgenderism” as it relates to anima possession. My husband is in the process of “becoming a woman” — we live in the US where this is popular and profitable — and this article describes my husband perfectly.

    Not sure if there’s anything that I can do about it, but this information helps me to process. Thanks!

    November 9, 2017 at 17:54
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Hi Michelle, thank you for this insight. As far as anima and animus theory applies to transgenderism, I am not sure, but I can share with you the contemporary take on this theory. The Post-Jungian approach is that both men and women have an Anima and Animus. They can be functional or dysfunctional in either gender. Anima governs feeling, relatedness to self; whereas Animus governs reason, relatedness to external world. If the Anima is dysfunctional, the relatedness to self is disturbed, i.e. body issues, moody, sulky etc. If the Animus is dysfunctional, the relatedness to to the external world is disturbed, i.e. prejudiced, judgmental, know-it-all. Hope that helps to clarify and all the best with processing your experience.

      November 16, 2017 at 11:52
  • julius Reply

    Hi, I’ve been battling an anima possession for years. My mom, (God rest her soul) was my example of how to be growing up. I was the # 2 son of 9 kids. My dad passed away when I was less than a year old. My mom could cry easily, and as an ex Marine so can I. Its just not very “macho” to do such things. I hated the fact that I could feel like a woman! See, I even use alot of words like a woman. . . . . . .now its happening, theres so much goodness about what was so hated before. The appreciation of beauty, The ability to nurture, The creativity is slowly oozing forth. The openess and receptivity toward others, The enjoyment of not always being busy, The dash of humility, Sometimes feelin intuition, The ability to love more openly, and the ability to give up some of what I thought was control or dominance. Yeah, you got it, I’m a”spineless wimp.”

    December 19, 2017 at 03:18
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Hi Julius, it sounds to me like you have managed to integrate your Anima quite successfully. Well done. It is really wonderful to have this perspective and would encourage you to add some more information for men out there who has no idea what it is like to be in touch with their feeling life and how much richer the experience of living becomes.

      December 20, 2017 at 10:20
  • Fakhri Reply

    Hi Anja, How do I take back the anima projection? Should it just happen naturally? Can I consciously influence this process?

    January 1, 2018 at 21:25
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Hi Fakhri. It is a conscious process. It starts with integrating the feeling function. Marie-Louise von Franz does give some guidance here in the post. Of course seeing a Jungian Analyst would also help with this process.

      January 1, 2018 at 21:55

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