Anima and Animus – Eternal Partners from the Unconscious

In Carl Jung’s model of the psyche, we have both the outer world and the inner world. The persona (which represents the social mask that we put on) lies between the ego and society, representing our conscious life and outer world.

The inner world or the unconscious is where the real adventure begins. Here we encounter the shadow, the anima, the animus and the Self, all of which have both a light and dark aspect, as Jung emphasises. The shadow can be inferred from the contents of the personal unconscious (that is, contents that are acquired during one’s lifetime). To become conscious of it, one must recognise the dark aspects of the personality as present and real, if not, one unconsciously projects them onto others, changing the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face. Shadow work is essential for any kind of self-knowledge, but meets with considerable resistance.

While the shadow is always of the same sex as the subject, when we talk of the opposite sex, the source of projections takes the form of a contrasexual figure. Here we meet the anima of man and animus of woman, which often turn up behind the shadow, bringing up new and difficult problems. If you are unconscious of your anima, it will marry your shadow.

The anima is the personification of all female psychological tendencies in man, while the animus is the personification of all male psychological tendencies in woman. These will always express what you lack, as they have a complementary nature. They form part of the collective unconscious, as archetypes or collectively inherited patterns of behaviour, which are autonomous, making them particularly difficult to integrate into one’s personality.

Just as the persona should be a sort of bridge to the world, the function of anima and animus is to make a connection with the depths of the psyche.

We have explored the ideas of the persona, the shadow and the collective unconscious (which differs from the personal unconscious) in previous videos. Now we will be doing the same here with the anima and animus.

Introduction: Anima and Animus

“If the encounter with the shadow is the ‘apprentice-piece’… then that with the anima is the ‘master-piece.’ ”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 9. Part I. Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious

The integration of the shadow, or the realisation of the personal unconscious, marks the first stage in Jungian psychology. Without it, a recognition of anima and animus is impossible.

“Though the shadow is a motif as well known to mythology as anima and animus, it represents first and foremost the personal unconscious, and its content can therefore be made conscious without too much difficulty. In this it differs from anima and animus, for whereas the shadow can be seen through and recognised fairly easily, the anima and animus are much further away from consciousness and in normal circumstances are seldom if ever realised.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 9. Part II: Aion. The Shadow

The first step one must take is acknowledgement of the anima and animus, which form the bridge to the most fundamental figure to emerge, the archetype of the Self, the totality of one’s personality.

Man tends to overvalue the masculine aspect with his persona, playing the strong man, while the feminine aspect remains unconscious. This naturally leads to negative anima projection, as he is completely unaware of it. Man is highly focused on ego, he is highly rational and centres around the outer world, in detriment to the unconscious. His curse is the imprisonment of the outer world without access to the inner world.

Woman, on the other hand, is more in tune with the inner life. There is a considerable psychological difference between man and woman, it is common for men to have irrational moods and women irrational opinions.

The anima corresponds to the maternal Eros, and the animus corresponds to the paternal Logos. Jung writes:

“Just as the anima becomes, through integration, the Eros of consciousness, so the animus becomes a Logos; and in the same way that the anima gives relationship and relatedness to a man’s consciousness, so the animus gives to a woman’s consciousness a capacity for reflection, deliberation and self-knowledge.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 9. Part II: Aion. The Syzygy: Anima and Animus

These archetypes are also conditioned by the experience each person has had in the course of his or her life with the opposite sex.

Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman; not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definitive feminine image. Likewise, woman carries with her the eternal image of the masculine. Jung points to the archetypal nature of anima and animus, and he is talking about the projection of these inner figures onto real women and men.

The Anima: The Woman Within

Starting with the anima “the woman within” or personification of all female psychological tendencies in man, is as a rule shaped by one’s mother. If a man feels that his mother had a negative influence on him, his anima will often express itself in irritable, depressed moods, uncertainty, insecurity, and touchiness.

“Within the soul of such a man the negative mother-anima figure will endlessly repeat this theme: “I am nothing. Nothing makes any sense. With others it’s different, but for me… I enjoy nothing.” These “anima moods” cause a sort of dullness, a fear of disease, of impotence, or of accidents. The whole of life takes on a sad and oppressive aspect. Such dark moods can even lure a man to suicide, in which case the anima becomes a death demon.”

