The psyche as a totality contains male and female opposites. Carl Jung classified the masculine counterpart in women as the animus.
In simple terms, the animus is the corresponding representative of the masculine principle in a woman’s unconscious.
The consequences of a woman who identifies with her animus are that she adopts the negative attitudes of a man with an over-inflated ego. In other words, she becomes opinionated, obstinate and power-driven.
On the other side of the coin, a woman that remains unconscious of her masculinity will remain rooted in the feminine. Here the animus shows up by revealing masculine qualities in the woman’s psyche, but ignorant of the fact that these qualities are emerging in herself, she blindly associates them with the male ideal moulded by society.
As a result, an unconscious woman with a negative anima possession has a tendency to be aggressively bitter and harbour a destructive force which is detrimental to her relationships with both men, women and life in general.
In essence, the animus prompts women to be overly critical, judgemental and opinionated. Whilst she may sometimes be right in her convictions, her motivation is often misplaced. She may have a good idea in its essence, but it does not relate to the topic she is speaking about.
A good marker for the animus (and the anima in men) is the Chinese concept of yin-yang. The familiar symbol of the Tiajitu or Tai Chi – a circle consisting of a black swirl with a white dot in it (female with a male essence) and a white swirl with a black dot (male with a female essence).
When male energies are integrated and balanced in a woman, her feminine traits and male traits complement each other. If one attribute is stronger than the other, she will experience disharmony, a lack of self-worth, and insecurity.
It must be noted that the animus has nothing to do with gender, but is a principle that is generally connected with men; strength, drive, motivation, self-discipline and courage.
Without the masculine principle integrated into the psyche, women experience a wide range of emotions and character traits they struggle to control. Dramatic episodes usually end in regret. The animus will often sabotage relationships.
Women that remain ignorant to their male qualities fantasise about relationships through romantic novels, movie heroes and falling in love with the ideal “family man”. It is only when they live out these fantasies they realise society’s stereotype of the conceptual male is an illusion.
On the flip side, women that associate with their animus are overly masculine and lose connection with their feminine side. The animus possessed women feels isolated and dejected. She often wants to dominate people and situations and is often critical and angry.
Developing the animus involves intellectual analysis and the ability to discriminate and understand more than one point of view. A woman that can pass fair judgement and formulate plans has a developed animus.
What is the Animus Archetype?
The animus is an aspect of the collective unconscious Jung termed the archetypes. These entities represent the essence of human consciousness but lay beyond conscious awareness.
However, archetypal projection – such as the animus – constellate on to the ego. The animus, for example, projects on to women when the ego does not know how to function. Moreover, if the ego associates with the constellation, you will acknowledge thoughts and feelings as your own.
Animus projections often emerge as criticism, either to yourself or others. Animus possessed women – when the ego identifies with the animus – will usually take the criticism as a personal insult and lash out at other people in defence.
When an aspect of a woman’s masculinity remains unconscious, the animus makes you feel you are not good enough. This will make you shy, introverted and happy to be dominated by male lovers.
The process of individuation, therefore, involves nurturing an understanding of which convictions are your own and which are unconscious projections arising from the animus.
In women, the origins of the animus begin with the relationship a daughter has with her father. When a daughter has a close positive tie to her father, she is imbued with an active spirituality and pursues intellectual goals.
Moreover, she is more than capable of carving out a successful career for herself should she choose to. As Jung points out, women with an integrated animus will not do things only to please men. They behave in ways that are beneficial to themselves, their family and others.
When the animus is psychologically developed, it acts as an inner guide that can help her to function with “objective rationality.” In simple terms, the animus enables you to analyse your goals and weigh up your options.
However, for a woman’s animus to be helpful, she must learn to differentiate between the unconscious projection and the contents of her conscious mind.
Differentiation involves an inner dialogue which questions whether the thoughts surfacing in her mind are her own convictions, or are they the convictions of others – subconscious programs or archetypal projection (i.e the trickster which will fool you into doing something stupid).
“The father endows his daughter’s animus with the special coloring of unarguable, incontestably “true” convictions—convictions that never include the personal reality of the woman herself as she actually is.” ~ Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
To understand the animus, it is pertinent to recognise the influence of the negative father-complex on the male psyche. Take note of how a father-complex negatively impacts a son. The animus in women manifests in many similar ways as men with an inferior function.
If you haven’t already, read the article about the father-complex to determine if you recognise how traits of animus possession originated from your father (or primary caregiver) and other male influences. I will leave a link at the bottom of this article.
When we talk about the animus, what we are really talking about is the male personification. Ancient traditions called this principle the Logos – the ability to differentiate knowledge, discriminate and detach from emotion.
