The Archetypes of the Anima and Animus

The Archetypes of the Anima and Animus

anima animus 2One of the most interesting and provocative archetypes we encounter in Jungian Psychology is that of the Anima and Animus.

The Anima/Animus relates to our inner or soul life. Not soul as understood in metaphysical terms as something which lives on beyond our physical existence but rather soul as in the inner force that animates us.

These soul definitions stem from a time, when Jung was doing this work, where the gender roles were more traditionally and clearly differentiated. So some of what follows in the definition of the Anima/Animus may not apply today. However, much of it still has value.

Androgyny and the Contra Sexuality

The psyche is such that it contains and embraces both the feminine and masculine. It is inherently an androgynous entity regardless of what the gender of the physical person is.

The personality or persona naturally takes on the gender role that you are born to physically. Not always, as we know, but this is the general default orientation.

Women take on a feminine role and persona.

Men take on a masculine role and persona.

The psyche compensates for this by birthing a contra sexuality in the inner life of the person. So:

Women have a contra sexuality which is masculine in nature and this is called the Animus.

Men have a contra sexuality which is feminine in nature and this is called the Anima.

An amplification of these archetypal characters is that the Animus is the woman’s rational function and the Anima is the man’s irrational function.

The above is where today in using Jung’s definitions in this way we may injure certain gender sensitivities. And beyond that let me say I agree that these strict and traditional classifications are not universally applicable.

However for the sake of explaining these concepts, it is easier if we start with these classical definitions. So putting the above together we can say the following:

In a woman her contra sexuality is masculine and governs her rational thinking function and we call this the Animus.

In a man his contra sexuality is feminine and governs his irrational feeling function and we call this the Anima.

The Inner Life or Soul

When we talk about the role of the Anima and Animus we are talking about:

  • Relatedness – our ability to relate as whole human beings to the world and other people. In order for the relatedness to have an equal measure of heart and mind the psyche relies on the contra sexuality to compensate for the natural one sidedness of the personality.
  • Animation or Spirit, the anima/animus plays a significant role in determining how we think and feel about our lives in the innermost chamber of our hearts. It is not what we say but the spirit we bring to the world that we feel inside ourselves and that others become aware of when they interact with us.
  • The archetype of the Anima/Animus forms a bridge between our personal unconscious, our personal unconscious and what Jung refers to as the Collective Unconscious. The anima/animus is the image making capacity which we use to draw inspirational, creative and intuitive images from the inner world (strictly speaking transpersonal inner world).

These are some of the more well known and fundamental roles of the soul and how the soul operates when it is appropriate placed and functional.

Neuroses in a Jungian sense are frequently a manifestation of a displaced soul life. I will give some examples of this later on.

Archetypes

It is important to understand that an archetype, as in the case of the Anima/Animus, transcends the personal psyche. This was one of Jung’s greatest contributions to depth psychology. The idea of a transpersonal psychic structure which transcends the personal.

An archetype is like a Platonic Ideal. It exists as a Universal or an Idea which is common to all of mankind. The Jungian mathematician Robin Robertson refers to this as a cognitive invariant, meaning it has universality, a commonality which is evident across multiple individual psyches.

So whilst the anima/animus will naturally have a personal colouring in each individual it will also have an archetypal or transpersonal component.

Father and Mother, King and Queen

Following the above it is such that the child has this latent archetype or capacity in the psyche prior to birth. Under normal circumstances the masculine and feminine will be modelled on the first imprint in the child’s life of the masculine and feminine – the father and mother.

However in the case of an absent parent the child will base the initial archetypal colouring on a parental surrogate. An older woman or man who the child can relate to as a parental substitute, filling the void created by the missing parent.

This parental relationship then is the prime imprinter of the anima or animus as the case may be. Whilst it is not the sole imprinter and the image of the contra sexual self is evolved with later more mature relationships with the opposite sex, it has (as can be imagined) the single biggest influence.

The Animus

One of the differentiating qualities which Jung identified between the animus and anima is that the animus has a multiplicity to it whereas the anima appears more in the singular.

A good example of this is the fairytale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs– who are all animus manifestations, psychologically speaking.

