The Hero, the Shadow, the Anima, and Love


After my last post Qestra asked how important the anima is in women and the animus in males, and wondered how one actually meets the animus and anima. I’ll share parts of my answer here.
The anima and animus are equally important to females and males. Most of us have issues with certain qualities associated with our gender as well as its opposite. Jung called the unconscious same-gender qualities our shadow, and the opposite gender qualities either our anima (for men) or animus (for women). Of course we know now that not everyone identifies with his/her physical gender and that many of our ideas about gender are culturally imposed, so Jung’s definition of shadow is not always helpful.
In working with my dreams I’ve solved this problem by simply seeing all the female characters, liked or disliked, as unconscious aspects of my feminine side (feeling and relationship), and male characters as my masculine side (thinking and logic). Together, they symbolize aspects of my shadow I associate with gender. Some of these belong to my individual personality, and some belong to the archetypal feminine and masculine, the anima and animus.
To proceed on our journey we must first integrate our personal shadow, the  important disowned elements of our individual personalities including qualities we associate with either gender. Until we can acknowledge our shadow we cannot hope to come to terms with the archetypal anima and animus, and until we integrate them, we cannot hope to become whole.
Here’s the crucial point I want to make: We meet our anima and animus as they are reflected in other people (both in waking life and dreams) who are so fascinating to us that we are filled with wonder and awe. This “spiritual” falling-in-love feeling of having been touched by the Mystery is the tip-off that we’ve met an image of our anima or animus, for they are the feminine and masculine sides of the Self, our God-image.
This is a life-changing experience and our response to it can determine the outcome of our journey. A whole individual accepts the imperfections of our heroes, authorities and loved ones without expecting them to be our spiritual intermediaries and saviors. We have to establish our own connection to Spirit without requiring others to provide it for us. This is extraordinarily difficult at best, and nigh impossible if we have not integrated our shadow.
In Adventure in Archetype, Mark Greene uses Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story, “The Birth-Mark” (1843), to illustrate this problem. Aylmer is a scientist with intellectual powers “akin to the alchemists of old” who longs for spirituality and finds it in his union with the beautiful, docile, subservient Georgiana, a woman who has no ambition other than to make her husband happy. In other words, he projects his “Goddess” anima onto a human woman, she projects her “God” animus onto him, and each expects the other to provide blissful feeling and spiritual meaning for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, “in compensation for all the ‘light’ he brings to his empirically-informed world of science” Aylmer attempts to “subdue and tame her ‘imperfection’” by insisting on removing a birth mark from her face. Since he has not confronted his dark, perfectionist shadow, he cannot “integrate the feminine without falling into [a] heroic fantasy of saving women.” Ironically, it is this “would-be” hero’s subjugation of the feminine “so clearly manifest as physical oppression of women throughout history” that causes Georgiana’s death.
Could it be that simple? Could we put an end to humanity’s destructiveness and learn to love just by accepting our feminine sides and freeing women to be sovereign over their own lives?  It seems a small price to pay for peace.

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0 Responses

    1. Yes it does, Viv. Understanding and coming to terms with our inner forces, especially the archetypal ones common to all humanity, is the work of a lifetime. There’s nothing clear or easy about knowing oneself and no one can do it for anyone else. But for someone like me it is the only thing worth doing and everything else is secondary. It took me 47 years to accept the fact that I’m not really good for much else except writing about these matters, but once I did, the angst began to dissipate and the joy began to take up residence. The work goes on, but now it feels like play. Jeanie

  1. Thanks again Jean for making this vital subject clearer.I’m not sure, but perhaps a non-Jungian term for integrating these archetypes would be “self awareness”. Is this so do you think? Or am I oversimplifying (as is my way!) In other words, people who are committed to the revealing process of, “Putting their awareness on their unawareness.”
    Some people seem to have a refreshing ability to reflect on, and own, their own hidden aspects. They seem less defensiveness in relationships and generally happier.
    Do you have any insights into how and why some people are able to do this? Or why others seem to be quite unwilling, or unable to do it.
    Enough with the questions!!

    1. I totally agree with your term “self-awareness,” questra. This is exactly what it is. Another name for it is “integrated consciousness.” The process it takes to get there can also be called “Making the unconscious conscious!” This, in fact, is the subject of my new book.
      And yes, it is definitely my experience that people who are learning to accept their shadows grow happier and less defensive, by no means all the time or about everything because it’s an ongoing process, but more and more for as long as they continue with their inner work.
      It is a mystery to me why some people can do this and some cannot. I think it’s a combination of heredity, personality, behavior (not only our behavior in response to environmental influences but also the behavior of others in response to us), and life experience. The short answer to why some people are especially resistant is fear. It is very daunting to look at one’s own shadow and everyone is afraid of the dark. Moreover, most people simply feel no need to go there because their lives are comfortable or at least tolerable. I think the ones who press on are unusually sensitive to their inner environments and are driven by the hope of alleviating inner conflicts which have become intolerable. That’s certainly what got me started.
      Don’t worry about asking too many questions. I enjoy them.

      1. P.S. Julie’s response below adds enormously to this discussion. Her observation that it is “the Anima in a woman….or a more anima-animated man… that suffers most in this cerebral culture that devalues, demeans and belittles the gift of the feminine: the deep receptivity of soul and spirit and whole essence of personhood” is probably the best answer to your question about why some people persevere in inner work and some do not. I think it is exactly this unusual degree of sensitivity to the internal feminine and the negative ways femininity and women are treated in masculine-oriented cultures that causes such deep suffering for some of us and forces us to go deeper. I still don’t understand why some of us are more sensitive to the feminine than others, but I think we’ve put our fingers on why we suffer!!

