Have you ever been carried away with a mood? We can be swept away with our emotions and thoughts. A mood can come over us, and we may look back and think, “I just wasn’t myself today.”
One way to think about these emotional storms is that there is a psychological benefit to these reactions. Carl Jung identified the animus and anima as parts of ourselves that erupt and interfere with our relationships and work. A woman has an animus, and a man has an anima. June Singer writes that “anima and animus are those unconscious part of ourselves that carry the mystery of sex which is not ours.”
How we identify with our masculine gender role or feminine gender role can vary greatly from one culture to another. It is obvious that there are – in fact – differences between men and woman. Whether these differences are more psychological or physical is debatable as well as complex. Yet it is obvious that men and women are different.
These differences show up in our dreams and fantasies. The anima shows up in a man’s dreams as an image of a woman, whereas the animus shows up in a woman as an image of a man. This is because the anima and animus are related to what is the opposite of our conscious attitude. When we mature, we develop the opposite attitude to what we cling to in our youth. “Men have dared to discover their vulnerability and their feeling side, while women – more confident now of their strengths – are beginning to take risks which would have frightened them before,” writes June Singer.
Animus is defined as a “usually prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will” or a “strong feeling of dislike or hatred.” Aminus is the masculine form of the word soul in latin. Yet the animus is not as much masculinity repressed as it is the unconscious other that a woman is prevented from being in her daily life. The part of herself that is furthest from her waking life is what makes up a woman’s animus.
Carl Jung describes the animus as a strange passivity. “In the depths of the woman’s being, the animus whispers: ‘You are hopeless. What’s the use of trying? There is no point in doing anything. Life will never change for the better.’”
When a woman is able to separate herself from her animus, she is able to see that part of herself objectively. She is able to be detached and just notice these negative thoughts and feelings. She does not fall into the false belief that these thoughts are her thoughts. When she simply observes these thoughts and realizes that her response to them makes all the difference, she is able to main a healthy detachment.
A woman’s animus assists her in becoming a complete person by shifting repressed energy into active and creative pursuits. The animus does have negative qualities such as “brutality, recklessness, empty talk, and silent, obstinate evil ideas.” Yet the animus also has a positive and valuable side. The animus can “build a bridge to the Self through creative activity.”
For a man, the anima, represents his unconscious feminine other. The anima symbolically represents the eternal feminine. For a woman, the animus represents her unconscious masculine. Conversely, the animus stands for the eternal masculine. Robert Johnson writes that the “anima and the animus function most effectively for us as mediators between the conscious and unconscious parts of personality.”
When one learns to work with the animus or anima, one discovers a certain kind of genius within oneself. Please watch is short video by Judith Peterson on the animus and learn how to work with this energy to improve how you feel, behave, and feel:
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