The anima/animus personifies the soul, or inner attitude. Following a person’s coming to terms with their shadow, they are then confronted with the problem of the anima/animus. It is usually a persona and often takes on the characteristics of the opposite sex. The anima is said to represent the feminine in men and the animus is the comparable counterpart in the female psyche. The anima may be personified as a young girl, very spontaneous and intuitive, as a witch, or as the earth mother. It is likely to be associated with deep emotion and the force of life itself. Jung viewed the anima/animus process as being one of the sources of creative ability.
Jung regarded the gender roles we play as men and women to be societally, not biologically, determined. He saw human beings as essentially bisexual, in that we all have both masculine and feminine aspects to our nature. Thus, by fulfilling society’s expectations, we achieve only part of our actual potential as human beings. The anima/animus archetype represents our “other half,” and in order to feel whole we need to acknowledge and relate to it as part of our own personality.
In a film interview, Jung was not clear if the anima/animus archetype was totally unconscious, calling it “a little bit conscious” and unconscious. In the interview, he gave an example of a man who falls head over heels in love, then later in life regrets his blind choice as he finds that he has married his own anima–the unconscious idea of the feminine in his mind, rather than the woman herself.
The anima, according to Jung, is the feminine side of a male’s unconscious mind. It can be identified as all the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possesses. The anima is usually based on a man’s mother, but may also incorporate aspects of sisters, aunts, and teachers.
Jung also believed that every woman has an analogous animus within her psyche, this being a set of unconscious masculine attributes and potentials. He viewed the animus as being more complex than the anima, as women have a host of animus images while men have one dominant anima image.
The anima is one of the most significant autonomous complexes. It manifests itself by appearing as figures in dreams, as well as by influencing a man’s interactions with women and his attitudes toward them. Jung said that confronting one’s shadow is an “apprentice-piece,” while confronting one’s anima is the masterpiece. He also had a four-fold theory on the anima’s typical development, beginning with its projection onto the mother in infancy, continuing through its projection on prospective sexual partners and the development of lasting relationships, and concluding with a phase he termed Sophia, a Gnostic reference. It is worth noting that Jung applied similar four-fold structures in many of his theories.
Animus is also considered to be that natural and primitive part of the mind’s activity and processes remaining after dispensing with the persona, or “mask” displayed in interactions with others, which has been shaped by socialization. The animus may be personified as aWise Old Man, a sorcerer, or a number of males. It tends to be logical and often argumentative.
Together, the anima and animus form a divine pair known as the syzygy. The syzygy consists of three elements:
- the femininity pertaining to the man (anima) and the masculinity pertaining to the woman (animus);
- the actual experience man has of woman and vice versa;
- the masculine and feminine archetypal image.
In ancient Greek mythology we find an example of the divine pair in the gods Hermes and Aphrodite. Jung also observed that the divine pair occupies the highest place in Christianity as Christ and his bride, the Church. In Hinduism almost all the major forms of God are Divine pairs.