Anima/Animus: The Archetype of Contrasexuality



Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung. “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335

So far in this series about the five major players in every psyche, I’ve written about the ego, our center of consciousness; the persona, our social mask;  and the shadow, our disowned qualities.  The remaining players are buried much deeper in our unconscious, and can only be accessed after we’ve learned about, and come to terms with, the very real and potentially toxic powers of our shadows.  Until this happens, we will not reach the fourth level of the psyche or mature self-knowledge.

To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.  Carl Jung. “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959). In CW 10. Civilization in Transition. P.872

Getting in the middle is good!  Seeing ourselves from two sides—i.e. conscious and unconscious, good and evil—frees us to discover our full individuality.  We do this by meeting and coming to terms with the anima/animus archetype of contrasexuality. This pair represents the two fundamental energies of the psyche.

Jung said the anima is the unconscious feminine.  He believed she is a particularly potent force in the psyche of a man, but today it might be more appropriate to say of a person whose ego identifies primarily with maleness. Historically thought of as soul, Jung associated our unconscious feminine sides with Eros, the principle of feeling and relationship.

Conversely, the animus is the unconscious masculine, a unusually powerful force in one whose ego identifies primarily with femaleness.  Historically thought of as spirit, Jung associated our unconscious masculine sides with Logos, the principle of rationality.

Until very recently, humanity has not understood that everyone contains all the qualities associated with both energies, and so has made the mistake of assigning specific and limiting roles to the genders. Even Jung tended to be confusing when writing about this issue, as he believed that every woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, and every male’s on the principle of Logos. But might he have been influenced by gender stereotypes which were so strongly imposed in his time?  For in organizing the personality types into the two opposites of Logos thinking and Eros feeling, he acknowledged that both potentials exist in every psyche. So why assign each to a gender? In other words, even this great psychological pioneer had difficulty being clear about this issue.

Anumus Anima, Why? Wendy Stark, YouTube
Credits: Animus Anima, Why? Wendy Stark, YouTube

I think Erich Neumann said it best when wrote in The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton University Press, 1954) xxii n. 7:

“…we use the terms “masculine” and “feminine” throughout the book, not as personal sex-linked characteristics, but as symbolic expressions. . . . The symbolism of “masculine” and “feminine” is archetypal and therefore transpersonal; in the various cultures concerned, it is erroneously projected upon persons as though they carried its qualities. In reality every individual is a psychological hybrid.”

There is no final word on this issue as yet, either in the Jungian community or the general public.  The stereotypes about gender that have prevailed throughout the patriarchal era (about 5,000 + years) have confused and severely constrained the psychological development of all of us. However, we are beginning to understand that the creation and evolution of every form of life, both physical and psychic, only occurs when these two complementary forms of energy merge in a reciprocal partnership. Neither form is superior or inferior to the other and nothing new can be created by either one alone.

The anima/animus archetype manifests as new potentials that most of us will only consciously develop after we’ve fulfilled the basic tasks of the first half of life:  getting an education, developing our interests and skills, proving ourselves in jobs, finding love partners, and establishing a home and family. In our dreams, our anima/animus qualities appear as unusually fascinating and influential women and men who compel us to challenge and change outmoded attitudes, thoughts and emotions. Opening our minds and reflecting on these changes spurs healthy growth;  rejecting them out of fear or stereotypical thinking stunts further growth into mature consciousness.

As I write this, it’s Dec. 21, 2015, Winter Solstice Eve, the darkest night of the year. In the following video I share my very first recorded dream. It’s very fitting that it featured my animus as an attractive, seductive man who wanted to enlighten me about love. Fortunately, I was ready to push past my fear and learn what he wanted to teach me. Please enjoy my holiday offering to you: The Dream Theatre of the Anima/Animus.  This dream brought more light into my psyche. May it do the same for you.


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0 Responses

  1. Thank you for highlighting the transpersonal archetypes of masculine and feminine Jeanie – the importance that each person is a hybrid of both, psychologically. May the day come, sooner rather than later, that there can be a true marriage of these archetypes within each.
    Happy solstice day! A merry Christmas and festive season also! When all the busyness is less I plan to watch your videos …

    1. You’re welcome, Susan. As you know, anima and animus are important, yet extremely difficult concepts for many to grasp in an objective psychological way: the terms “masculine” and “feminine” are so loaded with stereotypical projections, positive and negative. I keep hoping that maybe someday, with enough education, we will see the genders as individual manifestations in one river of libido, or life energy, comprised of every possible combination of both, all of it valuable and sacred. Men and women alike have suffered so much for so long from hostile, distorted and divisive thinking about the genders without understanding the underlying psychological forces that influence us all.
      Happy solstice day to you too, and a joyful holiday season and new year. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the videos after the holidays.

      1. Thank you Jeanie – you help to clarify and educate so well what can be a bit murky and overloaded with stereotypical thinking. I agree that there’s been too much compartmentalisation of the masculine and feminine, anima and animus without seeing that they are not exclusive to each other but complementary. May the river of libido meld and blend to the benefit of all! Lovely energetic image 🙂

  2. Thank you Jean, I love the new series. I just watched this particular one, and can’t wait to view the others. After listening to your dream in the video, I immediately had a better understanding of an anima dream I had a couple of months ago. Isn’t it marvelous the ways our dreams talk to us? They are so incredibly creative in getting across so many associations with few specific images. It never ceases to amaze me. Thanks so much for your continued work in this important Jungian psychology.

