Author Topic: Anima AND Animus in Everyone?  (Read 5760 times)

Matt Koeske

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Anima AND Animus in Everyone?
« on: March 27, 2007, 02:59:40 PM »
Some of you may have gathered by now that a great deal of my Jungian thinking is concentrated in the anima/animus concepts (and in the re-thinking of these concepts).  Here's an issue I feel is worth delving into.  It's one I've seen cropping up both in Jungian writings and in the posts of many Jungians in online forums.

The question is this: does an individual have an anima/animus or both?  And why do we feel inclined to answer one way or another?

Some basic reflections of my own:
I have observed a number of people who could loosely be considered "Jungians" talking about their psyches as if certain traits were "anima traits" and others "animus traits".  Here anima and animus are reduced to modes of cognition . . . and that is the best case scenario.  Worst case scenario (and perhaps the more common, regrettably) is that anima and animus traits are blamed for disagreeable tendencies in the individual's personality.

This is actually not only common among Jungians, but it comes to us directly from the master himself.  That is, it is a part of the Jungian dialect to "blame the anima/animus" for what we don't like or are hesitant to accept in ourselves.  To me, this tactic seems so ludicrously irresponsible and daft that I'm amazed Jungians still continue to utilize these ready-made scapegoats.  This shows no more sophistication or consciousness that the medieval tendency of Christians to "blame the devil" for all the "wrong" thoughts and feelings that tempted them.  As we know, there is only one step from this tactic to actually scapegoating and persecuting others who would seem to us to represent these "devils" within.

The Jungian position on the ego/unconscious relationship is generally one of diplomatic equals.  For as much as Jung recommended an ego-position that was responsive to the unconscious, he at least equally recommended an ego-position of resistance to the unconscious.  What he did not clarify in his writing very well was when to take up one position or the other and how to differentiate the situations that necessitate each.

This is one of those elements of Jungian thinking that utterly discords with my own experience.  I have had what I would modestly call an "abundance" of anima experience (as a writer, I have had to work intimately with the anima in all of my creative thinking).  Never in this experience did I even remotely feel that she was leading me astray, deceiving me, weaving me into some restraining web, or seducing me toward some damnation or other.  I always felt her advice for me outstripped my own notions.  Never did I feel as if my bad ideas and selfish feelings were in any way connected to her "mind" . . . which was always very apparent to and distinctly separate from my own.

During my period of anima-obsession I did project her onto women whenever remotely possible . . . and this was very difficult to sort out.  But the error was always with me, with my ego and its misuse of my relationship to her.  She never once encouraged this "interpretation" of her presence.

So this is the basis of my first gripe with the Jungian notion of anima and animus.

Beyond this, I also worry that the tendency to see the presence of archetypal "Masculinity" and "Femininity" in every personality (male or female) can lead to a muddying of the waters.  Yes, both psychologically and biologically, we contain both sex traits . . . but it is another matter entirely to describe certain traits as Masculine and others as Feminine.  I think we need to be extremely cautious when doing this as the arbitrariness of the act is immense.  Much of this characterization is founded on personal and social prejudices and conditioning.  The "truth" as far as I can tell, is that we have very little basis on which to determine what psychological traits are "masculine" and what are "feminine" . . . especially seeing as though we live in a patriarchy (and have for all of recorded or written history).  This patriarchal cultural environment does more to define gender than any other factor (even biology, I think).  It is difficult if not impossible to see beyond this or to comprehend how much arbitrariness there is in patriarchy.

But we also, I think, need to apply more logic to the assumption that anima and animus can exist in every man and woman.  For instance, what is the archetypal and instinctual role of the anima/animus?  Yes, this is slightly fuzzy in Jungian psychology, but it is fairly acceptable to say that these archetypal characters acts as psychopomps to the unconscious.

As to their sexual magnetism (as I have written about elsewhere), I suspect that this trait is a matter of pulling the ego away from the parental/dependent paradigm and toward a peer-partner paradigm of relationship.  This would at least make the existence of the animi sensical as elements of biological instinct.  By contrast, if we think of these characters as tricksterly deceivers and seducers that woo us toward damnation, then we cannot accord this with biology or instinct in any way . . . and this would actually be in conflict with Jung's notion of archetypes as instincts (although Jung himself did not reason this one out adequately).

So, I am proposing that the "countrasexual" nature of the animi has essential relevance to the understanding of the archetypes themselves (although I would allow for the possibility of homosexual orientations creating an "erotic Other" of the same sex).