Archetypal examples of the animus in various stages of development:

  • Tarzan , the unconscious primitive but physically vital masculine.
  • James Dean , Rebel without a Cause, undirected masculine energy, unconscious masculine but not unattractive.
  • James Bond , suave man of the world.
  • Steve Jobs or Richard Branson , integrated masculine, strong, creative, attractive but more androgynous.
  • Barak Obama ,integrated evolved masculine epitomising secular values in their most evolved form.
  • Mahatma Ghandior Nelson Mandela , the masculine which now brings the spiritual component into the world, transcending the mundane and secular but without denying it.
  • Christ , Mohammed , Buddha , the conscious spiritual incarnation of the masculine, completely transcending the earthiness of the unconscious masculine.
The Integrated Animus

The animus when it is integrated in a healthy female psyche would typically imbue the following qualities:

Good rational and logical ability.
Ability for clear non attached thought.
Ability to construct by sustained effort and application.
A strong centre.
Good external strength in the persona.
Bridge to knowledge and creative thought.
Problem solving.

The Displaced Animus

When the animus is displaced or overwhelms the female psyche it may exhibit some of the following symptoms:

Know it all behaviour.
Bullying.
Sadism.
Controlling.
Loud.
Inability to effectively and meaningfully relate.

The Anima

The Anima, naturally, is originally based on the boy’s image of his mother and this later evolves with his relatedness to more mature romantic relationships. The Anima is generally related to in the singular both in the inner and outer worlds. Meaning, a man will generally project his anima onto only a single woman at any one time, whereas a woman would frequently have more than one animus projection in her life.

Archetypal examples of the Anima in various stages of development:

  • Brooke Shields ,in her original virginal role as a teenage star, pre sexual feminine
  • Marilyn Monroe or Pamela Anderson , the fully developed sexual diva
  • Jackie Kennedy or Eleanor Roosevelt , the mature feminine supportive wife, mother, nurturer.
  • Margret Thatcher , strong, intuitive leadership with some sacrifice of the feminine.
  • Evita Peron or Hillary Clinton , the feminine in a strong leadership role but still feminine on bearing and orientation.
  • Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale , the highly evolved feminine embodying the spiritual transcendence of the feminine archetype but still connected to the world.
  • The Virgin Mary , the true transcendent iconic female, no longer of this world.

 

The Integrated Anima

Some typical qualities of the integrated Anima are:

Self soothing, self nurturing and self loving.
Access to creative inspiration.
Strong centre and contained inner life.
Capable of empathy.
Able to make value judgements beyond the realm of pure rationality.
Access to feeling life.
Good relatedness.
Happy.

The Displaced Anima

Some typical qualities of the displaced Anima are:

Uncontained, constantly seeking external affirmation.
Lack of creativity.
Moody.
Bitchy.
Poor relatedness, behaviour in relationships designed to isolate the person from others.
Masochistic.
Greedy, grasping.
Self centred.

The Journey to individuation

Jungian therapy traditionally starts with the integration of the shadow which has a stronger personal component than the anima/animus which is more archetypal in nature.

Once the analyst is satisfied the analysand has made good progress with their shadow work then the challenge of working with the anima/animus would begin in earnest.

There are many ways of going about this work and Jungian therapy is adverse to formulistic approaches. The journey varies from individual to individual.

However to give some idea of how challenging this can be, let me refer to a case I am very familiar with, the case of myself.

Now admittedly I was, and am still to a degree, what may be classified as neurotic, so my case would not necessarily apply to you. However it is generally a case of degrees so it will give an indication of the gradient of this work.

In my case I first encountered this teaching, not in analysis, but in a theoretical presentation, some ten years ago.

I immediately realised my own challenges with my anima and began consciously working on its integration into my psyche. At the time I was in a weekly Jungian study group led by a highly erudite Jungian teacher with an emphasis on the practical application of Jung’s teaching. I remained in this study group for several years.

In addition to this I was and remain to this day committed to extensive internal work.

Ten years later I would be dishonest if I said I had integrated my Anima.

Nevertheless the journey has been one filled with riches and extensive inner and outer growth. I hope that the fact I choose to write this post at this time, despite how challenging this work is, indicates my belief in its value.

