Jung for Dummies: Animus Planet
I read Jung so you don't have to.
Posted Mar 30, 2011
Long before I knew about Jung, I knew about animus. I didn't know what the name was, but I had known my animus for years. There was the dark animus who had harassed me since I was 10. In my nightmares, this faceless man had chased me and threatened me and insisted I didn't look at him. I thought, as most would do at 10, that he was my bogeyman and it certainly didn't occur to me that he was a psychological complex and/or an archetype.
Years later there were positive animus figures who showed up in my dreams and they completed me. With them, I felt strong, self-confident, smart, and loved. Then I would wake up, crushed, and completely lost without him. The details of some of my positive animus dreams have stayed with me longer than memories of actual men I have dated.
Just in case you don't know anima from anime, let me try to break this down for you. The first task of individuation, consciousness, or just not being an unconscious git is to pull back our projections and become aware of our shadow. Once we have done that, we then need to integrate the inner opposite gender aspect of ourselves. In fancy terms, we need to integrate our unconscious contrasexual nature, or we haven't become all we can be (I didn't intend to quote an Army commercial but my animus-inspired Muse made me do it). Men have anima figures that function as their souls, and women have animus figures.
The anima is something each guy has; no matter how butch or badass or unevolved he may be, he has an inner feminine even if he is completely disconnected from it. When you think of anima, think of Dante's Beatrice, Jerry McGuire, and the gal who completes him or the other one who makes him jump on the couch like it was a trampoline at a kid's birthday party, or that Twilighty vampire guy and the human he loves too much. These are literary versions of what happens internally.
Dante needed his anima, his soul, or he was in hell. Jerry needed Renee Zellweger or he was just a soulless agent. A vampirey guy has no soul and so he needs an anima figure to get one (he also needs sunblock but that is a different post). And women have animus figures; this is really at the core of every romance novel. Heroines often explain their hero: "He completes me." But the he that completes you is, in fact, an inner he; he is your animus.
Note to reader: please read the following passage from Jung in your head or out loud in a thick Swiss accent.
Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man, an imprint or "archetype" of all the ancestral experiences of the female, a deposit, as it were, of all the impressions ever made by woman-in short, an inherited system of psychic adaptation. Even if no women existed, it would still be possible, at any given time, to deduce from this unconscious image exactly how a woman would have to be constituted psychically. The same is true of the woman: she too has her inborn image of man.
The animus, according to Jung, is both a personal complex and an archetypal image that exists within all women. This is not easy stuff to boil down, so let me have my good friend Carl Gustav Jung say it for himself (and no he doesn't have a blog and you can't friend him on Facebook).
The animus is the deposit, as it were, of all woman's ancestral experiences of man—and not only that, he is also a creative and procreative being, not in the sense of masculine creativity, but in the sense that he brings forth something we might call . . . the spermatic word. ["Anima and Animus," CW 7, par. 336.]
The animus in women isn't so much a soul figure, as the anima is in men. The animus is more of an inner guy who is loaded "with fixed ideas, collective opinions and unconscious a priori assumptions that lay claim to absolute truth. In a woman who is identified with the animus (called animus-possession), Eros generally takes second place to Logos." I was, prior to lots of work, such a gal. I had a serious animus complex. I tended to idealize the masculine and logos over the feminine and feeling.
The animus is also a bridge to the Self (yikes, me trying to explain the Self could take a while. Suffice it to say the Self is what you are after in Jungian psychology and it is the more transcendent/trans-personal part of yourself). Here is what my dead and somewhat sexist friend and the Father of Analytic Psychology has to say on the subject:
Like the anima, the animus too has a positive aspect. Through the figure of the father, he expresses not only conventional opinion but-equally-what we call "spirit," philosophical or religious ideas in particular, or rather the attitude resulting from them. Thus the animus is a psychopomp, a mediator between the conscious and the unconscious and a personification of the latter. [Ibid., par. 33.]
That is the last I am going to quote Jung for a while because he had some serious issues about women with large animus figures. Really, it is almost unbearable to read his writings on the subject without wanting to cast aspersions on his manhood and suggest he get a sports car and a Costco size vat of Viagra. I think it is safe to say that Jung had a very small, ahem, *animus*. Truly, for a guy being surrounded by super smart women he had some serious biases about women. I know it was the time in which he lived, but it can still be hard to read his theories on women without occasionally wanting to throw out the Basel-born Jung with the bathwater.
Differentiation is the key to working with animus. The animus tends to be bossy and opinionated and has an answer for everything, mine certainly did/does. What one wants to do is differentiate the messages that come from you (the ego) and those that come from the animus; that way, you are conscious of where these messages come from and that gives you more freedom to take or leave the Old Testament truths that the animus likes to impose.
And since my animus was unusually large (before I learned to differentiate my animus), I had a hard time being around groups of women. This made attending grad school in my chosen field a little hard (as of late, Psychology has become a mostly female profession) and made it harder still to attend a conference given by Marion Woodman, the grand poobah of Jungian Femininity, on the Feminine in which all of the attendants were garbed in shawls and gypsy skirts and Goddess necklaces. My animus was repulsed by the idea when I suggested we attend.
"Are you kidding me?" My animus asked. "This isn't for us. This is too touchy-feely. Where is the intellect? Where is the logic? Hell no, we won't go," it shouted in a chant of self-preservation.
There was a big part of me that agreed with my animus and wanted to hightail it out of the Hilton Ballroom in which this estrogen-rich event was set. However, I knew that my animus had been running the show for far too long, and at the time I was trying to learn about mothering, as most of my practice had been filled with college-aged girls who had mother wounds and my mother wound had left me feeling like it was MUCH better to identify with the masculine. I knew that Marion Woodman had something to teach me about the feminine. I did some differentiation work with my animus.
In my imagination, I booked my animus a suite at Caesar's Palace. I gave him cigars and booze and chips and gift certificates to steak houses and strip clubs. I told him to leave me alone for the weekend so I could get to know myself independent of him and that I would be back for him on Monday. My animus agreed. And it worked. This was the beginning of me differentiating from my animus. I began to see what thoughts, ideas, and feelings were mine and which were from the animus. This was big and it was totally worth being a part of Shawl Fest 2006. That said, I am still pretty identified with my animus, only now my animus is more positive and not the dark one that so long tormented me.