As Jung points out, the male principle essentially represents activity in the mind.
“The conscious side of woman corresponds to the emotional side of man, not to his ‘mind’. Mind makes up the ‘soul’, or better, the ‘animus’ of woman, and just as the anima of the man consists of inferior relatedness, full of affect, so the animus of woman consists of inferior judgements, or better said, opinions.” ~ Carl Jung, The Secrets of the Golden Flower
An undeveloped animus, therefore, manifests as a caricature of the inferior logos, a tendency to verbalise prejudiced opinions or deliver responses that are completely unrelated to the conversation or essential nature of an object.
In an unconscious woman, the inferior logos is apt to take the convictions of others. This can often take the form of emotional outbursts in which Marie-Louise von Franz describes as “obstinate, cold, and completely inaccessible.” [Man and His Symbols].
Subsequently, the animus in women can trigger the anima in man which ultimately unfolds into a petty argument in which both parties talk nonsense. The ill-tempered animus then becomes irritable, snappy and moody.
“The “inner man” within a woman’s psyche can lead to marital troubles similar to those mentioned in the section on the anima. What makes things especially complicated is the fact that the possession of one partner by the animus (or anima) may automatically exert such an irritating effect upon the other that he (or she) becomes possessed too. Animus and anima always tend to drag conversation down to a very low level and to produce a disagreeable, irascible, emotional atmosphere.” ~ Marie-Louise von Franz, Man and His Symbols
Girls that have a gift but are prohibited from expressing their talent in some way develop an animus complex in the form of a passionate and fiery nature. Their creative libido becomes bottled up as emotion and surfaces as either irritability and hysteria. Or cold-shouldered silence.
Women that carry their unfulfilled potential into motherhood can project their animus on to their children. In doing so, the child’s personal creative flare can be inhibited.
The dark side of her animus will inevitably cause problems in relationships. Sometimes the damage will be irreparable. Because archetypes are destructive by nature (but also creative), it is important to understand how they take possession of the conscious mind.
How to Identify The Animus
The animus can appear in many different forms. How it emerges will depend on whether you are totally unconscious of your masculinity, or if the ego identifies with the animus projection.
Women that are totally unconscious of a male principle of their psyche have an idealised vision of what a man should be. This is generally as a result of a father that doted on his daughter.
The unconscious anima appears as a sexually provocative enchantress, the siren that lures men on to the rocks. But inside she is dangerous and often bursts into fits of rage because her “hero” is not able to live up to her idealised standards of manhood. She is completely unaware of her own masculine nature.
In her commentary on the process of individuation in Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, the psycho-analyst Marie-Louise von Franz notes:
“One of the favorite themes that the animus repeats endlessly in the ruminations of this kind of woman goes like this: “The only thing in the world that I want is love—and he doesn’t love me”; or “In this situation there are only two possibilities and both are equally bad.”
Obsessive ruminations are persistent thoughts that invade your mind; what you wish you had said in an argument, what you will say the next time and all manner of perceived mistakes, losses, slights and upsets.
These type of thoughts can often be cold and destructive, but once you recognise they are the animus, you can use them to your advantage. Preoccupied thoughts tell you a lot about your psychological make-up and can drive you towards releasing repressed contents from the unconscious.
Women that nurse destructive attitudes inside will inevitably project them into the outer world. Von Franz notes the pre-occupied female can drive those closest loved ones “into illness, accident, or even death.”
At its worst, the animus will cause a mother to stand in the way of her children and stop them from marrying, or telling them that sex is evil. This causes shame and guilt in adults once they start engaging in sexual and marital pursuit.
In Greek mythology, Hades’ abduction of Persephone psychologically represents a particular form of the animus that separates women from healthy relationships and contact with the real world.
A manifestation of animus possession in this form conjures desire and judgments about how men “ought to be”. Here, the woman is cut off from the reality of life and instead, fantasises about ideals of manhood that are presented by society in the form of film and fairytales – a prince or knight in shining armour that will protect her.
When life, or the man in her life, fails to live up to her fantasy-image, she can turn highly destructive. Rather than questioning her own rationality, she will target her frustration at others – usually the husband or boyfriend.
“…the animus is a jealous lover. He is adept at putting, in place of the real man, an opinion about him, the exceedingly disputable grounds for which are never submitted to criticism. Animus opinions are invariably collective, and they override individuals and individual judgments in exactly the same way as the anima thrusts her emotional anticipations and projections between man and wife.” ~ Carl Jung, “Anima and Animus,” CW 7
In relationships, the animus becomes boundless fascination, overvaluation and infatuation. He is the force behind the needy girl that needs constant reassurance and prompts her to fall into bed with men she craves attention from.
