Demystifying The Anima – The Archetype of Life

This is the third and final article of the animus and anima series if you haven’t checked the other ones, they’ll be important to fully grasp this exploration, so here’s the first one – The Eros and Logos.

As I revised this whole section and reread a few passages, it was very clear to me that defining the anima is way harder than defining the animus. This might be a bit obvious, but the Logos has a clear form and its main expression is the word, so it’s something way easier to grasp. However, the anima is about the Eros principle and this immediately puts a few obstacles into having a precise definition. To be fair, Jung never attempted to define it either, as we know, he was an empiricist and was dedicated to describing the phenomenon and giving us a map to navigate them, rather than claiming to know the essence of something, as this would be a metaphysical statement.

This is always a trap in psychology, people believe that just because they know a fancy name they know what the thing is, but this is just substituting reality with words. That said, I’ll do my best to present the phenomenology of the anima, also knowing that it’s impossible to grasp it without real experience. My intention is to give you some pointers so you can organize your own experience.

The Anima

Let’s quickly recap that men have the tendency to be identified with the Logos so invariably they will have an unconscious Eros, and the unconscious has the tendency to be personified, so the image we find in the unconscious of men is denominated anima. Although the anima is harder to define, it’s way easier to find it personified in artistic and religious expressions, as Jung says, the anima loves to show herself and tends to appear as a single entity.

“The anima is a factor of the utmost importance in the psychology of a man wherever emotions and affects are at work. She intensifies, exaggerates, falsifies, and mythologizes all emotional relations with his work and with other people of both sexes. The resultant fantasies and entanglements are all her doing. When the anima is strongly constellated, she softens the man’s character and makes him touchy, irritable, moody, jealous, vain, and unadjusted. He is then in a state of “discontent” and spreads discontent all around him. Sometimes the man’s relationship to the woman who has caught his anima accounts for the existence of this syndrome” (C. G. Jung – V9.1 – §144).

The anima is closely related to the emotional life of a man and whenever we experience exaggerated reactions, a sense of urgency, and a general overwhelming feeling, that’s the works of the anima. Here is a good place to differentiate between the feeling function and affects. Because the feeling function is the conscious experience of an emotion and it’s about having a clear scale of values, whereas affects are about emotional reactions where we feel out of control. Consequently, the anima isn’t about a feeling but about moods. In a general sense, most men are completely dissociated from their emotional life, and the ones that do have this connection, tend to be possessed by it, rather than having a conscious experience of their feelings. This is always something that threatens men and they usually do everything they can to run away from it, and when they do, the anima always has her revenge, entangling the man exactly in the situations he tries to avoid.

When Jung describes the anima he always points to poets, novels, and art, because this is the realm of the Eros, and it’s not something that can be logically explained. Again, the Eros is about irrationality, and Jung explains that he really means that this is extra rational, it has its own laws and way of functioning that are different from logical reason. I mean, good luck trying to explain what love is, it’s just impossible, we can only relate when we’ve had the experience, and only symbolic and artistic expressions can properly convey it. Whenever you hear a love song, or someone dedicating his art to an unreachable and perfect muse, that’s the anima. Also, the anima has many facets like the Great Mother, the Prophetess, and the Love Goddess, an archetype encompasses all forms of expression, and each one of this symbols reveals one aspect of the feminine.

“Because the anima, as the feminine aspect of man, possesses this receptivity and absence of prejudice toward the irrational, she is designated the mediator between consciousness and the unconscious. In the creative man, especially, this feminine attitude plays an important role; it is not without cause that we speak of the conception of a work, of carrying out a thought, delivering oneself of it, or brooding over it” (Emma Jung –  The Animus and Anima, p. 53).

“The anima represents the connection with the spring or source of life in the unconscious. When no such connection exists, or when it is broken, a state of stagnation or torpor results, often so disturbing that it causes the person involved to seek out a psychiatrist” (Emma Jung –  The Animus and Anima, p. 64).

The anima is linked with the collective unconscious which is the source of life and inspiration in a man’s life. When you have this connection you feel energized and alive, life acquires a deeper layer of experience that revitalizes your soul. It gives a man the capacity to relate to the depths of his being and create profound relationships, and have a sense of meaning. That’s why when men are too identified with the Logos and reject everything that has to do with the feminine, they become dry and the only way the Eros has of expressing itself is in a toxic manner. Once again we have to remember that the anima is a compensation for the persona, and there’s a tendency in men to be overly identified with traditional masculinity and believe that feminine values are inferior.