Creating a Model or Imago to better understand the Anima/Animus

With the above qualification in place, I would like to give some indication here of how one may approach this challenging aspect of the individuation process.

Jungian therapy with an analyst; probably the most direct and contained way to approach this for those fortunate enough to have access to a analyst. In the dialogue between analyst and analysand, using the content of the analysand’s life much progress can be made.

Dream work; the animus/anima visits us in our dreams usually in the form of the opposite sex. By finding a means of meaningfully understanding and working with our dream life we develop in effect a direct dialogue with the archetype.

Building the imago of the archetype through a process of reflection. This would be based on the enduring qualities that you found evident across multiple relationships with the opposite sex. From parent, to mentor, to siblings to romantic interests. Once this imago is constructed one enters into a dialogue with it through the imaginative process or what Jung referred to as active imagination.

A mature and lasting relationship with a member of the opposite sex in the world, typically in the form of marriage. In a marriage one is relating in effect to one’s souls image. This comes with a few challenges, which time and space considerations forbid me from enumerating here; nevertheless it is the single most effective tool to integrate the soul image. It is also the one which has been the default technique applied the world over.

Conclusion

A topic such as this one can fill volumes and in the annals of Jungian literature indeed has. I realise that this post may pose more questions than it answers and I have to accept that. I don’t suppose to herein have exhausted the topic.

Nevertheless, if this post stimulates you to investigate this topic further then it will have served its purpose.

With blessings,

Until next time,

Stephen

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Comments (16)

  • Gill Reply

    Very interested that marriage is a ‘timehonoured’ vehicle for integrating your psyche. I still battle to recognize a neurosis in someone, or myself. Aren’t most of us neurotic? Thank you as always for your well written and helpful articles.

    February 4, 2015 at 14:34
    • Stephen Reply

      Gill a neurosis is a pathological complex that is not a full blown psychosis. You are running a fever but don’t require hospitalisation. These are not difficult to spot. It is repetitive behaviour/ life/ thought patterns that erode the integrity and quality of life of the neurotic individual. Usually marked by unconsciousness (I do not see what I am doing), affect (high degree of emotional content) and being destructive in some way. And yes, we all have them.

      February 5, 2015 at 08:53
  • The Archetypes of the Anima and Animus | The Ce... Reply

    […] One of the most interesting and provocative archetypes we encounter in Jungian Psychology is that of the Anima and Animus.  […]

    February 4, 2015 at 23:55
  • A Must Read on NPD: Narcissism – Living without Feelings | An Upturned Soul Reply

    […] because today feels different I wandered off the beaten track and found this – The Archetypes of the Animus and Anima – which sparked a thought, an inkling of an idea that lead me to search in a way which lead […]

    February 5, 2015 at 17:35
  • Susan Reply

    Very impressed with the degree of clarity — this article is intelligently written, and so straightforward with the information. Thank you, Anja.

    February 15, 2015 at 08:20
  • Adele Reply

    The clarity here is remarkable albeit clinical

    April 25, 2015 at 08:14
  • Brenda Renee Reply

    Cracks me up that you used Steve Jobs and Barack Obama as evolved males, and Obama just one step under Gandhi? You’re kidding me right? You must’ve taken that Nobel Peace prize seriously. And Hillary Clinton as an evolved female? Wow, your politics really clouded your writing here.
    Moving on to more objective writing.

    August 6, 2017 at 05:40
    • Tarin Olson Reply

      Brenda you are spot on! And I thought this was for Depth Psychology! O’s recent choice for an artist shows more of his hatred for European-Americans. Jung is rolling over in his grave!

      https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/kehinde-wileys-new-takes-on-old-masters-get-brooklyn-museum-survey-127160

      February 22, 2018 at 08:16
      • Paul Reply

        I also stumbled over O. and others as example and a few sarcastic comments came to mind immediately. But I’ve been reading about Jung for a few months and I’m now interpreting my own quick responses, it might be my shadow, or my anima giving that response.

        Then I remember video clips I saw with O. and a hysterical audience. Now I can defend the author: it is not about O. as a person nor about his actions and their effects. It is about the image that is alive in every member of the audience.