At the limits of Jung’s writing on the anima (he never pursues the animus this deeply), we see a typical series of transformations in her personality that corresponds to progress in the individuation process or what I would call the “anima work”.  It goes roughly like this: Mother/Devourer-Provider-->Seductress/Witch/Femme Fatale-->Lover/Sister/Partner-->Soul Mate/Soror Mystica-->Priestess/Goddess/Sophia/Teacher/Guide, which culminates in-->Anima Mundi or a manifestation of the archetypal Feminine which seems to encompass all of the previous stages simultaneously, followed promptly by-->Death/Depotentiation/Dissolution back into the formless unconscious.  The last "present" stage is accompanied by an incorporation of all those traits once associated with the anima that the ego now realizes “belong” to it.  One of these traits is the anima’s role in the unconscious as gateway to and translator of the Self.  With the depotentiation of the anima, the ego must take on the responsibility for translating and loving the Self. 

I would argue that the anima’s other purpose (aside from detaching libido from the maternal unconscious) is to establish a loving and devoted relationship between the ego and the Self.  When she is no longer needed to “woo” the ego into an Erotic and permanent relationship with the Self, she disappears or is greatly diminished, especially as a go-between.

During this process, the anima archetype remains a major, even THE major player in the psyche.  She has a very distinct and profound numinous-erotic effect on the ego in dreams and in fantasies.  It is usually very easy to differentiate her from another female dream character.  That is, I do not agree with theories of dream interpretation that all female figures and elements are aspects of the anima.  The anima has a specific role and quality to her that no other characters have.

From what I have seen in the dreams and fantasies of women and from what I can extrapolate from my own anima experiences, the animus plays exactly the same role in women.  After all, women need exactly the same thing from this instinct that men do, namely, a transference of libido from the parental to the (reproductive) partner and a reconnection of the culturally-adapted ego to the instinctual, biological Self.

In this paradigm, what use is there of having an anima AND an animus in the same person?  It strikes me as a redundancy.  Also, this can confuse the erotic nature of the animi.  This isn't to say that we (women and men both) can't have numinous dream figures of the same sex as us (aside from the shadow) . . . or even that we can't have erotic feelings toward these same sex dream figures.  I merely think it is important to make as clear a differentiation as we can regarding the specific archetypal role of the animi in the psyche.

I do not know how this plays out in instances of homo- and bisexuality.  If anyone wishes to elaborate or posit hypotheses on this, please do.

All I can say with certainty is that I never felt a masculine archetypal presence or character with the same numen as the anima in my own experience.

All that said, I can think of one instance in which I dreamed with characters that could have been considered an anima and an animus.  In this dream, I was identified on and off with a female heroine who was on a quest.  She had to go to a shaman to take a potion that would give her the strength and knowledge of how to proceed/succeed.  It turned out that this shaman was an old friend with whom she had gone through the rite of the hieros gamos in the past.  They had linked minds and there was still a residual eroticism between them.

Under analysis, it became clear to me that the male shaman was equivalent to the the animus of the heroine character I was loosely identified with.  Not only this, but, as the animus of this heroine, the shaman seemed to represent some kind of idealized ego-self for me.  One might say that he was the type of masculinity I had to develop in order to compliment and serve a femininity as powerful as the one represented by the heroine (who was less an anima figure than a kind of ego figure).  In essence, together, these two figures constituted my ideal ego-self.  But the feeling of their relationship was decidedly "post-coniunctio", i.e., neither was a mysterious Other to the other one.  In order to accomplish the task ahead they had to "put their heads together" and become one.

It was also interesting that the masculine was portrayed as creative and passive (as the cook in the kitchen), while the feminine was active (as the heroine on a mission) and (later in the dream) responsible for making a discerning symbolic "cut".

I do not feel this dream is entirely applicable to the standard Jungian notions of anima and animus, though.  It had a different numen than the anima dreams I had when I was younger . . . a much more "conscious" one.  Instead of the numen of mystery and Otherness (associated with the animi), it had a numen of knowing and familiarity and the excitement of mutual engagement.  Whereas the animi work tends to feel very personal, very much about "me", this image felt very much about the task ahead, about some external, future event unrelated to ego-identity.

So, ultimately, I still feel inclined to stick to my theory that it provides more clarity to distinguish the specific role of the animi as represented by dream and fantasy figures.  But I would be interested in hearing other opinions or personal experiences from which you draw meaning and definition for the anima and animus.