Conversely, an animus possessed woman sees men as sexual predators that use women as objects of sexual desire. A negative animus possession will cause women to be aggressive, opinionated, cruel and seek power over others.
An unconscious animus also sucks out a woman’s mental strength with constant put-downs. Constellations emerge as constantly question her motives, ideas, opinions and values even when they are not true.
Thoughts such as “why are you doing that”, “you’re hopeless,” and “there’s no point” are common projections.
Consequently, she feels devalued which erects a barrier between personal goals on a professional and creative level.
“The animus is obstinate, harping on principles, laying downtime law, dogmatic, world-reforming, theoretic, word-mongering, argumentative, and domineering…the animus lets himself be taken in by second-rate thinking.” ~ Carl Jung, The Archetype and the Collective Unconscious
When a woman identifies with the animus – the ego thinks the thoughts and feeling are your own – it can give you the drive to be successful. However, if you identify too much with the male principle and forget your feminine nature, (the Great Mother) rebels in an attempt to get attention.
The rebellion will appear physically in the form of compulsive disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa, irregular menstruation, amenorrhoea and fertility problems.
Power-driven women that are obsessed with their work are animus possessed. Consequently, they are cut off from feeling type activities and will sacrifice time with their friends and families.
A woman’s destructive male side is also quick to sever ties with friends. Narcissistic tendencies will be a struggle for her, and she will have difficulties distinguishing the difference between the inner world and the material world.
This destructive nature is reversible. By acknowledging your inner man and balancing it with the natural instincts of the feminine, the animus becomes a valuable inner companion which endows qualities of enterprise, courage, objectivity and spiritual wisdom.
You see, the animus is not all bad. Learn to overcome the recklessness, criticism and obstinate attitude and the creative forces of the male principle can serve as a bridge to the Self.
How To Integrate the Animus Archetype
When archetypes possess the mind, it is often the case that the ego cannot detach from them. Subsequently, unconscious projections appear to be your own thoughts and emotions.
It is only when the possession is resisted that the strength of its force diminishes. Walk away from arguments when you feel you are about to explode, question whether your feelings towards others and situations are valid, force out doubts that others are trying to thwart you when they are not and catch yourself when the critical voice appears.
If you feel like your partner has not lived up to your expectations because he should “know what you are thinking” ask yourself, “am I being rational?”
In doing so, you come to realise that your actions do not represent your convictions. The conscious mind is then freed of the psychic attack.
The archetypal energy then becomes part of the Self – the ordering and unifying centre of the total psyche. Women that understand and pursue their purpose in life can integrate animus and use it to her benefit. It enables her to behave over and above her human nature.
The more a woman is aware of her own femininity – a natural desire to nurture, love and care – the more able she is to reject animus possession.
Her power is also reflected in the outer world. She no longer tries to dominate others and will not be dominated by others. Insecurity will be replaced by courage and narrow-minded opinions with well-placed wisdom.
The Four Stages of Animus Development
Jung believed the animus matures the more a woman becomes conditioned to how she truly thinks and feels. As the animus becomes more integrated in the conscious mind, the more able you are to articulate and express your opinions and feelings.
To illustrate the development of the animus in the psyche of a woman, Jung’s wife, Emma, categorised each step of the process into four stages; The Man of Power, The Man of Action, The Man of Word, and The Man of Meaning.
Consider this section carefully and you will determine where you were, where are you are and how you can further develop your animus.
According to Jung, the first stage of animus development relates to man’s physical power. The Man of Power will appear to you in dreams or on a physical level as an athlete, muscle man or a wide boy that lives life on the edge.
In this primitive stage of development, your interest in the opposite sex is mostly physical satisfaction; unbridled passion, protection and healthy babies.
It can often be the case that women are insecure in this first stage and give themselves to men simply because they want to be loved.
Marie Louse von Franz has this to say:
“In its beginning, raw form, you find that the animus says “always.” Women in their animus rarely say, “This and this is so and so.” They say ”This and this is always so and so.” In other words, the animus loves to generalize. That’s where even he goes wrong when he talks about personal things in generalizations. But if we look at it positively, we can say this tendency to generalize signifies that the woman has begun to take an interest in broad spiritual values and truths. She has begun struggling to free herself from that totally feminine life where she has been confined to live in a small circle with her husband, children, cats, dogs, curtains and furniture, never looking further. We see, therefore, how much those two principles, eros and logos, need each other.”
In the second stage, the animus provides you with initiative and the capacity to plan a course of action. From a positive perspective, the “Man of Action” animus spurs a woman on to independence and imbues her with a desire to pursue a career of her own.