Man and His Symbols. Part III: The Process of Individuation – M.L. von Franz

The anima is the archetype of life and when it is negative, the impulse is to dream about life and to make wishful fantasies about life, instead of living life. It is as if a vampire is sucking one’s blood, the blood being our life activity. Such people sink into passivity, feel constantly tired and do not want to do anything, one wakes up depressed and nothing means anything.

The image of Woman is the solace for all bitterness of life. And, at the same time, she is the great illusionist, the seductress, who draws man into life with her Maya. Hope and despair counterbalance one another.

A still more subtle manifestation of a negative anima involves partaking in a destructive intellectual game, characteristic of pseudo-intellectual dialogues that inhibit a man from getting into direct touch with life and its real decisions. He reflects about life so much that he cannot live it.  

“Young men who are overpowered by their mothers [often] escape into the realm of the intellect, to escape the mother’s power and the animus pressure, by getting into the realm of books and philosophical discussion – which they think mother does not understand. He saves his mental masculinity but sacrifices his phallus: his earthly masculinity and creativity. This vitality of action, that masculinity which moulds the clay, which seizes and moulds reality, he leaves behind, for that is too difficult; he escapes into the realm of philosophy. There is no real question behind such philosophy. Such people have no genuine questions. For them it is a kind of play with words and concepts and is entirely lacking in any convincing quality.”

– M.L. von Franz, The Problem of the Puer Aeternus

Just as a negative experience with one’s mother can negatively affect one’s anima, so too can an overattachment to one’s mother. The man becomes effeminate and is preyed upon by women, he is thus unable to cope with the hardships of life. A mother complex creates a split anima.

On the one hand he worships the feminine image too much. A man lives regressively, fleeing from the cold cruel world and seeking his childhood under the nourishing and protecting circle of the mother. This is known as puer aeternus or eternal youth (also known as the Peter Pan Syndrome). It is the archetype of the child-god whose negative aspect includes the unconscious temptation to return to the mother’s womb. This is seen today in adults who are socially immature, the so-called “man-child” who has never “grown up.”

On the other hand he despises woman and sees her simply as an object to fulfil his erotic fantasies. The most frequent manifestation of the anima takes the form of erotic fantasy, which becomes compulsive only when a man does not sufficiently cultivate his feeling relationships, and has remained infantile.

These aspects of the anima can be projected so that they appear to the man to be the qualities of some particular woman. It is the presence of the anima that causes a man to fall suddenly in love when he sees a woman for the first time and knows that this is “she.” In this situation, the man feels as if he has known this woman intimately for all time; he falls for her so helplessly that it looks to outsiders like complete madness.

In the German myth of the Lorelei, beautiful water spirits or sirens sing to seduce and lure men to their death. The anima symbolises an unreal dream of love, happiness, and maternal warmth (her nest) – a dream or wishful fantasy that lures men away from reality.

Men also project the anima onto things as well as women. Such as the captain of a ship being symbolically “her” husband, which may be why he must (according to tradition) go down with the ship if “she” sinks.

However, the anima is not just about lust. The universal anima is symbolised by the goddesses who possess feminine energy: Cybele (the Goddess of Nature) and Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love).

The anima has just as many important positive aspects. It plays a vital role in putting a man’s mind in tune with the right inner values and thereby opening the way into more profound inner depths. This is the role of Beatrice in Dante’s Divine Comedy, who after descending into hell and the purgatory, guides him through heaven.

There are four stages in the development of the anima:

“The first stage is best symbolised by the figure of Eve, which represents purely instinctual and biological relations. The second can be seen in Faust’s Helen: She personifies a romantic and aesthetic level that is, however, still characterised by sexual elements. The third is represented, for instance, by the Virgin Mary – a figure who raises love (eros) to the heights of spiritual devotion. The fourth type is symbolised by Sapientia, wisdom transcending even the most holy and the most pure… In the psychic development of modern man this stage is rarely reached. The Mona Lisa comes nearest to such a wisdom anima.”

Man and His Symbols. Part III. The Anima: The Woman Within – M.L. von Franz

In practical terms, the positive role of the anima as guide to the inner world occurs when a man takes seriously the feelings, moods, expectations, and fantasies sent by his anima and when he fixes them in some form – such as writing, painting, sculpture or musical composition.

