Demystifying The Animus – The Archetype of Meaning

This is the second article of the animus and anima series, if you haven’t read the first one, there you go – The Eros and Logos.

Now we’re gonna explore the function of the animus, the main basis for this discussion is the book “The Animus – The Spirit of Inner Truth in Women” by Barbara Hannah and the book “The Animus and Anima” by Emma Jung. Let’s remember that there’s a tendency in women to be consciously identified with the Eros principle, therefore they will have an unconscious Logos. As Jung says, the conscious mind of a woman has a lunar character, that’s why it’s a common error to equate the moon with the unconscious, this can only be true for men. In a woman, the qualities of the Sun are unconscious. This lunar consciousness “Merges things together rather than separates them. It does not show up objects in all their pitiless discreteness and separateness, like the harsh, glaring light of the day” (C. G. Jung – V14 – §223).

Emma Jung complements by saying that this lack of discrimination makes women more open to the unconscious and they often discover and appraise spiritual values more quickly than men. During the time I worked as a meditation teacher, I could verify that, these places tend to be full of women trying to connect with their spiritual sides and men often dismiss these pursuits as something “irrational” that doesn’t make any sense, in general, men tend to have a prejudice against Erotic values.

“If we ask ourselves why second sight and the art of prophecy are ascribed to woman, the answer is that in general she is more open to the unconscious than man. Receptivity is a feminine attitude, presupposing openness and emptiness, wherefore Junghas termed it the great secret of femininity. Moreover, the feminine mentality is less averse to irrationality than the rationally oriented masculine consciousness, which tends to reject everything not conforming to reason and so frequently shuts itself off from the unconscious. In the Phaedrus Plato criticizes this over-reasonable attitude – especially in the matter of love – and praises the irrational, even the insane, insofar as it may be a divine gift” (Emma Jung – The Animus and Anima,  p. 52).

The Animus

This Eros identification will generate an unconscious Logos and we know that the nature of the unconscious is to be personified, so the masculine image we find is denominated animus and it will behave like a complex with its own “personality”.

“By the term animus l understand the masculine spirit or unconscious mind of woman. Emma Jung pointed out recently that one should differentiate very carefully here between the anima and the animus. The anima, as is well known, is Jung’s term for the feminine soul of man. But it is really a contradiction in terms to speak of the animus as the masculine soul in woman. (This error was made in the early days of Jungian psychology and is still often done today.) In latin the word animus means intellect, memory, consciousness, character, and spirit. It is often equated with “mind” and is also used to mean courage, vivacity, bravery, and will. In Jungian psychology it is used primarily to denote the phenomenon of “spirit” in women, and the contrast between the feminine soul (anima) and the masculine spirit (ani­mus) gives us a valuable hint as to the difference between these two figures” (Barbara Hannah – The Animus, p. 2).

The animus contains all the qualities that can balance the conscious Eros, however, if the animus remains unconscious, it acquires this dark, tyrannical, and possessive quality, it escapes the conscious will and also suffocates the Eros principle. Here, we have to state the obvious and say that we live in a society dominated by the Logos principle and culturally we tend to devalue everything that has to do with Eros. Naturally, many women fall prey to these social values and devalue everything that has to do with the feminine. This generates a tendency to feel inferior and women forsake their own natures and seek to identify with more traditionally masculine values, and this obviously gives immense power to a negative animus.

That’s why dealing with the animus requires that we start valuing everything that has to do with the feminine and Eros again. Women have to feel proud of who they are and don’t conform to social norms that suffocate their personalities. It’s only when we make the effort to make these figures conscious that they start to cooperate and open the possibility for individuation and unravel our inner gold, as these figures are always paradoxical, the relationship with them can either take or give life. In general, we can say that the Eros is always more interested in personal relationships than objective and impersonal facts. It gives the woman immense sensibility as she can perceive nuances in relationships that frequently escape a man entirely. Naturally, everything that has to do with Logos will be a blind spot. In that sense, the animus works mainly as an opinionating substitute:

“In general the animus personifies the spirit in woman while the anima represents the soul in man. In general we can say that, at the more rudimentary levels, the animus in the woman is the producer of opinions whereas the anima in man produces moods. But actually the part of the animus to which we can react and with which we can make contact is the merest fraction of the entity of spirit in the woman. In real life, women generally deal not with the entire animus but with that part of the animus which is mostly an opinionating substitute for the depths of the spirit. This would be the spirit of rationalization which indefatigably occupies itself with making these opinions seem logical, at least as seen from the point of view of the woman or of the collective society” (Barbara Hannah – The Animus, p. 2).

