The Archetypes of the Anima and AnimusStephen Farah
One 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.
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.
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.
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.
Inability to effectively and meaningfully relate.
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.
The Displaced Anima
Some typical qualities of the displaced Anima are:
Uncontained, constantly seeking external affirmation.
Lack of creativity.
Poor relatedness, behaviour in relationships designed to isolate the person from others.
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.
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.
Until next time,
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.
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.
Very impressed with the degree of clarity — this article is intelligently written, and so straightforward with the information. Thank you, Anja.
The clarity here is remarkable albeit clinical
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.
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!
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.
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 . . .
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.
It is fascinating that someone who seems to possess the intelligence level to be interested in this subject can so grotesquely narrow minded. You’ve deduced that because not every example listed is white, the author has an apparent disdain for..“non European Americans?” What a nefarious way to spread the scholar’s anti-Caucasian agenda! 😂
Thank you so much for taking the time and thought to share this, Stephen. I’m reading Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature, and his mention of the Anima/ Animus piqued my intrigue; your article helped me understand the theory with more depth and clarity.
Thank you in turn Nicole. I am very pleased you found the post worthwhile.
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.
The anima examples are really bad in my opinion. Does anyone have other examples?
“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!
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.
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.
These archetypes are like ordained concepts of ‘Mind’. arkh (αρκη) ~ original typos (τυπος) ~ form. Archetype – original/primitive form/type. These are part of the foundation of mind. Mind is not unique to man, animals have a mind. Man, uniquely, has a self recognizable consciousness capable of self realization and the map to that reality is shaped in recognizable forms, these recognizable forms are the archetypes. Culture uses these archetypes to direct you, the archetypes are preformed. Life, mind is greater than man but only man has the ability to realize it. The archetypes are way beyond ‘learned behaviours’, they are built into the landscape of the psyche, that we as humans, navigate.
Hey Farah, i have gone through blog and it is very interesting.
I had a dream today in which i encountered the Anima, what was peculiar and was that she had little beard grown on her face, we talked from very close and she said that she often sees me, but i dont see her and that she awaits me to approach her. What is the interpretretation of this dream?
While some of the quotations at the top of this page were written by Dr. Jung, the examples of:
The animus in various stages of development.
The integrated Animus.
The displaced Animus.
The integrated Anima
The displaces Anima
are not to be found in Dr. Jung’s writings and a apparently only the opinion of the author of this posting.
Yes quite right, the post reflects the views of the author and other Jungian scholars. The development of and research in analytical psychology fortunately did not end with the founders death in 1961. The anima and animus in particular would be theoretically all but redundant in light of the radical reconcpetulaisation of gender essentialism that has occurred over the last half-century, were it not for the work of the post-Jungian movement.
I see what is happening now has happened, at least several times, in the past that we can measure. The blurring of the gender concepts is likely coming from our abstract relationship with the archetypal. And we are swaying away from a solid cultural relationship with our reality. Like we are trying to live in a mentally controlled reality. Like it’s a computer program and all we need to do is rewrite some of its code to correct things. ‘Climate Control’ ‘Gender Reconstruction’ our need for control over the uncontrollable has driven us away from working with emotion and imagination to overcome our own fears, into an overreaching control of everything outside of ourselves. But as the tree sways in these winds eventually it’ll sway back to it’s trunks center, unless it breaks.
I am a 21 year old man. I can see how my generation have great mistrust in interpreting ideas such the anima/ animus; and that’s just one example. It worries me!
Dear Stephen, Thanks for your post. I agree. For God’s sake let’s stop acting as if Jung had the last word on the psyche, I prefer the German word Jung used: Soul. He even said, don’t be a parrot and just repeat me. We need to think, dream, imagine and go beyond. More power to you my friend. You are a friend of all and a dedicated soul to the depth of soul that exceeds any one person including Jung, though we love him and thank the lord for his enlightening writings. Go, Stephen, your going is great. With thanks and kindest regards.PS. I have take some courses with Appliedjung and loved it again thanks to your wise and insightful ideas and teachings.