        Even if today an archeologists came with proof that the holy virgin ran a brothel and ate 3 babies a day, that wouldn’t matter for her role as symbol of an archetype, and it wouldn’t make scratch on all the paintings of her.

        Contemporary real persons are confusing. Fictional characters are better, but they may get outdated sooner or later.

        Using contemporary examples is tricky.

        March 11, 2018 at 09:14
        • Donna Reply

          I agree with you Paul. I stumbled over the examples, especially Steve Jobs as an example of the integrated masculine. Yikes! But the concept of an archetypal masculine and feminine rings true. As a feminist (thank you to the author for providing notice of possible injury to a modern reader), I had to take care of myself while reading that anima is characterized by a culturally-based stereotype of the “irrational” female. And identifying Eleanor Roosevelt as an example of “the mature feminine supportive wife, mother, nurturer.” She was all that and a hell of a lot more! Nevertheless, after licking my wounds, I had to admit that there was something true, challenging and meaningful in the Jungian ideas so deftly expressed in this article. Looking forward to learning more . . .

          March 17, 2018 at 23:28
          • (Hendrik) Paul de Greef

            Ty, Donna. Choosing the right words is also tricky. A lot of old pre-WWII English translations of Jung’s work are available as pdf under the American Heritage program. It’s great; you can do text searches in the pdfs. I’ve read some and Jung uses the world “irrational” sometimes, but never in front of “woman” or “women”. Women are considered to be stronger in the feeling and intuition functions. So I think you’ve identified just another example of a male author perceiving a woman as his own shadow. Take care, and move on.

            March 24, 2018 at 12:43
    • David Marcus Reply

      I agree. Evolved human beings are not war mongers or cruel in my book. The truth of Mothers Teresa’s character would shock many who are decent, loving, kind, considerate. Anyone part of this hierarchical system of power, greed and control is surely filled with the worst aspects of human thinking, be it the worst of female or male traits. Certainly the World would be a better place without religion and male sociopathic and psychopathic egos. Ideal for this entrenched system of course. We now live in times where women aspire to look like android lovers and men are feminising their looks. The splayed out, spectrum of fractured human sexualities is complex. Biological, environmental, learnt behaviour pattern and societal expectations, parental expectations, religious expectations the pressures from all angles to find ones pigeon hole of being. Fitting in with the tribe, conforming or of rebellious nature or to be seen to be contrary to general flows. I myself and by nature contrary to the general accepted flows of being. Contrary to the system that is entrenched and controlling. I visualise human sexuality variants as like an infinity symbol where there can be shared traits desires and inclinations of being.

      March 29, 2018 at 10:48
  • John Reply

    The anima examples are really bad in my opinion. Does anyone have other examples?

    September 28, 2017 at 03:33
    • John Myers Reply

      “She” in H. Ryder Haggard’s eponymous novel is, according to Jung, the anima archetype in literary form. A very interesting book, and a lousy movie!

      July 7, 2018 at 16:21
  • Arun Nair Reply

    Most psychologists and psychiatrists take pleasure in pulling down jung and Freudian theories. How do their theories stand up in the present days would be a more interesting study. I mean the whole gamut of it. This Anima and Animus concept may be just a learned behavior and nothing to do with the psyche as such.

    October 2, 2017 at 10:37
    • Avery Ashley Reply

      Of course it’s learned behavior. No one is claiming that people are born with pre-formed conceptions of anima/animus. The point is that as a human develops, they overwhelmingly tend to develop a part of their psyche that corresponds to the general shape of an anima/animus archetype. The exact contents of this part of the psyche will obviously change with culture but they always find their source in the perceived character of the (roughly speaking) mother/father figure during the development of the psyche.

      These things are best understood from a wide, more timeless perspective. They are not meant as a defense of the feminine/masculine stereotypes of their day, or as a claim that those stereotypes are “scientifically” true. Its a description of how we integrate the feminine/masculine components of our perceived world as children. Long story short, reading Jung in a politically charged way is not a very fruitful frame of analysis.

      October 12, 2018 at 03:17

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