As discussed in a previous blog, an archetype is an organizer of experience, which gives rise to a basic pattern of psychic functioning. Jung’s concepts of anima and animus (i.e., syzygy) are two of the most important, and too often misunderstood, archetypes in the Jungian lexicon. Thus, further discussion regarding their meaning is needed. Just as no man is purely masculine, no woman is purely feminine. Both genders share masculine and feminine qualities, which tend to border on the androgynous. The very idea of gender roles suggests a certain archetypal quality. For instance, women, by and large, are viewed as being more willing to exercise mercy and patience in most situations; whereas men are more prone to demand swift justice. Naturally, there are always exceptions to the rule, however, the general rule usually holds true. In the most fundamental sense, anima and animus are personifications of one’s inner soul image. The soul image, whether in its anima configuration or animus configuration, mediates the ego’s relationship to the other (inner or outer). In this way, they are often seen as a mediator or mediatrix, a third party that negotiates the relationship. In fact, this archetypal image could be said to be one’s very capacity to relate. In an early work, Jung (1921/1971) explained how the contrasexual aspect of the anima/animus archetype worked: “For a man, a woman is best fitted to be the real bearer of his soul-image, because of the feminine quality of his soul; for a woman it will be a man” (CW6, para. 809). Elsewhere, Jung (1951/1959) indicated the following:
Woman is compensated by a masculine element and therefore her unconscious has, so to speak, a masculine imprint. This results in a considerable psychological difference between men and women, and accordingly I have called the projection-making factor in women the animus, which means mind or spirit. (CW9ii, para. 29)
In a time of ever evolving cultural vicissitudes, Jung’s traditional viewpoint regarding gender roles may come across as outdated and as they say, “old hat.” However, I think Jung again was turning to the general rule, which one could say still applies today. I should add, however, and I think Jung would agree, any age would have to account for its exceptions. We fail to honor psychological diversity when we try to subjugate the universal for the sake of the particular, or pauperize the particular to further advance the universal.
Anima has often been associated with the principle of Eros, the principle of relatedness, whereas, the Animus has usually been associated with the principle of Logos, the capacity to structure and discern. Although there are parallels between the principle of Eros and Anima, as well, as the principle of Logos and the animus, it is important to point out that Jung was merely underscoring general distinctions with the two principles that could, but did not have to, apply to the concepts of anima and animus. Jung also associated the soul-image with the face of our ego that looks inward whereas the outward looking face he called the persona. The persona mediates the outer attitude of the personality, which relates to the external world of things and objects whereas the soul-image mediates the world within, which consists of images and ideas. This is a very important distinction. Persona looks outward, and the anima/animus looks inward, that is to say, toward the unconscious. Given this illustration, one should note that the psyche, like the Roman god Janus, has two faces, and can look both inward and outward. The anima facilitates the inward gaze toward the unconscious, whereas the persona facilitates the outward gaze toward the external world.
It is important to point out that elsewhere Jung referred to the anima as “the archetype of life itself” (1934/1959, CW9i, para. 66). In a peculiar way, anima and animus characterize life and perhaps even one’s drive to live. It is a difficult idea to adequately articulate discursively because one practically needs to feel it to know that it is true, however that is the soul-image, feeling and values over cold hard facts. One need only read Jung’s (2009) record of his encounter with Salome in Liber Novus to appreciate how the soul-image functions (p. 246). Lastly, a recent dream seems apropos to illustrate to the reader how the anima appears in dreams. Not long ago I had a dream where my wife, daughter, and myself, were all descending rapidly in a dark water. Although I could not see them directly, I knew they were there and this knowledge brought me comfort. Although the dream suggests something foreboding, the dark descent did not strike terror into my heart, instead it helped me realize what the anima really is, at least for me, a means to relate to my own inner feminine. For it provided me orientation in a dark place. Both wife and daughter, mother or sister, can symbolize the anima in a dream, just like a husband, brother, or uncle can represent a woman’s animus. Such relationships and roles do after all point toward a vital activity, which corresponds ultimately to relatedness. I should add that where such distinctions become most fuzzy, is in the middle.
Jung, C.G. (1959). The concept of the collective unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 9i, pp. 290-354). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1934)
Jung, C.G. (1959). Aion: Researches into the phenomenology of the self. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 9ii). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1951)
Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological types. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 6). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1921)
Jung, C.G. (2009). The Red Book: Liber novus. Sonu Shamdasani (ed.). Philemon Series. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.