-Matt


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Sealchan

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Re: Anima AND Animus in Everyone?
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2007, 07:37:57 PM »
Here are a jumble of thoughts on this topic...

I may have one or two dreams where I have interpreted my dream perspective as being the shadow and the more competent/attractive male and female couple in the dream as the ego and anima.  I suspect that it is possible to be the shadow or anima in a dream. 

In my Land Beneath the Waves dream I had a sense of the appearance of Jeff Probst as a Self image but maybe this is wrong.  Might I postulate he was an ego figure beside a shadowy kitchen role or maybe this inner animus?   

I agree that the identification of a male or female character as animus/anima simply because of their sex relative to the dreamer is of limited value.  Of course, they should be peers in age with the dreamer as well.  On the other hand I do find that moving quickly to this hasn't disappointed me. 

I also have used the idea of "ego-oriented" or "ego-aligned" as an adjective to characterize a shadow (same sex, same age) or anima/us (other sex, same age) figure that is highly coordinated to the ego character in the dream.  This is opposed to the more adversarial or problematic unaligned shadow or anima/us.  I think this basic sense of alignment is an important distinction and maybe this agrees with a distinction between a pre- and post- coniunctio ego-other relationship. 

There is also the not so common quaternity of male-female characters that sometimes seems to represent a "higher" and "lower" couple in myths (I might have seen one such quaternity in someone else's dream).  I'm not sure how this does or does not fit into all of this.  But these are same age couples with differing attitudes (intelligence, social standing, seriousness, etc).

Matt Koeske

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Re: Anima AND Animus in Everyone?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2007, 11:10:18 AM »
Here are a jumble of thoughts on this topic...

I may have one or two dreams where I have interpreted my dream perspective as being the shadow and the more competent/attractive male and female couple in the dream as the ego and anima.  I suspect that it is possible to be the shadow or anima in a dream.

I think one of the complications involved in getting a grip on the animi is their dual form.  We experience them (say, in dreams) as personifications or characters, usually.  But I believe that they are founded on something Other, something non-egoic.  Specifically, on instinctual processes.  For me, the animi (and the Self, which they prefigure) are instinctual, autonomous processes that we are only able to understand as characters (or perhaps as "divine presences", at times), because we are only able to perceive them through our egos, our senses of identity (i.e., via anthropomorphic projection).  After all, they interact with us, seem to want something from us, affect us . . . and they possess a lot of knowledge or information (which we experience as insight into us).

So, in this sense, we wouldn't really be able to be our animi in our dreams . . . not entirely.  We cannot, after all, be our instinctual, autonomous processes.  But we can identify with the animi, because the animi have taken on all of our reflected qualities that we don't really know how to utilize in our ego identities.

So, in the animi work, we, in a sense, eventually become the animi, i.e., take back all of our projections onto them.  But there is still something remaining: their otherness, their non-personalistic, autonomous natures (as instinctual processes).  This is where I see an essential distinction between ego and Self.  At some point our identity baggage is ours (our ego's) and ours alone, and the unconscious, instinctual Self becomes a clearly defined, differentiated entity, an Other.

As for the shadow, that's a little foggier.  I prefer to see the shadow as a quality of otherness attached to everything we don't know how to or refuse to or can't identify with.  So sometimes this will manifest as a shadow twin (same sex, same age, as you mention).  I suspect that this kind of shadow (perhaps the most conventional Jungian kind) emerges in situation in which we are divided on some issue or feeling or experience.  When we are in conflict on an identity issue, there are, in effect, two of us in an oppositional stance.  This is a mirror shadow.

I had a perfect example of this in my dream "Angel to Spike Enantiodromia".  I went to an acting audition for the TV show Angel (to lend support to my mother), and there I ran into an actor auditioning for a part who wanted to practice his lines with me.  He was black (I'm white) and my age.  I agreed to practice with him and found that he was way over the top with his acting style, putting on all kinds of accents.  He was very talented, but I could see that he didn't choose the appropriate "mask" for his parts.  It was like he was in love with the theater of acting itself, and not the specific role.

This reflected my own dilemma back when I was aggravating the Jungians in my "past life" at K by carrying and theatricalizing the shadow for them.  Well, I was divided on this issue, and the dream helped show me the true differentiation of this divide.  That's the mirror shadow.

Another good example is the recent film Mirror Mask, a surreal fairytale about an adolescent girl conflicted between rebellion against her parents and a desire to humanize them.  An interesting film, worth seeing if you haven't already.