After a fantasy has been fixed in some specific form, it is essential to regard it as being absolutely real and not “only a fantasy”. If this is practised with devotion over a long period of time, the process of individuation takes place and unfolds in its true form, as one brings the unconscious contents into reality.

The unconscious as we know can never be “done with” once and for all. The purpose of Jung’s analytical psychology is to achieve wholeness of personality, bringing the unconscious contents into consciousness, through the lifelong process of individuation and alignment towards the Self.

“Only the painful (but essentially simple) decision to take one’s fantasies and feelings seriously can at this stage prevent a complete stagnation of the inner process of individuation, because only in this way can a man discover what this figure means as an inner reality. Thus the anima becomes what she originally was – the “woman within”, who conveys the vital messages of the Self.”

Man and His Symbols. Part III. The Anima: The Woman Within – M.L. von Franz

One such example can be seen with Scottish writer William Sharp, who wrote under Fiona Macleod, a pseudonym kept almost secret during his lifetime. He wrote on Celtic lore and nature. He wrote out of his heart, out of his soul, through the voice of the archetype of life. When a man is full of life he is “animated”. This he could never have brought into expression with his outer self. He knew that what he wrote could not have been done by himself alone.

In fact, he even wrote letters to Fiona, and she would answer. They were two separate persons. A rare degree of reality, corresponding to anima integration. The great poet William Butler Yeats praised Fiona’s writings, but did not like those of William Sharpe.

The Animus: The Man Within

The animus “the man within” is the personification of all male psychological tendencies in woman, it too exhibits both good and bad aspects. However, it does not so often appear in the form of an erotic fantasy or mood, but rather takes the form of a hidden “sacred” conviction about one’s assumptions.

“One of the favourite themes that the animus repeats endlessly in the ruminations of this kind of woman goes like this: ‘The only thing in the world that I want is love – and he doesn’t love me’; or ‘In this situation there are only two possibilities – and both are equally bad.’ ”

Man and His Symbols. Part III. The Animus: The Man Within – M.L. von Franz

Just as the character of a man’s anima is shaped by his mother, so the animus is influenced by a woman’s father. The father endows his daughter’s animus with incontestably and unarguable “true” convictions – convictions that never include the personal reality of the woman herself as she actually is. The negative aspects of the animus lures women away from all human relationships and personifies a cocoon of dreamy thoughts, filled with desire and judgments about how things “ought to be”, which cuts a woman off from the reality of life.

In the folk tale of Bluebeard, we can see a representation of a negative animus, who secretly kills all his wives in a hidden chamber. When he marries another woman, he asks her not to open a certain secret door, where all the corpses are found. The woman, however, is overcome by curiosity and opens it.

In this form the animus personifies all the cold and destructive reflections that invade a woman which get her into a state where she even wishes death to others.

“By nursing secret destructive attitudes, a wife can drive her husband, and a mother her children, into illness, accident, or even death. Or she may decide to keep the children from marrying – a deeply hidden form of evil that rarely comes to the surface of the mother’s conscious mind. (A naïve old woman once said to me, while showing me a picture of her son, who was drowned when he was 27: ‘I prefer it this way; it’s better than giving him away to another woman.’)”

Man and His Symbols. Part III. The Animus: The Man Within – M.L. von Franz

An unconscious animus opinion may lead to a strange passivity and paralysis of all feelings, or a deep insecurity. In the depths of the woman’s being, the animus whispers: “You are hopeless. What’s the use of trying? There is no point in doing anything. Life will never change for the better.” Just as the anima, the animus also takes on a vampiric aspect.

“It is one of the activities of the animus life of a woman to steal, to suck life from other people. Such a woman becomes a vampire because she has no life in herself. But she needs life and so must take it where she finds it. The negative devil-animus kills every feminine aspect in life.”

M.L. von Franz, Animus and Anima in Fairy Tales

Unfortunately, whenever one is possessed by the anima or animus, it seems as if we ourselves are having such thoughts and feelings. The ego identifies with them to the point where it is unable to detach itself and see them for what they are. One really becomes possessed by the unconscious and only after the possession has fallen away does one realise with horror that one has said and done things diametrically opposed to one’s real thoughts and feelings.

