I was pondering two questions this morning as we drove to the airport after a long family weekend away: What should I write about for this post? and How should I answer a recent e-mail from an Iranian student? She’s writing a thesis about the anima and animus archetypes in two of Virginia Woolfe’s books and wonders how to approach her task. Should she just look for images represented by the writer or should she study the characters or events as a Jungian analyst would?
When the pilot said we’d reached 10,000 feet, all five grandchildren, plus a few parents and one grandparent, whipped out their “electronic devices.” Having solved the airline magazine’s sudoku on the way up, I whipped out my kindle and settled in to enjoy Adventure in Archetype: Depth Psychology and the Humanities, by Jungian mythologist Mark Greene. And guess what!
You guessed it: Synchronicity was in action once again. Chapter 1 is about how Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be seen as a projection of Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) anima complex. And Greene approaches this topic like a Jungian analyst! This was my answer for Maryam, the student, and now it is the topic for this post. This is especially fitting since my last post was also about the anima, even though I didn’t identify it as such. (Oh, how I love my job!)
For those who need a reminder, anima is Jung’s term for the unconscious feminine and animus is the unconscious masculine. When Jung was developing these theories privileged European men and women were still under enormous pressure to conform to strict gender stereotypes. Thus, Jung thought bringing the anima into conscious awareness was a task for men (because men had long been taught to repress their feeling function which was associated with women) and integrating the animus was for women (taught to repress their thinking function because intellectual matters were for men). But as role stereotypes began to crumble in the West during the 1960’s and both genders acquired more freedom to express the truths of their souls, it became apparent that this rule no longer held. Thus neo-Jungians (of which I am one) operate under the assumption that both genders contain both archetypes which need to be consciously accepted and integrated.
So I’d like to share a few of Greene’s conclusions here and in my next post, and tie them in with my last post about feminism. In Chapter 1 Greene notes that Alice is very uneasy throughout the story and most of her anxieties are connected with changes in her body and the problems she has whenever she wants to eat. Remember the empty jar of marmalade she seizes when falling down the rabbit hole? How she eats things that make her grow too big or too small? Or gets so frustrated at the Mad Hatter’s tea party? Greene suggests that Alice’s problems can be seen to reflect the state of Dodgson’s undernourished and frustrated anima. Then Greene concludes with this remarkable statement:”His visceral treatment of the act of eating…may also be foreshadowing from the 19th century some of the contemporary angst surrounding the integration of food, in general, and anorexia and other eating disorders among teenage girls, in particular.”
Here are some questions I’m asking myself: What if repressing the anima is, indeed, the underlying reason for the dramatic increases in diabetes, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, and stress-related health problems? Could there be a connection with breast cancer? Autism? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be wiser to spend our money educating the general populace to think psychologically than on knee-jerk band-aid solutions? Wouldn’t it be healthier to accept our feminine sides?
I too have suffered from despair since childhood. It began at the age of 11 when my father died. To this day there are many occasions in my daily life when I cannot get excited about something because I know it will not last and my pleasure will not last and I will die and nobody will care and nothing I have done will make any difference, and so what?