I have read many times that a marriage is a place to find your other self. Though, I have this idea, especially as I am not married, that. . my animus, is my other in me. The inner marriage is most important. For then one may be whole. The feminine ‘anima’ qualities I could work on as well as relationships have not been my strong point in my life. (Although as a caregiver, I have learned that I can relate deeply, love relationships have eluded me.) So, I meet my animus in my dreams where first he was a wisp of golden light. Since then he has taken form and has once been a lion who I went to meet but was whisked away by an angel into the colored glass of a kitchen door. I am the door. And it is the girl who has the key. When I meet him in the kitchen, alchemist den, or in real life in my artist studio, then I find myself. I meet him there and there he brings me the actuality of making the images from my dreams and bringing them into life. This does not require someone else. This requires that I look into myself and meet myself there and bring out into life what exists in that inner world.
This article has given me a depth of truth and understanding that’s resided in me, yet with no understanding in my minds eye to even be able to articulate it, in words. All I know and feel is that I want more of this. I want it all from start to finish. Im on a spiritual journey and was awaken this morning , given a vision and instructed to seek knowledge. I began googling and found many things that resonated, but nothing that caused an explosion throughout my entire ME.
Where do I begin?
Stephen Farah, Thank you for sharing your truth, understanding, and knowledge.
Cynthia Church….I admire YOU!! I hope to someday discover this deep understanding within myself.
Lovely, agree. Marriage is only for people who have already identified and integrated their anima/animus imo…. it won’t last otherwise
Hey Cynthia, I too have only recently come to the realisation of looking for and placing my animus back in myself. Experiencing myself as a whole has certainly been a powerful exploration. I am currently pursuing a heuristic inquiry into the same and would love to engage with you more on this subject.
THANK YOU Cynthia! I am affirmed that other “single” women can speak up and say that a physical marriage in the social world is not the only way to connect with our Animus and become whole. And I too find art a valuable pathway though I am simply beginning….there is so much within to discover!
[…] Farah, S. (2015, February 4). The Archetypes of the Anima and Animus. Center for Applied Jungian Studies. https://appliedjung.com/the-archetypes-of-the-anima-and-animus/ […]
Why can’t we love someone because they are NOT like us, NOT our animus or anima? Because we are wired for love (as in millions of years of evolution in tribes and pair bonding), because they complement us, because we want to do good things for them (not just our of a selfish desire to benefit from their presence).
Margaret Thatcher?? 🤢🤮
Just dreamt saw this word Anima and was just doing some research…hoping to get understanding.
Me too! Animus appeared between sub-conscious and conscious waking – so here I am :).
I would like to know more about anima spells.I personally encountered Jungian psychology about a year ago and immediately started dream analysis.Pretty young actually,around 18.Few month later I would gain some insight into the anima via an inexhaustible experience of the anima itself. My anima was projected . It just so happened that I fell asleep thinking one night and on waking up muttered ‘And that’s how you took advantage of X’ the girl I’m referring to is not my Anima. I proceeded to have a dream where I was in a car with her and it broke down.I recently understood the interpretation that hinted at the break of the relationship months after I apparently came at her over something very petty. She was my romantic interest ,per se.She has appeared multiple times in my dreams lately and I ofcoss always have the urge to call and apologise if I’m not thinking about it everyday. It was quite emasculating . Often times I sit and think about what I did and cannot come to terms with it. I nvr thought I would be that senseless. What started as an intuition to manifest itself in that exact way is what I am still unravelling. Any thoughts ???
Thanks for explaining this in a clear way. Some thoughts that came up for me are around the polarity of rational vs. irrational. I realize you said you don’t necessarily agree with that classic idea so this is my no means an attack on you. I just wanted to put words to my thoughts. Historically it hasn’t been safe for men to express their needs using emotional language (with the exception of anger or outrage) and they have tended to rely on the concept of reason to justify their prerogatives. Whereas women historically haven’t had as much agency or power and have had to rely on the good will of the men around them. Thus using emotion to have their needs met may have been more useful. This doesn’t mean that men weren’t emotional or women weren’t rational, but that each was using tools and vocabulary that served them best in society.
That is just one thing that occured to me while reading about this. Thanks for the informative read!
[…] La strega, cioè, secondo la terminologia di Carl Jung, l’archetipo della “matrigna cattiva”, l’“anima spostata”. […]
whose artwork is it you use? It’s stunning.
Very informative indeed – Thank you Stephen for the article!
Typical that people will lose sight of the point of the article and instead bicker over politics in the comment section. Humans remain a tribal, unevolved species.
Careful, your unintegrated animus is showing.