Table of Contents
Anima and animus are gender specific archetypal structures in the collective unconscious that are compensatory to conscious gender identity.
One of the most complex and least understood features of his theory, the idea of a contrasexual archetype, developed out of Jung’s desire to conceptualize the important complementary poles in human psychological functioning. From his experiences of the emotional power of projection in his patients and in himself, he conceived first of the anima as a numinous figure in a man’s unconscious.
In Jung’s (buy his books from Amazon) theory, the anima and animus make up the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a man possesses and the masculine ones possessed by a woman, respectively. He did not believe they were an aggregate of father or mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or teachers, though these aspects of the personal unconscious can influence a person’s anima or animus.
John A. Sanford said in his book The Invisible Partners that the key to controlling one’s anima/animus is to recognize it when it manifests and exercise our ability to discern the anima/animus from reality.
Jung believed anima development has four distinct levels, which in “The psychology of the transference” he named Eve, Helen, Mary and Sophia. In broad terms, the entire process of anima development in a man is about the male subject opening up to emotionality, and in that way a broader spirituality, by creating a new conscious paradigm that includes intuitive processes, creativity and imagination, and psychic sensitivity towards himself and others where it might not have existed previously.
The first is Eve, named after the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. It deals with the emergence of a man’s object of desire.
The second is Helen, an allusion to Helen of Troy in Greek mythology. In this phase, women are viewed as capable of worldly success and of being self-reliant, intelligent and insightful, even if not altogether virtuous. This second phase is meant to show a strong schism in external talents (cultivated business and conventional skills) with lacking internal qualities (inability for virtue, lacking faith or imagination).
The third phase is Mary, named after the Christian theological understanding of the Virgin Mary (Jesus’ mother). At this level, women can now seem to possess virtue by the perceiving man (even if in an esoteric and dogmatic way), in as much as certain activities deemed consciously unvirtuous cannot be applied to her.
The fourth and final phase of anima development is Sophia, named after the Greek word for wisdom. Complete integration has now occurred, which allows women to be seen and related to as particular individuals who possess both positive and negative qualities. The most important aspect of this final level is that, as the personification “Wisdom” suggests, the anima is now developed enough that no single object can fully and permanently contain the images to which it is related.
Jung focused more on the man’s anima and wrote less about the woman’s animus. Jung believed that every woman has an analogous animus within her psyche, this being a set of unconscious masculine attributes and potentials. He viewed the animus as being more complex than the anima, postulating that women have a host of animus images whereas the male anima consists only of one dominant image.
Jung stated that there are four parallel levels of animus development in a woman.
Man of mere physical power
The animus “first appears as a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or muscle man, such as ‘the fictional jungle hero Tarzan'”.
Man of action or romance
In the next phase, the animus “possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action…the romantic man – the 19th century British poet Byron; or the man of action – America’s Ernest Hemingway, war hero, hunter, etc.”
Man as a professor, clergyman, orator
In the third phase “the animus becomes the word, often appearing as a professor or clergyman…the bearer of the word – Lloyd George, the great political orator”.
Man as a spiritual guide
“Finally, in his fourth manifestation, the animus is the incarnation of meaning. On this highest level he becomes (like the anima) a mediator of…spiritual profundity”. Jung noted that “in mythology, this aspect of the animus appears as Hermes, messenger of the gods; in dreams he is a helpful guide.” Like Sophia, this is the highest level of mediation between the unconscious and conscious mind.
Similarities and Differences
The four roles are not identical with genders reversed. Jung (buy his books from Amazon) believed that while the anima tended to appear as a relatively singular female personality, the animus may consist of a conjunction of multiple male personalities: “in this way the unconscious symbolizes the fact that the animus represents a collective rather than a personal element”.
The process of animus development deals with cultivating an independent and non-socially subjugated idea of self by embodying a deeper word (as per a specific existential outlook) and manifesting this word. To clarify, this does not mean that a female subject becomes more set in her ways (as this word is steeped in emotionality, subjectivity, and a dynamism just as a well-developed anima is) but that she is more internally aware of what she believes and feels, and is more capable of expressing these beliefs and feelings. Thus the “animus in his most developed form sometimes…make[s] her even more receptive than a man to new creative ideas”.
Both final stages of animus and anima development have dynamic qualities (related to the motion and flux of this continual developmental process), open-ended qualities (there is no static perfected ideal or manifestation of the quality in question), and pluralistic qualities (which transcend the need for a singular image, as any subject or object can contain multiple archetypes or even seemingly antithetical roles). They also form bridges to the next archetypal figures to emerge, as “the unconscious again changes its dominant character and appears in a new symbolic form, representing the Self”.