The anima archetype plays a central role in the psychological development of a man. She represents the “True Self” and possesses the secret knowledge of the unconscious which ultimately serves as a bridge between the ego and the world of the suprapersonal.
In Carl Jung’s Collective Works, the eminent psychologist describes the anima archetype as a man’s emotional development. The anima “intensifies, exaggerates, falsifies, and mythologises all emotional relations with his work and with other people of both sexes.”
Jung implies the anima archetype has a significant influence in the process of adapting to society and life in general. The principal function of the anima archetype is to help the individual find a balance with their opposite nature.
Essentially, the anima personifies psychological tendencies within the man that are generally associated with the feminine principle; the capacity to love, nurture and care.
When fully developed in the psyche, the man will have intuitive qualities and a gift for prophetic hunches. He will be receptive to new ideas and suggestions, have a capacity for love and an understanding of how other people are feeling.
A man with a developing anima, but as yet underdeveloped, may still show signs of these feminine qualities but intuitive projections may be coupled with confusion and his empathetic tendencies will prompt an outpouring of emotions. For example, you may cry whilst watching films and reading stories which tug the heartstrings.
On the other hand, a man that mostly identifies with his ego – the stereotypical macho type – will be plagued by his anima. Her disruptive nature will manifest as touchiness, irritability, moodiness, jealousy, vanity and difficulty adjusting.
Until a man has integrated his anima, he will often be found in a state of discontent spreading his displeasure with those around him. His zest for life will be deflated and passive.
When a man is wholly possessed by the anima – thus has an underdeveloped ego – he is spineless, sulky and awkward. He may be prone to childish temper tantrums and totally overreact to anything he finds offensive, slight digs or confrontations.
Other symptoms include procrastination or a feeling of paralysis when called upon to take action, or on the flip side, acting too hastily without thinking things through first.
The anima possessed man will often find himself in relationships with women he sees as objects of sexual desire. They are often animus possessed – the psychological attributes associated with the male principle. Needless to say, the relationship is unharmonious and fraught with challenges.
What is the Anima?
In its most simplistic definition, the anima represents the female aspects of a man that have not been realised by the conscious mind. However, the common expression “to be in touch with your feminine side” is far too flippant to fully understand the impact the anima archetype has on the life and attitudes of a man.
The theory generally accepted today is the anima is the man’s emotional attitude; his ability to make decisions based on how he feels. Ultimately, the anima archetype controls a man’s relationship with women, from the mother or primary carer, to the grandmother, aunts, teachers, siblings, peers, lovers and wife.
Jung posited that a negative anima projection is the result of a mother-complex. Sons that did not have a healthy relationship with their mother or primary caregiver will encounter problems in later life with anima possession and anima projections.
A mother-complex develops from an early age in boys that are either not given enough emotional support from their mothers or are smothered with love by an overbearing mother.
A dominating mother will program her son with sentimental attachments that can last throughout life. This makes a man weak-willed and seriously impairs his fate as an adult. He will often stay in abusive relationships even though neither partner is happy.
On the other hand, the magic authority of the female can help spur a man to reach his full potential. With her verve and tenacity, she has the power to provide the creativity and the desire to reach his highest goals.
[If you haven’t already read the article on the Mother-Complex please do so. I will place a reminder and a link at the bottom of this article.]
As an infant, boys (and girls) view the mother as superhuman which gradually becomes tarnished as ego develops. These aspects of reality tend to sink back into the unconscious because the conscious mind does not want to believe they are true.
“There is a certain amount of unconscious energy that normally flows into human contacts; when this energy gets dammed back into the unconscious, it overflows in a flood, so to speak. This flood of unconscious energy usually surfaces first in the form of the shadow or negative animus or anima, especially if the unconscious has been repressed or ignored before.” ~ Marie-Louise von Franz, Archetypal Patterns in Fairytales
It is this dissociative function of consciousness that lies behind every complex. The tension a child may experience when their mother does not give them what they want, when they need it, recedes into the unconscious without losing its strength.
NB. As an aside, if you have a child and you say “No” the best reaction is for the child to throw a tantrum. Don’t be like my parents and say, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
In Vol 9 pt 1 of his Collective Works, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Jung explains the anima should be regarded as the “feminine and chthonic part of the soul.”
This “chthonic part of the soul” relates to the suprapersonal mind and corresponds to the gods and spirits of mythology. As such, anima phenomena appear as internalisations; either moments of introspection or by way of dreams, visions, fantasies, memories, moods, and physical sensations.
An integrated anima enables a man to reflects upon his feelings and allows the contents of the suprapersonal mind to relate with the ego.
Jung posited that the ideal relationship between ego and anima is a partial model for individuation. It is a life behind consciousness that cannot be completely integrated, but from which consciousness arises.