However, the negative animus still has a generalised idea of men as cast by society; the generic husband-father, the DIY guy around the house and the primary provider of shelter and support for his family. Any failure on the man’s part can result in dissatisfaction and irritability.
Jung associated the third phase with the Christian concept of the “Man of Word” – the creative libido (Logos) that develops ideas and an appetite for knowledge. Here, the male principle emerges as a clergyman, spiritual guru or professor.
Woman in this stage of animus development express their creative side and have a desire to pursue the untapped potential of their talent. She becomes adept at exercising her mind and is able to relate to men on an intellectual level. She also has the capacity to love deeply.
In the final stage, life acquires meaning. The animus serves as a mediator with her inner world from where she can summon the strength and willpower to counterbalance her natural tenderness.
The positive “Man of Meaning” animus expresses thoughts and creative ideas that can stimulate a man to new endeavours. In some ways, she acts as a muse. Sex is imbued with spiritual significance.
The Animus in Symbolism and Myth
Jung describes the archetypes in myth as representing “the unalterable structure of a psychic world whose “reality” is attested by the determining effects it has upon the conscious mind.”
The animus typically appears as an embodiment of the father-complex. He might appear as a wise old man, a hero, a hunter, a grotesque creature, a ghost, a dwarf, talking animals, a boy or an inquisitive youth.
In mythology, characters such as Adonis, Dionysus, and Apollo appear as the animus. A common theme of Greek mythology was to portray the animus as rain or thunder or animals such as bulls, horses and dogs.
A vast number of myths and fairy tales portray the animus as a prince that has been turned into a frog or other such creature. Sometimes they appear as stones and are only freed when the heroine completes a task that breaks the spell.
The spell-breaking nearly always involves a love angle after which the prince marries his princess and they “live happily ever after” – the classic alchemical wedding whereby the two opposites of man and woman (male and female principle) represent self-realisation.
In the Greek tragedy of Psyche and Eros, the animus is the unknown lover that forbids Psyche to look at him. Here, the animus remains in the darkness of the unconscious. Psyche then has to complete various tasks before she earns the right to be with Eros.
Another mechanism for how mythologies portray the animus is through a group of men such as a group of bandits (first stage), a group of fathers, (second stage), a council (third stage) or a gathering of wise men (fourth stage). Jung also said the messenger of the gods, Hermes, can appear as the animus.
The ancient Greeks often use sex as a mechanism in their mythologies to express the idea of the animus. Central characters typically included either Zeus, Hades and Poseidon.
A classic example of animus possession is when a god forces himself upon a female character – which Zeus was prone to doing – and consequently upsetting a goddess who would target her wrath towards the innocent woman – as Hera was prone to doing.
The story of Medusa is a good example of animus possession. Medusa was a beautiful maiden and a follower of the goddess Athena. Ovid described her as having a sweet face and long golden hair that “graceful shone.”
Although Medusa was admired by numerous suitors, she pledged her purity to Athena and eventually became the priestess of her temple. However, men would attend the temple to sneak a peek of Medusa rather than to worship the goddess. Athena soon began to resent Medusa’s presence.
Poseidon had also noticed Medusa’s beauty. Enamoured by her, he forcefully thrust himself upon her whilst she attended Athena’s temple. When Athena heard Medusa was no longer pure, she sought vengeance and turned Medusas hair into serpents so that men would no longer desire her.
Here we see how a violation of the feminine principle incurs the wrath of the Great Mother archetype. Subsequently, women become malignant and fearsome, turning men to the proverbial stone through domination and abuse.
An unconscious animus can be found in the ill-fated love affairs of Apollo. In one of the most famous Apollon myths, the young god falls in love with the nymph Daphne.
The Apollo archetype is a symbol of self-knowledge through intellectual analysis. He prefers thinking over feeling and objective assessment over subjective intuition.
After taunting Eros, the god of love, the cherub-like god shoots Apollo with a gold arrow to make him fall in love with Daphne. Eros also shoots the woodland nymph with a lead arrow which causes her to reject Apollo’s advances.
When Apollo persistently stalks her (the unconscious animus), Daphne asks her father, the river god Peneus to transform her into a laurel tree – a symbol of love and immortality.
Here we see how an over-dominant archetype manifests as a negative potential. Apollo presents a destructive path for Daphne who has vowed to stay pure in honour of the goddess Artemis – a figure of femininity.
By turning into a laurel tree, Daphne escapes Apollo’s animus intrusion. However, Apollo declares to love her forever and wears a laurel leaf emblem to remember her – representing the integration of the anima in man.
As mentioned above, the cause of an animus projection is due to an undeveloped aspect of the female psyche – an issue that is typically caused by a daughter’s father and other dominant males in early life. You can learn more about the father-complex here.