With this strong persona identification, there’s also a subliminal anima identification that makes men extremely vain and shallow, he only values prestige and lives for appearances. Instead of having real relationships he lives superficially and will seek for that trophy wife, and this is the perfect match for a woman who’s identified with her body and is only interested in having power and status through her relationships. Sex and emotional connection are often dissociated from one another, and one of the main reasons men get addicted to sex is because it substitutes intimacy and the connection with their own souls.

Also, you might think that men who have a connection with art like painters or musicians have a good relationship with their anima, but this is often not the case, because if you’re identified with your persona, you’ll use your art as a means to boost your ego, it’ll never be something genuine. So men try to possess the anima, like having a collection of art that they don’t even know how to truly appreciate, but serves to boost their status when they host fancy dinners. Speaking of which, the field of critics, like food critics or cinema critics, is filled with pompous men possessed by their anima. They only care for aesthetics, nothing is ever good enough, and they’re always in a bad mood and spread this discontent to everyone.

When you’re too focused on aesthetics you completely kill the creative force of the anima, there’s no soul or inspiration. Here I can give you a really simple example, whenever I’m composing music I have to accommodate these two sides, one is the creative side trying to be expressed and the other is trying to order and put form into everything. However, when I’m too focused on aesthetics I get lost in trying to find the perfect chord, the sequence that will make the most sense, or how people are going to judge my lyrics, and this absolutely kills the process.

The anima demands a genuine expression and when it doesn’t find an outlet, the only way the anima has to express itself is through anxiety, depression, all forms of addiction, and in extreme cases it crushes the masculine spirit, and the man becomes spineless and weak. Funny enough, most men think that by giving space to the Eros they will become effeminate or emasculated, but it’s actually the other way around. Also, you’re supposed to accommodate the Eros with the conscious Logos, it’s always a dialectical procedure.

Emma Jung says that “It is not a question of either surrendering his masculinity completely to the service of the Lady Anima or losing her entirely, but only of granting a certain space to the feminine, which is also a part of his being. This he does by recognizing and realizing the eros, the principle of relationship, which means that he not only becomes aware of his feeling, but also makes use of it, because to create, and especially to preserve, a relationship, a value judgment (which is what feeling is) cannot be dispensed with. A man by nature tends to relate to objects, to his work, or to some other field of interest; but what matters to a woman is the personal relation, and this is true also of the anima. Her tendency is to entangle a man in such relationships, but she can also serve him well in giving them shape — that is, she can do so after the feminine element has been incorporated into consciousness. As long as this element works autonomously, it disturbs relations or makes them impossible” (Emma Jung – The Animus and Anima, p. 77).

When the anima is not conscious it becomes dissociated and functions like an autonomous complex that always appears in unwanted ways, especially when a man is being demanded emotionally and he doesn’t have any sensibility, he has fits of rage, and becomes touchy, jealous, and over-sentimental. Also, if he doesn’t have a firm Logos, he becomes indecisive, afraid, insecure, and lost. Now he either kills every relationship because he doesn’t have any emotional capacity and is always an ogre, or he becomes clingy and suffocates everyone. That’s why there needs to be a balance between Eros and Logos, as the Eros has to be incorporated to the masculine spirit. If a man doesn’t cultivate a sense of direction, drive, organization, decisiveness, and discipline, the anima completely crushes him. However, when men have a conscious experience of the anima they know what’s truly valuable to them, they know what’s meaningful, and are decisive about it.  

The Archetype of Life

That’s why Jung also describes the anima as the archetype of life:

“As usual, there is something in what the anima says; for life in itself is not good only, it is also bad. Because the anima wants life, she wants both good and bad. These categories do not exist in the elfin realm. Bodily life as well as psychic life have the impudence to get along much better without conventional morality, and they often remain the healthier for it”(C. G. Jung – V9.1 – §59).