In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes:
“For decades I always turned to the anima when I felt that my emotional behavior was disturbed, and that something had been constellated in the unconscious. I would then ask the anima: “Now what are you up to? What do you see? I should like to know.” After some resistance she regularly produced an image. As soon as the image was there, the unrest or sense of oppression vanished. The whole energy of these emotions was transformed into interest in and curiosity about the image. I would speak with the anima about the images she communicated to me.”
How to Identify the Anima Archetype
In a man, a positive anima can manifest itself as self-soothing, self-nurturing and self-loving which gives rise to compassion and tenderness. With a contained inner life, a man is capable of empathy and able to access creative inspiration.
In general, he will be happy and able to maintain a healthy relationship and make judgements beyond the realm of pure rationale.
A negative anima possession will manifest and self-centredness and cast an unrealistic view of women who serve him for his sexual pleasure. Fuelled by provocative images of sexy women, the anima appears as erotic fantasies and indulgence in pornography.
When a man is purely driven by sexual desires or is only interested in the attractiveness of a sexual partner, love is absent. Therefore, the relationship is fated to fail. Getting to know what the anima could bring to his psychological development or maturity is not even a consideration.
His primitive reasoning will make him maladapted to social engagements whereby he will feel compelled to giggle at funerals, cry at weddings, prone to fleeing uncomfortable situations and easily offended. He is sentimental, moody, bitchy and lacks creativity.
“An infantile man generally has a maternal anima; and adult man, the figure of a younger woman; the senile man finds compensation in a very young girl, or even a child.” ~ Carl Jung, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
Men that are interested in intellectual pursuit and avoid acknowledging their emotions are anima possessed. This aspect of anima possession is reflected in the Greek myth of Oedipus in which the demanding female portrayed as the Sphinx that devours any man that is unable to solve her riddle.
A subsequent symptom is recognised by the man that spends most of his time reading to acquire new knowledge rather than learning to acquire ad express emotions through the experience of life. When pressed to take action he is hesitant and lethargic.
The Healing Qualities of the Anima
For all her troublesome attributes, the anima’s psychological functions can be the catalyst that brings about the equilibrium of the ego-Self axis. As such, the anima is seen as the connecting force between the conscious mind and the unconscious.
As I noted above, the anima has two aspects; benevolent and malefic. She can bring out both the best and worst in men. But regardless of how anima possession manifests itself in any given moment, a man on the path of self-realisation can use her interventions to contemplate his weaknesses.
Whilst it is true the anima is helpful and harmful, healing and destructive, learning from this aspect of your nature during the process of individuation entails the development of a loving and nurturing nature.
“According to this text [The Lives of the Alchemyslical Philosophers], the body is “made perfect” by spiritualizing it. Psychologically, this corresponds to a way of dealing with a concrete problem. One gets “above” it by seeing it objectively. We abstract a general meaning from it and see it as a particular example of a larger issue. Just to find suitable words or concepts for a psychic state may be sufficient for a person to get out of it enough to look down on it from above. For instance, to label a resentful mood an “anima possession” may release the grip of the mood. To identify a man‟s reaction to his wife as an example of his mother problem, or a reaction to his boss as part of a father complex, conceptualizes the experience and helps him to get above it.” ~ Edward Erdinger, Anatomy of the Psyche
It’s important to note that an anima projection (and any archetypal project) is instinctual. The world of archetypes is the realm of our most primitive nature, which is also our aspect of divinity. A connection with the True Self enables us to know how to act in any given situation.
It’s also important to know how to react when you recognise an anima possession. When you feel an instinctive urge to lash out at somebody, send a confrontational email, or run away from a difficult situation, you have to resist.
Integrating the archetypes works in the same way as the Law of Correspondence. You have to take the opposite action because how you behave in the outer world is reflected in your inner world and vice versa; as above (heaven), so below (hell).
When you resist the impulses of the anima, you learn to take control of your emotions which ultimately enable you to take control of your action. Consequently, it becomes easier to change your thoughts and you are better equipped to nurture love-based emotions.
By resisting instinctual urges, they lose their potency. Notice how calm you feel after resisting anger. That’s not to say you should suppress your anger, but rather apply a philosophy that enables you to come to terms with the situation so that it no longer pushes your buttons.
On the flip side, there will be times that you need to act. A man with the desire and excitement to pursue a new idea or project can often procrastinate when possessed by the anima. Here we see her destructive qualities by planting doubt and inertia.
Discipline is required. Once you have formulated a plan in your mind, commit it to paper and commit to it by taken action. Integrating the anima involves living the unknown experience that plagues the contents of your subconscious.