What happens is that the animus infiltrates a woman’s train of thought and falsifies her reality with opinions that tend to be extremely critical, demeaning, and one-sided, and they appear to be the absolute truth. It’s something the woman just assumes is the right thing, when in reality, she never really thought about it, it’s something ready-made. Barbara Hannah says that Jung has often pointed out that when the animus interferes in a woman’s daily life, it’s usually in a place where she hasn’t given the matter her fullest conscious consideration and particularly where she fails in the realm of feeling.

A very simple example that I hear all the time revolves around perfectionism. With phrases like, “If don’t do it with absolute perfection it’s not even worth trying”. Or “If I’m going to clean the house I have to spend six hours scrubbing every inch of it or it doesn’t count”. Or even, “If I don’t get straight 10’s I’m an absolute failure”. When you can’t find a middle term, you can be sure that the animus is operating. Also, the animus works with very impersonal and collective opinions about how people should be and act and how a relationship should work. It’s like a formula that if it isn’t followed everything is wrong. When you ask where did this come from, they love to say “People have always done it like this,” or “Everybody says it is like that”. When the animus is operating the woman loses that personal relatedness, because these opinions get in the way of her connection with the truth and individuality of the other person, and seeing the objective reality.

We can see this operating with comments like “Every man is like this” or “Every man treats women in such and such way”. Or comments like why they can’t have any female friends because “Every female is judgmental and they’re never truthful”. Or rules about how the perfect mother should be, or how a wife should behave. You can see that these are very impersonal opinions, and these rules prevent women from connecting with others on an individual level. Because if every man is in a determined way how is she going to know him as an individual? … Everything he does will be filtered through these assumptions.

The Eros isn’t limited to relationships, so everything that has to do with the body, the five senses, and pleasure will also suffer. With thoughts like how you can’t have any fun and relax because you always have to be productive. If you’re going traveling, for instance, everything has to be done in an exact order, leaving no room for spontaneity, there are always rules for fun. Another pattern is thoughts about how being in touch with their own bodies is a sin and disgusting.

Lastly, many women have to deal with demeaning thoughts about their appearance, their capabilities, or about what they truly want. Also, thoughts revolving around how they can’t find any good quality in them, that they aren’t unique and that’s why they can’t create anything. Or even thoughts about what they truly want in life is wrong and you have to conform to this other person’s opinion or to society. The crazy thing is that none of this is the truth, it’s just something that was unconsciously absorbed, and the animus will always seek these blind spots. That’s why the main work of a woman is to challenge these thoughts, understand that they don’t make any sense, and come up with her own values and beliefs. The relationship with the Eros principle has to be personal and individual, what matters to the woman has to be the most important thing, instead of giving in to collective rules and assumptions.

The Animus Problem

However, if the problem of the animus is not faced:

“If the problem is not faced, if woman does not meet adequately the demand for consciousness or intellectual activity, the animus becomes autonomous and negative, and works destructively on the individual herself and in her relations to other people. This fact can be explained as follows: if the possibility of spiritual functioning is not taken up by the conscious mind, the psychic energy intended for it falls into the unconscious, and there activates the archetype of the animus. Possessed of the energy that has flowed back into the unconscious, the animus figure becomes autonomous, so powerful, indeed, that it can overwhelm the conscious ego, and thus finally dominate the whole personality” (Emma Jung – The Animus and Anima, p. 7).

This is a principle in Jungian Psychology, every time that we don’t consciously exert some faculty, it becomes unconscious and instead of functioning properly, it becomes destructive. Emma Jung says that when there’s an identification with the animus, the women either didn’t pay attention to her spiritual side or developed it in the wrong way. She points out that many women have this over-identification with their masculine side and externally it might seem that they have a positive animus, however, this always comes to the detriment of feminine values, and especially their relationships.

