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.
The end-goal of every psyche is to become more conscious and self-aware. You were made to want oneness, a doable antidote to the divisiveness that plagues today’s world. Self-awareness — by which I mean the acceptance of the opposites within ourselves — when combined with a sincere desire to bridge the divides between them, is the bridge to consciousness. And consciousness is the bridge to psychological and spiritual oneness. Your purpose in life is to do whatever you can to build these bridges. You’ll never be happy if you don’t at least try.