The integration of the Anima requires the balance between the intellect and the instinct. The archetypes project themselves onto the ego for the conscious mind to analyse.
In his essay, Anima, Paul Watsky sums up, “Men needs to develop enough ego differentiation to cope with a double challenge from the anima archetype: both to meet her with sufficient openness to benefit from her inspirational energy; and also to resist falling wholly under the sway of the primitive unconscious.”
Jung noted that it can take great suffering and loss of what we cherish to integrate the mysteries of the anima, namely love, beauty, and wisdom. He divided the process of anima integration into four stages which he related to female characters in myth; Eve, Helen of Troy, Mary Madonna and Sophia (or the Greek Goddess, Athena).
Theoretically, a man’s anima development proceeds through these stages as he matures and acquires emotional intelligence. For most men, this happens in the 30’s or 40’s. Sometimes later.
As you progress through the stages, you will find traits that belong to the feminine principle – or right-brain thinking – become stronger; intuition, imagination and creativity.
There is also a deeper connection with your emotions and ability to nurture. This inner peace attracts harmonious correspondent from the outer world and any feelings of anger and dissatisfaction are dissolved.
“The regenerated soul does have the power to heal and to save – a mind cleansed by analysis, aware of its own true essence, made strong by the Union with its anima, and filled with the influx of the awakened vital spirit, the libido. Here are the keys of Wisdom.” ~ Israel Regardie, The Philosopher’s Stone
Whatever your inferior function is, it must be faced without discrimination. Acceptance is the first step to healing. Some people, so I am told, are afraid to admit their weaknesses, but they are never as bad as they may first seem.
Remember, your weaknesses are programs installed by society. They are a culmination of your environment and past experiences, many of which you had little to no control over.
Turn your feelings inwards and allow the energy to rush forth and reinvigorate your conscious mind. Make friends with your anima and respect everything she can teach you. Allow her to tame your animal nature. This is pure healing.
You may need to make sacrifices and disobey rules and attitudes you have always lived by. The ego may need to be starved, or given more sustenance. As the Native Indians say, the wolf that wins the fight is the one you feed the most.
It is after facing your weaknesses that you appreciate the cruelty of the anima’s magic. In the search for the hidden knowledge of the unconscious, the anima will always guide you to the True Self.
“The disintegration accomplished, it is the freed mind united to its anima, forming a complete and reintegrated psyche, which is the key of restoration.” ~ Israel Regardie, The Philosopher’s Stone
The Four Stages of Anima Development
I briefly mentioned above that Jung created four distinct categories of anima development. To help you identify the psychological development of your emotional side, I will outline each stage below.
Jung connects the first stage with the biblical Eve, the primitive Great Mother that is responsible for nourishing the soul and developing inner security. She is the essence of imagination that is curious enough to eat the forbidden fruit and discover what she does not already know.
In this stage of anima development, the man can function perfectly well without a woman, but can also be easily controlled by the whims of controlling partners.
A resulting consequence of his emotional impotence is physical impotence or lack of sexual desire. Men that are dull or have no vitality are in this stage of emotional development.
As the male ego matures and integrates the anima into his consciousness, the attributes of the anima also mature. Jung points out that unless a man has fully integrated his anima before he reaches the end of middle-age (around 40-45), the anima can wreak havoc with his life.
“After the middle of life, however, permanent loss of the anima means a diminution of vitality, of flexibility, and of human kindness. The result, as a rule, is premature rigidity, crustiness, stereotypy, fanatical, one-sidedness, obstinacy, pedantry, or else resignation, weariness, sloppiness, irresponsibility, and finally a childish ramollissement with a tendency to alcohol.” ~ Carl Jung, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
The second stage of anima possession is personified by Helen of Troy, whom Homer tells us in the Illiad was the most beautiful woman in the world.
It is during a man’s adolescent years, and often his twenties, that the seductive charms of the opposite sex toy with his emotions. Boys possessed by the anima will never be satisfied with one beautiful woman. Instead, he engages in Don Juanism, a symptom of a mother-complex.
The anima, as seen in the story of the Abduction of Persephone in Greek myth, can be used to pull men from the clutches of the mother and into the arms of the maiden.
However, until this second stage of emotional development is integrated into the subconscious, the man’s capacity to maintain and loving relationship is impossible. Instead, he substitutes his fickle heart for short-lived sexual adventures.
A man that integrates emotional intelligence moves into the third stage of anima development. Jung associated this stage with the Christian Madonna.
During this stage, a man has the tools to respect women and love them for who they are. You can differentiate between love and lust and develop the capacity to form genuine relationships with women without the urge for sexual gratification.
Moreover, you will be capable of forming a lasting relationship because you are in tune with your emotions, sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others and capable of receiving and returning tenderness.