“To busy ourselves simply in an intellectual or objectively masculine way seems insufficient, as can be seen in many women who have completed a course of study and practice a heretofore masculine, intellectual calling, but who, nonetheless, have never come to terms with the animus problem. Such a masculine training and way of life may well be achieved by identification with the animus, but then the feminine side is left out in the cold. What is really necessary is that feminine intellectuality, logos in the woman, should be so fitted into the nature and life of the woman that a harmonious cooperation between the feminine and masculine factors ensues and no part is condemned to a shadowy existence” (Emma Jung – The Animus and Anima, p. 13).

“For when the feminine side is so overwhelmed and pushed into the background by the animus, there easily arise depressions, general dissatisfaction, and loss of interest in life. These are all intelligible symptoms pointing to the fact that one half of the personality is partly robbed of life by the encroachment of the animus” (Emma Jung – The Animus and Anima, p. 15).

This animus identification has two main expressions, either the woman feels hopeless and powerless, or she adopts traditionally masculine traits in a very toxic manner, in both cases her relationships suffer. There needs to be a fine balance between the Eros and Logos principle, there isn’t a recipe about how a man or woman should be, this is an individual pursuit. But we always have to remember that the conscious mind tends to be unilateral, so an over-identification with each side will always be destructive. Furthermore, developing the animus isn’t about doing traditionally masculine things, it’s something much deeper. It’s about finding your own sense of meaning and direction in life. It’s about crafting your own cosmovision and feeling fulfilled. It’s about deeply knowing what you want, what’s valuable to you, and going after it. It doesn’t matter if you want to become an engineer or a dancer, what matters is if that’s an authentic expression of your personality.

Nowadays, we see many women trying to get their power back, however, they end up adopting the worst facet possible of the masculine, and then they become toxic and destructive, not only to themselves but to everyone around them. Again, this is not developing the animus, it’s simply becoming possessed by it. There always needs to be a balance between Eros and Logos, and each person has to discover what this means for them. In the previous chapter, we explored how the animus and anima make a pair of opposites with the persona, so when we’re too identified with the persona, we’re also subliminally identified with the animus and anima.

“One of the animus activities most difficult to see through lies in this field, namely, the building up of a wish-image of oneself. The animus is expert at sketching in and making plausible a picture that represents us as we would like to be seen, for example, as the “ideal lover,” the “appealing, helpless child,” the “selfless handmaiden,” the “extraordinarily original person”, “the one who is really born to something better,” and so on. This activity naturally lends the animus power over us until we voluntarily, or perforce, make up our minds to sacrifice the highly colored picture and see ourselves as we really are” (Emma Jung – The Animus and Anima, p. 19).

It’s always important to challenge these labels and identities because they’re our worst enemies. We have to pay close attention to the stories that we have been telling ourselves because they rarely contain the whole truth. Opinions about how a woman should be and act are especially insidious because this prevents women from discovering their true individualities, there’s no spontaneity. Also, this animus identification generates an inflation and women put themselves on a high horse dictating how everyone should be and act, they believe they own the truth and act like a judgmental tyrant. That’s why Von Franz says that one way of escaping animus possession is by taking a humble attitude and dealing with your own shadow.

Lastly, anytime that you feel hopeless, powerless, and such a victim, you know that the animus is operating and you must challenge these thoughts and assumptions. Because another thing a negative animus promotes is this constant pondering about the past, about all your mistakes, about how you should’ve done things differently, and how things could be in the present moment, a bunch of “what ifs”. This is not thinking, you’re just indulging in a fantasy instead of dealing with what’s right in front of you. Emma Jung says that the animus voice has mainly two ways of functioning, first it judges and criticizes absolutely everything a woman does, and second, it issues commands and prohibitions. Also, because the animus and Logos are impersonal, they tend to appear as a council of condemnatory judges, and less frequently as a single figure.

How To Deal With The Animus

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “So how to deal with these intrusive thoughts, opinions, and assumptions?”. Well, since the animus is a complex, Barbara Hannah suggests that women have to personify the animus. This is actually a good idea to deal with any complex, because when we’re able to personalize it, we create a separation between us , the conscious Ego, and this part, and this allows us to have a more objective perspective. At the same time that these figures are a part of us, they’re also autonomous complexes with their own personalities and laws, and we have to get to know how they operate. So when you have a thought you have to ask yourself who inside you is thinking this and what is the part of yourself having these thoughts. This will help you detach from this automatism.