The anima is what presents a man with his call to adventure and is associated with flings of courage and bravery. The anima always challenges a man to find what’s truly valuable to him and demands that he take a stance and take decisive action. When you don’t consciously have this sense of direction and meaning, the anima keeps entangling a man into situations where he has to face that, and this will happen especially with women, because when you don’t cultivate that internally, this will be invariably projected upon women, and now they become your reason to exist. Women become your life and purpose, and there’s this expectation that they will fulfill your every need. 

This is exactly what happens with men who become pick-up artists, obviously, this is completely narcissistic and unreasonable, but this one of the reasons why men feel devastated when a relationship ends. They projected their soul on a woman and now that she doesn’t correspond to this absurd demand, because no human being can or should, they feel like a piece of them is gone. This is somewhat true, but instead of trying to find someone else to fill this hole, you should establish a connection with your own soul. When you do that, the anima becomes your helper. By the way, I’m talking mainly about women, but the exact same thing happens between homosexual men. The anima invites a man to fully engage in life, while the animus cuts a woman from her relationships and reality. That’s why men need a more decisive and and direct approach in dealing with the anima, while for a woman she often just needs to avoid the traps of her animus.

The Eros Principle

Also, the Eros always invites us to relativize conventional values, not in a sense to become immoral, but to become more flexible and learn how to entertain and sustain paradoxes. Logos always operates with clear categories of good and evil, however, there are many things that happen that initially can be judged as bad but turn out to be good, and vice-versa. For instance, suffering and pain are always judged as bad, however, it’s a necessary condition for psychological maturity. Why? … Because you have to sacrifice part of your current personality and conscious values so as to give room to something new. It’s painful and very laborious dealing with our shadow and complexes, the ego always clings to old ways, but through this pain, a new balanced personality can arise.

I’m guilty of that too, when I started as a therapist I had many insecurities and I used to do everything I could to help my patients get out of that estate as quickly as I could because I didn’t know how to allow things to happen in their own time. However, I had many experiences, including a few active imaginations, showing me the value of suffering and how this can teach many lessons that can completely reshape our lives. Logos tend to be forceful and direct, and many times this approach doesn’t yield the best results. Eros comes and gives you the sensibility to know the best words to use, in a way that disarms people, and give you patience to know the right time to reflect something back, because if you’re always forceful you often meet shut doors and block the process.

I’m very intuitive and I often know exactly what’s going on in the first few sessions, however, a lot of people are not ready to hear it, and there needs to be a whole construction before I can say certain things, this sensibility comes from the Eros. Also, many times preventing people from suffering only keeps them in a childish position. It’s like that overprotective devouring mother who doesn’t allow her children to experience the world. You have to learn when to let people figure things out on their own and also know that some things take time and get resolved on their own, you just have to sustain the paradox, and from it, a new synthesis arises. 

The Goddess of Illusion

Now, Jung tells us that the main component that conditions the anima is the parental complex. Let’s quickly recap that in men, the father complex serves as a basis for the persona and the mother complex as a basis for the anima. Consequently, the relationship with the real mother has a great impact on the anima, as well as how the father deals with the feminine. In volume 9.2 Jung equates the anima with Maya, the goddess of illusion, because the anima is constantly interjecting in our interpretation of reality:

“What, then, is this projection-making factor? The East calls it the “Spinning Woman”—Maya, who creates illusion by her dancing. Had we not long since known it from the symbolism of dreams, this hint from the Orient would put us on the right track: the enveloping, embracing, and devouring element points unmistakably to the mother, that is, to the son’s relation to the real mother, to her imago, and to the woman who is to become a mother for him. His Eros is passive like a child’s; he hopes to be caught, sucked in, enveloped, and devoured. He seeks, as it were, the protecting, nourishing, charmed circle of the mother, the condition of the infant released from every care, in which the outside world bends over him and even forces happiness upon him. No wonder the real world vanishes from sight!” (C. G. Jung – V9.2 – §20).

“If this situation is dramatized, as the unconscious usually dramatizes it, then there appears before you on the psychological stage a man living regressively, seeking his childhood and his mother, fleeing from a cold cruel world which denies him understanding. Often a mother appears beside him who apparently shows not the slightest concern that her little son should become a man, but who, with tireless and self-immolating effort, neglects nothing that might hinder him from growing up and marrying. You behold the secret conspiracy between mother and son, and how each helps the other to betray life” (C. G. Jung – V9.2 – §21).

