The Anima's Role in a Man's Spiritual Journey


anima_animus1Now that the holidays are over, I’d like to return to the topic I started a few weeks ago. I wrote about a man who, in the middle of his life, had a powerful dream in which he briefly identified with being a woman. What could this mean from the perspective of Jungian psychology?

In his work life, this man had become a highly successful and respected authority in his field. He was a responsible, law-abiding citizen and a loving husband, father, and social benefactor. Looking from the outside, one might ask, “What more could he possibly lack or want?” What more but a satisfying and meaningful inner life?

This introspective, scrupulous man is aware of the universe beneath the surface of his life. For him, filling society’s roles, following conventional rules, and acquiring worldly success are not enough. He is realizing his fulfillment lies in coming to terms with his whole self, including his unconscious feminine side. Something deep within him wants more than external observances: it wants internal congruence. It wants more than the appearance of caring and compassion: it wants the deeply felt reality. It wants more than the attainment of social power and authority: it wants a connection with his inner spiritual power and authority.

In his book Jung and the Lost Gospels, Dr. Stephan Hoeller summarizes the psycho-spiritual task of the serious seeker: “In Jung’s psychology, women need to integrate their animus, and men must do the same with their anima; the bringing to consciousness of the contrasexual image of each person permits entry into the kingdom of individuation and consequent wholeness.”

The word anima literally means soul. Jung saw the main qualities of the anima as relatedness and mediation, both between self and other and between ego and unconscious. The foundation for these qualities is love, or Eros, with its attributes of intimacy, harmony, tolerance, empathy, compassion, etc. In Volume 16 of Jung’s Collected Works he summarized the four stages in which a man’s anima develops: from the purely biological in which a woman is equated with the mother and only represents something to be fertilized; to an aesthetic and romantic level in which sex still dominates but woman has acquired some value as an individual; to a stage of religious devotion in which Eros is elevated to spiritual motherhood; and finally to Sophia, Wisdom.

Dreams of women show men at least two things about their unconscious selves: unknown feelings and attitudes toward femininity, and the health and maturity of their anima. In the dreams of a man who fears, distrusts, or disdains women and represses his “feminine” qualities, his anima will show up as an angry shrew, hag, witch, nag, victim, tease, or dangerous siren, and his dream ego will usually respond to her in ways typical for him in waking life.

Conversely, the dreams of a man who is accepting his feminine side — i.e. getting in touch with his feelings, developing respect for women, learning to express tender emotions, becoming comfortable with intimacy, growing more understanding and nurturing in his relationships, etc. — will be visited by increasingly friendly, kind, helpful, loving, trustworthy, and profoundly fascinating women.

Thus is the wicked witch transformed into the beautiful princess who awaits the prince’s kiss.  Thus does the feminine Spirit Warrior awaken and bestow her blessings of self-acceptance, true wisdom, and spiritual meaning on a man who is, himself, becoming a Spirit Warrior.

Next time I’ll discuss the role of men in women’s dreams.

Ebook versions of Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are atAmazonKoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.



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0 Responses

  1. Thanks for this nice, basic post — it’s the kind that I can share with my hubby (who is not interested in inner work or Jung or spirituality, but since we occasionally talk about our dreams, this might be helpful to him). 🙂
    As a side note, thank you for writing your books! Late last week, I felt compelled to read all three cover-to-cover (until now, I’d just skimmed various sections) and thoroughly enjoyed the journey! Your books are much more accessible and understandable than, for instance, Marion Woodman’s (I like her books but they can be a tough go in some places so I haven’t finished all of them). I loved how your first two were so memoir-like; I almost felt like I was sitting with you, chatting, enjoying a cup of tea. 🙂

    1. Oh, Darla. You are such a sweetheart! I’m especially pleased to know that you can share this with your husband, and also that you’ve found my books accessible and understandable! Not everyone does, I can assure you. I’m so oriented to the inner life that sometimes the outer world feels unimportant and unreal. People who are the other way around can find that difficult to understand. I expect that’s one of the main reasons I write what I do: I want to be understood as much as I want to understand! Thank you for your kind comments. As usual, I’ve enjoyed our chat over our virtual cups of tea!

      1. In “Healing the Sacred Divide,” the section and pieces on relationships helped me see my marriage differently, and that helped. You mention above that, “I’m so oriented to the inner life that sometimes the outer world feels unimportant and unreal. People who are the other way around can find that difficult to understand.” This is so much me (inner life and imagination) and hubby (external, material world) that, as we grow older, sometimes I feel us also growing further apart instead of closer — which is why your book was helpful. I feel *more* compassion for his journey (and other people’s journeys), even if he doesn’t want to go ‘there,’ when I understand more about my own inner landscape, and this brings more softness into our relationship. Blessings!

  2. I could have written this! 🙂 So glad it was helpful to you! Sometimes a feeling of growing further apart is due to a healthy withdrawal of our projections and the ability to relate to who the other truly is with compassion instead of with strong and potentially destructive emotions tied to our desire for him/her to be who we want him/her to be. If we can also find the courage to respond to the other with our authentic self, i.e. honest feeling, instead of with the false self we have created in order to maintain harmony, we have hope of establishing a truly loving and intimate relationship! Easy to say, extremely difficult to do, but, I think, possible. Blessings back!

  3. Darla and Jean, whilst you were sharing you virtual tea and chat, I was here with a chai latte, nodding in agreement and pleasure. “Yes” to the slow process (sometimes scary) of coming into one’s self and Self. 🙂

  4. I’m having peppermint tea while I read this blog and conversation. Excellent post, Jean, and one to remember when someone asks what the anima is about. I’m studying Toni Wolff’s four feminine archetypes after first reading her essay in the 1970s. I want to talk to Vic about all of it, especially Hetaira. Vic helped me understand how the femme fatale (Hetaira) is frightening to a man and brings up all sorts of negative projections. The opera Carmen is a perfect vehicle for this aspect of the anima. I look forward to reading your upcoming post on animus.

    1. I’m actually drinking chai tea as I write this! Glad you liked this post. One of my favorites too. It’s so cool that you and Vic were both interested in so many of the same things. Best friend and best beloved all wrapped up into one handsome Italian package! We saw Carmen last year. I’ve known a few women like that. They certainly have an amazing effect on men!

  5. I’m drinking coffee gone cold because I made it an hour ago while reading this post and letters. Interesting that all the letters are from females! From my perspective I have been challenged to not only get a notebook for dreams but also, after reading this post, to take note of the women in my dreams! I’m sure they’re there but who I now wonder. And what. And what does that tell me!

    1. Sorry about the cold coffee! But I’m so very pleased to know this has inspired you to pay attention to the women in your dreams. I hope you’ll let me know what you discover when you gain some insights!

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