    2. My other favourite Jungian suggests that prolonged solitude may be one catalyst that nurtures self-awareness. Sounds feasible; I’m also pondering the chicken or the egg. Maybe certain people attract or choose solitude because it aids their inner journey. I wonder if enforced solitude works in the same way
      Another thought about Alice and her resizing tendencies. Edward Lear was a mathematician. He would have enjoyed playing around with ideas that relate to proportional relationships — fractals and son. Just a thought.

      1. Am I one of your favorite Jungians? I’m very honored! I think your other one is absolutely right on. I had periods of prolonged solitude throughout my youth and still do. It most definitely nurtured my self-awareness. As a child it was not my choice but it is now and I’m enormously grateful for it.
        As to Alice and Lear, I have a friend who’s reading Alice to her grandson and thinks “her shrinking and growing were the author’s devices to illustrate the challenges of being big and small. In all situations, there was an “out” for Alice.” I think like all good art, there is no single correct meaning and its value lies in the associations it calls up in its viewers. I don’t think Carroll thought he was foreshadowing eating disorders in young girls 150 years in the future but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t picking up on stirrings of the collective unconscious in Victorian England.

  2. Yes, what you write in this post and the last is in line with my thinking and experience also, Jean. I believe It’s the self-rejection in women that keeps it all in place for ourselves. It seems the Anima in a woman….or a more anima animated man that suffers most in this cerebral culture that devalues, demeans and belittles the gift of the feminine: the deep receptivity of soul and spirit and whole essence of personhood. If this negative view is deeply, unconsciously projected inward, which in my personal experience and view is as I have witnessed it also in most women I have known then we collude in our own oppression, repression and suppression. Fear wins, Anima is kept a prisoner in the mind, body and emotions by the negative internal Animus sitting on “top” of the Anima. (remember Lilith’s refusal to allow that!) We have to now set her free from her anger and rage by making our anger and rage over our own collusion with this conscious. As we do we can no longer give away our power to others then blame them for it. We take full responsibility for our own life and fate and how we will make something beautiful for ourselves out of it, and consequently for others by simply being who we are. We become the conscious and autonomous choice makers we can be.  
    It seems that the misuse of food/nature/body, becomes symbol of the missing “mother”/Anima we have not fully claimed relationship with in ourselves, which takes a reorientation of our animus to see, accept, value and empower from WITHIN ourselves so we don’t reject the inner mother’s power of love and nurture given to ourselves as basis to giving to others. If we don’t then we seek anima women or “soft”/gentle men to satiate that need for deep connection with Anima, projected outward. Or a woman who has accepted her anima self, yet looks to a animus man or women to fill her Anima hole for initiatory self-empowerment.
    The Anima is the channel through which we are receptive/vulnerable to allow healing and integration to take place, then activating the Animus in conscious awareness and self- valuing enough to listen deeply to emotion, and instinct, and cultivate self-nurture, and self valuing and naming through self-reflection, feeding well, and loving rightly mind, body and emotions through paying attention to our deep passion and knowing of Life in it’s whole form.This is the transformative path to free the moth to become the butterfly; becoming who we are meant to be. It gives us Roots and Wings.
    Accepting, valuing and affirming the Anima through the agency of the Animus is the way to the hidden treasures or our Being. The alchemical marriage within.  
    I see this also as the journey of Faith in the experience of things hoped for; the Mystery of life experienced which provides, affirms, empowers, heals, teaches, invites, waits, and confirms. It is trust in the whole-making process; Wholeness itself calling me Home.
    Yes, the way to wholeness is through the rabbit hole, not around it. That’s the Real Adventure of Life!  
    I’m open to your reflection of any misunderstanding I may have of Anima and Animus in the transformative journey, Jean. Thanks again for your springboards for reflection! Julie

    1. This is a wonderful summary, Julie, and I have nothing whatsoever to add to your observations. I agree with everything you say and especially like these two sentences which pretty much say it all for me: “Accepting, valuing and affirming the Anima through the agency of the Animus is the way to the hidden treasures or our Being. The alchemical marriage within.” It’s the “through the agency of the Animus” part that really clicks for me big time! It absolutely requires the masculine principle’s consciousness and desire for clarity and understanding (the true archetypal Hero) to awaken the sleeping princess with a kiss, and their union is our promise for wholeness. I’ve tried so many ways to describe how essential the positive and healthy masculine is to this process, and you’ve done it beautifully.Thank you very much for adding to this discussion. Jeanie

  3. This post and the discussion with your readers is so rich. It is like a Mother Lode and I know I shall return to it again whenever I’ve “forgotten” the lessons it contains.

  4. Thank you, Jean, you are giving me courage and companionship in my adventure of showing up ever more fully with my own light! This “Oviary Forestary” container of community, journey work and service on behalf of the journey into wholeness that I’ve lived in for over 30 years has been doing its alchemical “cooking” in me and I’m seeing ever more of the light of the New Day dawning inside and out! You are a blessed catalyst to this change process underway for us all.
    Gratefully, Julie

    1. I love your delightful description of your Morning Star retreat center!! Yes, once the cooking starts it doesn’t stop as long as we keep showing up to season the stew and stir the pot. I am so pleased and extremely honored to be part of your soul’s transformation! With blessings and gratitude to you for your many contributions to clarifying my thinking, Jeanie

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