“One of the techniques that Jung recommends for getting acquainted with our animus is to keep a sharp lookout on our speech, in particular our thoughts, and to constantly question them as they pass through our minds: “Did I think that?” “Where did that thought come from?” “Who thought that?” This is a most disagreeable technique, and we always find good excuses to avoid it, such as never having the time, and so on. But if we can force ourselves to practice it and to write down the outcome – for we forget such thoughts almost before we think them – the results can be exceedingly instructive” (Barbara Hannah – The Animus, p.17).

Women have to pay close attention to the stories they’re entertaining in their minds and question them. The first part is always to understand where a certain opinion comes from, for instance, if you have a fixed thought about how women should dress or the kind of work they can do. You can ask yourself where this comes from, a lot of the time you’ll discover that this is exactly how your mother or father viewed women, and you just absorbed it and never questioned it. Remember that in women, the mother complex serves as a basis for the persona and the father complex serves as a basis for the animus. But often, the negative animus of the mother is what shapes the sense of identity of the daughter, so pay special attention to that. A lot of this work will be focused on separating yourself from the parental figures, their values and beliefs, so as to create your own cosmovision. Obviously, not everything comes from the parents, so you have to question these thoughts and see if you can connect with any experiences you’ve had.

You’ll also discover that many thoughts don’t have a clear origin, and make no sense at all and this happens a lot during my sessions, I’ll hear an opinion and reflect it back, and the person suddenly realizes how crazy it is to think such things. One example I can remember is about this woman who wanted to create something new, but every time she had an idea she would research and see if someone had already talked about it, and obviously, she would always find something. She had this fixed idea that in order for something to be considered creative it had to be so original that no one had thought about it before.

Obviously this a crazy inhuman thought and this was preventing her from being creative. However, this woman was very artistic and she was a great writer and painter, but she never considered her creations original enough. That’s what the animus does, it makes you believe in these lies and prevents spontaneity and creativity. During the sessions, we challenged all of these opinions and she finally started to appreciate her own creations, furthermore, she understood that as long as she did it in her own way and added her own experience it would always be unique. Instead of operating with assumptions, she came up with her own beliefs around this.

I already said that to deal with the animus you have to question these thoughts, but sometimes this can be a trap and you get lost. What’s important to understand is that these opinions prevent a woman from experiencing things as they are, she sees everything through these lenses, so what really matters when dealing with the animus, is to just experience reality as it is. For instance, if you want to relax and the animus voice keeps telling you how wrong this is, just tell him to shut up, and go enjoy yourself. If you’re feeling guilty because you need your time alone or because you’re doing something that is just for you, just tell him to be quiet, and go do your thing. Obviously, this advice is for someone who has a hard time doing that, because the animus can also be experienced as negative when he wants to push your forward but you’re resisting. 

Another example, many women feel guilty about pursuing a career or doing something that it’s just for them that doesn’t involve any relationships. When the Eros is overdeveloped it makes you lose your sense of identity in your relationships and you’re always dependent on them. It makes a woman extremely passive and afraid, and she never pursues her individuality. However, a positive animus helps a woman to have this sense of direction, be driven, and create a life for herself that isn’t dependent on others. However, if you resist acquiring this independence you’ll forever remain in an infantile position, and most likely be identified with the Puella Aeternus.

The Animus Gift

The gift of the animus is to make a woman independent and uncover her true personality. But for it to happen, you have to devote time and learn how to consciously exert its function. It’s really important to dedicate time to craft your own perception of life, your sense of identity, and your relationships. The first step is obviously to observe your opinions and question them. But we also have dream interpretation, active imagination, creative endeavors, and of course, analysis. Barbara Hannah says that writing is especially important for women as the word is the primary vehicle of the Logos.

When you write you have the chance to make these opinions conscious, at first, you should just allow them to come without any judgment. But after that is time to activate your critical mind and separate what makes sense and what doesn’t. It’s always important to insert your conscious perspective into these dialogues, so as to educate the animus. These inner figures also need to learn human values and limitations and you can find out more about this process on the active imagination chapter. Lastly, artistic expressions like music or dancing are the realm of the Eros and there the animus can’t touch you. So having an artistic outlet can be a great way of depotentiating the animus, and uncovering your authenticity. Finally, you have to dedicate time to craft your own cosmovision and develop your own sense of spirituality.

Rafael Krüger – Jungian Therapist

Read next: Demystifying The Anima – The Archetype of Life.

Start your journey with Katabasis – The Shadow Integration Manual

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