Like the anima, the animus does not merely consist of negative qualities such as brutality, recklessness, empty talk, and silent, obstinate, evil ideas. He too has a very positive and valuable side; he too can build a bridge to the Self through his creative activity. If a woman realises who and what her animus is, her animus can turn into an invaluable inner companion who endows her with the masculine qualities of initiative, courage, objectivity, and spiritual wisdom.

“The animus, just like the anima, exhibits four stages of development. He first appears as a personification of mere physical power, for instance, as an athletic champion or “muscle man.” In the next stage he possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action. In the third phase, the animus becomes the “word”, often appearing as a professor or clergyman. Finally, in his fourth manifestation, the animus is the incarnation of meaning. On this highest level he becomes (like the anima) a mediator of the religious experience whereby life acquires new meaning.”

Man and His Symbols. Part III. The Animus: The Man Within – M.L. von Franz

Anima and Animus: Path towards Individuation

The dance between anima and animus is indispensable for individuation. Just as Jung describes the anima as the archetype of life, he calls the animus the archetype of meaning. Jung makes reference to the idea of the syzygy, the divine couple united by a sacred marriage, as a motif as universal as the existence of men and women – such as the unions celebrated by Shiva and Shakti, or Zeus and Hera.

The anima gives birth to the images of the psyche, it brings them to life from the unconscious, while the animus gives them meaning in consciousness, in the outer world.

The confrontation with the unconscious can be seen as an active act of meditation, which has its Latin roots in meditatio, to reflect upon, which has a healing effect. The dictionary of alchemy written in the 17th century describes it as:

“An Internal Talk of one person with another who is invisible, as in the invocation of a Deity, communion with one’s self, or with one’s good angel.”

Martin Rulandus the Elder, A Lexicon of Alchemy

By understanding, writing, and drawing dreams, we incorporate the images of the unconscious. The most important dreams are the so called “archetypal dreams” which come from the collective unconscious.

There are two important practices for Jung in relation to dreams: amplification and active imagination.

Amplification is the use of mythological, historical and cultural parallels in order to amplify or “turn up the volume” on the dream material, Jung calls this the “psychological tissue” in which the image is embedded. He wanted to avoid the process to be “entirely subjective”. During his life, Jung interpreted around 80.000 dreams and discovered that they seem to follow a clear pattern, demonstrating the validity of his concept of the collective unconscious.

With active imagination, one visualises and contemplates on any one fragment of fantasy that seems significant and elaborates on it by adding further unconscious material in a natural manner. The goal is to bring the unconscious material into the already existing conscious material of the written dream. It is common for intense and frequent dreams to become weaker and less frequent the more they are made conscious. In other words, dreams contain fantasies which “want” to become conscious.

When confronting the figures of the unconscious, one shouldn’t ask questions about the ego or outer world, but of one’s inner reality. The dreamworld of symbols does not mean that it is mere “fantasy”. In fact, imagination seeks to “magnify”, that is, to expand consciousness. In other words, active imagination is actively expanding consciousness.

The goal of individuation is to become more and more who we really are, distinct from others and yet in relationship to others. This process is a series of confrontational dialogues between us and the world, the human beings to whom we are related and bound and the inner world of the archetypes. An essential part of this process is that a man becomes conscious of his anima, and a woman of her animus, in order to differentiate him or herself from it, and not be dominated by it.

The inner living figures expect complete neglect from us. And they aren’t happy about that, because they are real.

“We find that thoughts, feelings, and affects are alive in us which we would never have believed possible. Naturally, possibilities of this sort seem utterly fantastic to anyone who has not experienced them himself, for a normal person “knows what he thinks.” Such a childish attitude on the part of the “normal person” is simply the rule, so that no one without experience in this field can be expected to understand the real nature of anima and animus. With these reflections one gets into an entirely new world of psychological experience, provided of course that one succeeds in realising it in practice. Those who do succeed can hardly fail to be impressed by all that the ego does not know and never has known. This increase in self-knowledge is still very rare nowadays and is usually paid for in advance with a neurosis, if not with something worse.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 9. Part II: Aion. The Syzygy: Anima and Animus


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Anima and Animus – Eternal Partners from the Unconscious

The anima and animus are two contrasexual archetypes crucial for individuation and to progress towards the Self in Carl Jung’s analytical psychology.

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