I also frequently dream of my younger brother in a mirror or twin shadow role.

But sometimes our shadows are not something we can integrate or recognize as ourselves.  I can see two occasions in which this would be the case.  One is in a case like with the animi above.  That is, the shadow is attached to the animi or Self, to some non-me instinctual process.  It can never be me, so it will always remain shadow to some degree.

The other would be situations in which we cannot fully embrace a position (that we see is cruel or irresponsible, let's say), but we can relate to it . . . we can see how we would be capable of such an act.  So we can't incorporate or integrate this shadow in its entirety as a functional aspect of our ego-position.  The best we can do is incorporate a relationship, a conscious relationship, to this other-position.

So, even in our shadow twins, there may be some characteristic that we cannot "become" without falling into a more unconscious state.  So with my theatrical shadow twin mentioned above, I could see how I have been behaving like him in my waking life, I could see that his talents were impressive and may have had an application . . . but his awareness of how to employ those talents was deficient.  I can't incorporate this deficiency into my ego strategy without becoming unconscious (as I have now clearly recognized it for what it is).

But what I most take away from that dream interaction is an empathy for my shadow twin.  I cannot be him, but I can still empathize with him, relate to him.  I feel a bit sorry for him, even, because I suspect that he is too much a "force of nature" to get the part he's auditioning for.  In my waking life, I can take away a "lesson" from that relationship, too.  In this case, that my attempt to push the scapegoat role into its "light aspect", the Redeemer (or bringer of consciousness) . . . in the dream's language, a part in Angel, in the spiritual-heroic realm, is not going to happen, because the actor is not right for the role.  My shadow twin thought, "Because I have a lot of talent, they will hire me!", but the truth is that the part he was auditioning for didn't require all that talent, all that complexity.  It was a bit part, not a leading role . . . and he refused to abide by the smallness of the role or to be made small by its constraints.  Like Lucifer, his pride condemns him to failure.

But the lesson for me is not that I should kowtow or "humble myself to the smallness of the role".  The real lesson is that I should simply walk out of the audition to which I am entirely ill-suited (which is what I realized in the dream).  This lesson is "re-taught" in a different way in my "Voldemort's Revision" dream.  If the role is too "small" to accommodate who you are, you don't sacrifice yourself to the role, you find a different job.

And, here I am now with my new job, Useless Science.  Lesson learned  (-)howdy(-).

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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Dragon Child

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Re: Anima AND Animus in Everyone?
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2007, 04:22:19 PM »
To me, this tactic seems so ludicrously irresponsible and daft that I'm amazed Jungians still continue to utilize these ready-made scapegoats.  This shows no more sophistication or consciousness that the medieval tendency of Christians to "blame the devil" for all the "wrong" thoughts and feelings that tempted them.

I have not yet read your whole OP, but I wanted to step in at this point. Let me first say that I have not yet had reason to suppose that there was both an anima and an animus within me. Now as for this "blaming the anima" thing - could this not be why Jung said that one has to confront the shadow first and the anima second? Otherwise, those traits of the shadow that have not been accepted as one's own may be projected, as you say, on the anima.

We might also explain it as follows. The anima is a male's personified unconscious. It therefore contains all the traits that he possesses, but is not aware of as his own. So the anima necessarily has all his bad traits that he is unwilling to admit he possesses. I would like to insert Nietzsche's contention that error is cowardice here.

Sealchan

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Re: Anima AND Animus in Everyone?
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2007, 04:58:06 PM »
I have recently been considering the idea that shadow is the one who chooses a different response to "the wound" while anima/us is the other which negates the wound.

What about ego as primary + secondary functional center of consciousness while the animi are the complementary auxilliary + inferior functions?  The shadow would be the primary + auxilliary with the auxilliary as an irritant to the secondary function in the ego...

The wound would represent the division of the two higher from the two lower functions, the fundamental split in the ego consciousness that makes it off center from the Self.  The snake as boundary line, biter is also the life/death/life cycle of conscious development biting a part of itself off to paradoxically achieve renewal.  The snake is the wounder and the wound.

The shadow is compromised also because it lies across the snake/wound in its alignment with the primary and the auxilliary function.  It is the herald of woundedness.

That would leave as a consort to the shadow a fourth character that is just as partial and just as wounded, a lower anima/us that is the secondary + inferior function which would appear the most rarely in a dream.