When a man is caught in his mother complex, there’s a tendency to live regressively, always looking back and wanting to remain a child. He resists carving his own path and becomes indecisive, insecure, and weak. He attempts to escape and live his own life only to find himself giving up and coming back the next moment. The relationship with the devouring mother makes a man averse to touch reality, he lives in a fantastical and magical world where everything is given to him and he doesn’t have to do any work. This also conditions his expectations about women, he believes that he will find that magical being that will give him this sense of eternal childhood and will take care of him like a dedicated mother. He expects the woman to allow him to be a child and not place any demands that he become a grown man. Of course, I’m talking about the Puer Aeternus, but I’m not gonna dive deep into this here since I’ve already covered that. But I’d like to leave you with one more quote:

“The spirit of evil is fear, negation, the adversary who opposes life in its struggle for eternal duration and thwarts every great deed, who infuses into the body the poison of weakness and age through the treacherous bite of the serpent; he is the spirit of regression, who threatens us with bondage to the mother and with dissolution and extinction in the unconscious. For the hero, fear is a challenge and a task, because only boldness can deliver from fear. And if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is somehow violated.” (C. G. Jung – V5 – §551).

That’s why the anima always has to be balanced with the masculine spirit, which means knowing what you want and taking decisive action to achieve that. The anima demands that you get your hands dirty and have the audacity to carve your own path. When you’re walking according to the values of your soul and following your pistis, the anima becomes your most faithful helper, she unravels her secrets, gives you reassurance, and gifts you with meaning and aliveness. Finding your true path is the main challenge the anima imposes, and she only reveals herself to those who prove to be worthy.

How To Deal With The Anima

Now, how should we deal with the anima?

“The motive of the imprisonment of the animus has its counterpart in masculine psychology in the imprisonment of the anima, but it is naturally different in that it is concerned with emotions and moods. When a man is able to make a difference between the objective situation and his mood, when he no longer allows his mood to blindfold his mind, when he can set it apart, acknowledge that he has a peculiar mood, that is the beginning of the imprisonment of the anima. After a while he will be able to say to his mood: “You have no right to exist, I will put you into a test tube and you shall be analyzed.” Of course this means a great sacrifice, it can only be done with blood, it requires a superhuman effort to bottle up the anima. So I quite recognize what an extraordinary accomplishment it is for a woman to put the animus aside, to say, “I will put you into a test tube for later analysis” (Barbara Hannah – The Animus,  p. 133).

With any complex, it’s always important to cultivate an objective perspective so our conscious ego can detach from its affects. With the anima, keeping our emotional reactions in check is crucial, as they tend to cloud our judgments and promote actions that we almost always regret. When the anima is constellated there’s always a sense of urgency, for the Eros doesn’t deal with time like the conscious mind do, it always wants everything now. That’s why giving it time and allowing the inner turmoil to pass is a great piece of wisdom. With time, you start acquiring a certain sensibility to know when you’re being triggered, and instead of giving in, you must take a step back and analyze this particular mood before you take action.

Perhaps you don’t have the self-control to do that in the moment, that’s why it’s wise to be alone and wait until you calm down before making any decisions. Once you do, it’s important to understand why you felt those things, and what are the patterns involved. There’s also another possibility, with extremely passive men, the anima might be trying to compensate for this lack of action, so instead of being trapped in paralysis by analysis, this impulse is demanding that you make a decision and do something about it. That’s why the anima is also associated with flings of courage and bravery, and the more you make your own values conscious the less you’ll feel this overwhelming pull.

When dealing with the anima we have two main tendencies. If you’re too identified with the Logos, the anima probably doesn’t have any space in your life, and she is demanding that you open yourself and stop being so rigid, that way you can also entertain feminine values. Alternatively, we have men possessed by their anima, and this touchiness and sentimentality has to be balanced with developing your masculine spirit and taking a stance in life. Either way, both need to develop a conscious expression of their feminine side, and again this is always a dialectical procedure, and you have to find your own balance between Eros and Logos.

Read Next: The Shadow Integration Process

Rafael Krüger – Jungian Therapist

Start your journey with Katabasis – The Shadow Integration Manual

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