By developing the nurturing qualities of the feminine principle in your inner world, you will experience the same qualities in a female partner. Single men that are in the third stage of anima development can expect to meet a loving, trustworthy woman that you find profoundly fascinating.
The fourth and final stage of anima development relates to wisdom. Jung associated this stage with the biblical Sophia – divine wisdom. For the Greeks, this aspect of human nature was personified by Athena, goddess of wisdom.
In psychology, Sophia corresponds with the mediating consciousness that guides you along the path and points you in the direction you need to go. It is not only the acquisition of knowledge but understanding how to use that knowledge to your benefit.
The nine muses, the oracle of Delphi and the wise old lady (or fairy godmother) that provides words of wisdom would also fall into this category of anima.
The Anima in Symbolism and Myth
The anima appears in many guises throughout world mythologies. From the malefic personification as the wicked witch or evil sorceress to the helpful maiden and the Great Mother, she often appears in the form of help or hindrance.
Ancient wisdom also associates the feminine principle with intuition and imagination; the passive womb of the Great Mother in which the seed of creation is born into reality.
It is from the womb of the unconscious mind that you create your experience of reality. As the divine aspect of consciousness, the anima archetype imbues the best and worst qualities of a man.
A classic example of the mother archetype appearing as the anima is Greek mythology is Hera in the 12 Labour of Heracles – a name which means ‘the glory of Hera’. In the story, the queen of the Gods attempts to thwart the heroes conquest, and in doing so spurs him on to achieve impossible feats.
Here, Hera represents every stage of anima development. In other myths, the anima will appear in several characters. For example, in Homer’s epic tales of The Odyssey. The classic Greek story of the individuation process culminates in the integration of the anima.
In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew encounter the feminine principle in various forms, all of which represent the third stage of anima development; the sirens, the female sorceress, Circe and the nymph Calypso.
The goddess Athena and Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, are the succession of the fourth stage.
Circe is shown as the negative anima figure and represents the first stage of a man’s emotional development. After arriving on her island, Circe enchants the men in Odysseus’ crew with her charm and offer of cheese and wine.
The crew members that are lustful and greedy are turned into pigs – a symbol of greed, delusion and ignorance – but Odysseus resists Circe’s magic after digesting a moly herb given to him by Hermes.
“Occasionally she causes states of fascination that rival the best bewitchment, or unleashes terrors in us not to be outcome by the manifestation of the devil. She is a mischievous being who crosses our path in numerous transformations and disguises, playing all kinds of trick on us, causing happy and unhappy delusions, depressions and ecstasies, outburst of affect.” ~ Carl Jung, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
Odysseus commands Circe to restore his men to human form. She agrees, but in doing so seduces the men and implores them to stay with her on the island for one year.
Here we see how the men, insecure and afraid of the perils of their voyage. Circe eventually provides Odysseus with directions that ensure his safe passage across the waters that had devoured the other 11 ships of his fleet.
The second stage of anima development in the Odyssey is shown by the crew’s encounter with the Sirens. Although aware of the danger, Odysseus wants to hear their song and is tied to the mast of the ship whilst the rest of his men plug their ears with beeswax.
The anima in mythology can appear as the woman who wakens the eros of the man, to the spiritual guide or the supreme goddess.
We see this when Odysseus’ is presented with his next challenge after his entire crew is drowned in a storm. Odysseus is washed ashore on the island of Ogygia where he becomes enchanted by the sea nymph, Calypso. He stays with her for seven years.
Calypso represents a positive anima who may act as a muse and inspire his creative side, but ultimately, does not content him forever. Having grown restless and desperate to return home to his wife, Odysseus prays to the Goddess Athena to release him from Calypso’s power.
It is fitting that Athena is the anima figure that guides Odysseus through his epic journey. The heroes ultimate goal is to return to his wife Penelope. Upon returning home and winning her love, he is liberated from the shackles and obstacles of the physical world (material desires).
In other variations of the anima, you will find the Virgin Mary, a reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Here we see the feminine principles emerging as devotion and generosity. Other goddesses representing chastity, such as Artemis, also fall into this third stage of anima development.
The other aspect of the anima in the third stage of emotional development in men is the Madonna of the Apocalypse. She is depicted with a crown of 12 stars – the archetypical personality traits – and is standing in the crescent moon.
The crescent moon represents the subconscious mind – partially illuminated by the son. It is during this third stage of development that men have to venture deep into the unconscious and prompt the anima to awaken your intuition.
Ultimately, the role of the anima archetype is to reunite the man with the missing aspect of the Great Mother and essentially overcome the mother-complex. You can read more about the Mother Complex in this article.