In my first post of this series, I employed the controversial concepts of "masculine" and "feminine." There is continuing debate as to the causes for the perennial war between the sexes. But one (of several I'm presenting) especially useful approach to understanding this traditional antagonism addresses the inherent, psychobiological differences between women and men, and the feminine and masculine modes of being-in-the-world.
C.G. Jung utilized these terms masculine and feminine not to describe rigidly dogmatic, stereotypical, gender-specific personality traits, but rather to connote two opposite, yet completely complementary, modes of being, two elemental qualities of existence. The so-called feminine principle corresponds to the 2500 year old Taoist (pronounced Dow-ist) symbol, yin, and refers to a more unconscious, emotional, instinctual, earthy, organic, irrational, receptive, related, non-judgmental, gentle, subjective, passive, poetic attitude toward life. The ancient Chinese masculine principle, yang, denotes a more conscious, competitive, penetrating, logical, rational, intellectual, linear, analytical, objective, mechanistic, forceful, focused, aggressive, goal-directed and controlling attitude and point of view. To put it even more basically, yin and the feminine are about being, whereas yang and the masculine are about doing.
In Taoist religious symbolism, both yin and yang are depicted as two fish--one black, the other white--which together comprise a whole circle or sphere. The eternal tension between these two energies depicts the fundamental dynamic polarities of life: masculine (yang) and feminine (yin). These archetypal qualities belong to both sexes in varying degrees, in much the same way that each gender contains a combination of both male and female chromosomes. But biologically and psychologically, women appear (though this is hotly disputed by some) from childhood to be more naturally inclined to yin, while men tend to be more yang. And these diametrically different modalities strongly influence how men and women approach life, and relate to each other.
The typically culturally discouraged and underdeveloped feminine qualities in men are what Jung termed the anima. The underdeveloped masculine qualities in women (also affected culturally), he called the animus. These are archetypal complexes, containing not only all of our earliest experiences, memories, and feelings associated with the prototypical woman or man in our lives--usually mother and father--but also an idealized collective image of Man or Woman. Due to the relative unconsciousness of anima or animus, we tend to project our disowned and dissociated inner woman or inner man onto the opposite gender. This ubiquitous projection of anima or animus is at the very root of romantic love or infatuation. But it also contributes to the stormy relations between the sexes. For it is humanly impossible for the beloved to live up to--at least for very long--the idealized projected image of the anima or animus.
Love is blind. Indeed, when we are in love, it is not really the other we are seeing, but rather an inner image of what we want to see. This makes it difficult to see the beloved's dark side--a potentially precarious proposition. And, even when the partner's dark side is not so nefarious, if the anima or animus contain significant negative qualities, associations and emotions--commonly caused by traumatic experiences with parental figures--these are also projected onto the lover, sometimes in stark, alternating contrast to the positive aspects. Since men and women are of opposite gender, we naturally make excellent targets on which to cast not only idealized images of the perfect man or woman, but also our own most denied, despised, repudiated personal qualities and negative associations to the opposite sex: our contrasexual shadow or negative anima or animus. The result: instant adoration or animosity. Idealization or demonization. Usually, some confusing and infuriating confluence of both.
Via the opposite sex, we try to vicariously integrate into our lives and live out the contrasexual qualities of masculinity or femininity. Men and women seek outwardly in each other what is missing within themselves. If a man's personality is lopsidedly masculine, as is generally the case, rather than consciously developing the other side--his anima--he instead expects a woman to provide this compensation for him. If a woman's personality is overly feminine, with little conscious integration of the masculine--her animus--she unconsciously seeks out extremely masculine men to try to create some compensatory balance. Of course, this can become problematical: Two halves do not necessarily make a whole. Nor can someone else always provide what we internally lack. When the imperfect partner inevitably falls short of fulfilling the masculine or feminine role--and cannot relate intimately due to their own disequilibrium--anger, resentment and hostility simmer. Eventually, in every romantic relationship, disappointment or disillusionment set in. The person chosen no longer can carry the idealized projection of man or woman we initially attributed to them. They are no longer a blank screen or tabula rasa upon which to project, but rather a real person with flaws, idiosyncrasies and human limitations.
Frequently, this is when the relationship enters a period of painful, tempestuous crisis, with one or both partners feeling they have fallen out of love, and therefore, should move on. This misinterpretation is the ruin of many marriages. For singles too, falling in love and out can become a never-ending pattern, forever seeking someone new to hold their anima or animus projection--if only briefly. But there is an alternative to this vicious cycle: Rather than running away, remaining in the relationship, but turning within to develop and better integrate one's anima or animus, which requires learning to more constructively relate to the repressed masculine or feminine aspects of the personality. This crucial part of the individuation process is considered the centerpiece of any classical Jungian analysis and is frequently the focus of treatment in marital therapy, as well as individual therapy with men or women who suffer (and cause others to suffer) from such frustrating and destructive patterns of behavior.
In Part Three of this series, we'll examine the powerful role of pathological narcissism in stoking the animosity between the sexes.