    1. Hi Eileen, it’s great to hear from you. I’m so pleased to know that my way of looking at my dream helped you gain a better understanding of yours. In my years of working with dream groups I learned how valuable it is to be exposed to the perspectives of others. Sometimes the same dream or dream image would speak to several different people in different ways. Each of us always came away with new insights. There are so many layers of meaning to be excavated in the psyche. At its core there’s a veritable gold mine, just waiting for us to tap into one of the rich veins by analyzing our dreams. Once we find a nugget, the search is on, and anyone willing to dig deep enough, long enough, will be lead to the ‘mother lode.’ It’s such a thrilling adventure! I couldn’t stop now if my life depended on it. Thank you for writing.

  3. Dear Jeanie, I love the image of the two women that introduces your wonderful article. Can I ask, where does this originate from? I absolutely love it and can’t help but be reminded of Kahlo’s phenomenal painting of the two ‘Frida’s.’ You explain well a difficult concept in clear, succinct language … if only, I can’t help thinking, we were taught about ‘the archetype of contrasexuality’ as young children … perhaps it would stop some of the insane madness of looking outside of ourselves for our other half, rather than discover our sacred and divine marriage within.
    In the meantime I wonder, how on earth can I live in this new world, a world without gender stereotypes? Well thanks to Jungian Psychology I have started doing this very thing, while my own stereotypical thinking begins to crumbles away in my mind. I feel truly blessed and ever thankful that, among other forward thinking groups, a Jungian community exists truly understands and shares this insightful knowledge with me. Delivering this knowledge is vital, for the world, as we know is in flux, ever-changing. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Deborah.

    1. Hi Deborah, I’m laughing at myself as I write this because only now have I realized that both pictures could be interpreted as being of two women. The one at the top is a contemporary take on alchemical images from the middle ages of the sacred marriage between the animus and the anima, or king and queen energy. The one by Wendy Stark could also be of two women. I think this ambiguity is very appropriate because, again, the message of Jungian psychology is to bring the contrasexual archetypal energies of the psyche into a conscious union rather than to emphasize the physical differences between the genders. Even Plato recognized that we’re all ‘psychological hybrids.’ Our sexual needs can be satisfied in a number of ways, but the partners we choose as teachers and lovers have to do with the needs and affinities of the individual psyche, or soul.
      The archetype of contrasexuality was once common knowledge, at least to the ancient sages, hermetic and otherwise, and was often symbolized by images of androgyny, which Jungian analyst June Singer writes is the second oldest archetype in the history of humanity. But during the patriarchal era this awareness sank back into the unconscious and was replaced with a growing emphasis on distinguishing differences, which has led to increasing separation and polarization, not just between maleness and femaleness but also between tribes, cultures, ethnic groups, political views, countries, religions, and so on. Western civilization is, of course, currently suffering the toxic effects of this obsessive one-sidedness. As you know, this is the theme of my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide.
      Many thanks for your wonderful contributions to this blog community, Deborah, and I wish you, yours and all my readers the most joyous of holiday seasons, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or belief. Here’s to each of us bringing more enlightenment into the world.

      1. Re: Images … Ha-ha! Now that’s funny! And just what the Soul ordered to perfectly illustrate your wonderful article. I love the openness and depth of understanding you share regarding the Soul’s desires in selecting a lover, so very true! Beautiful and inspiring wisdom. You know your book ‘Healing the Sacred Divide’ is needed more than ever Jeanie! Thank you so much for such a rich, insightful reply. A re-read this holiday is positively necessary! Blessings always, Deborah.

  4. Thank you Deborah. I just realized that I didn’t answer your question about where I found these images. I use Google Image search and type in key words like “alchemy,” “sacred marriage,” “anima and animus,” and so on, then scroll through the images until I find one I want. I usually note that on each post but forgot to on this one! Blessings, Jeanie

  5. So excellent, Jeanie. Here I am, a few weeks behind. I look forward to sharing your wisdom and the fourth in your dream theatre series–and I think, cross my fingers, that FB will let me do it. It was still a little wacky this morning. but I was able to share a few things. I’ll share this post when Social Media is active again on Sunday night or Monday.
    I love how Deborah saw the ambiguity in the images. I missed that, but it’s obvious when I look carefully. What I first felt was a lack in my outer life as I no longer stand with my dark-haired animus prince. I revisited how my partner’s death made the inner masculine energy stronger and more conscious than it had been when I could project animus on him.
    I especially love the second Jung quote. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks for your unflagging support of my work, Elaine. I hope you enjoy the fourth video in my dream series.
      I, too, have experienced myriad issues with my social media sites during the past week, especially Facebook, so I completely understand. I also understand how daily life has a way of taking up all our attention so that our social interactions often have to wait patiently on the sidelines! I won’t fret about your “behindness” if you won’t fret about mine!
      I was thrilled to stumble on Neumann’s quote about every individual being a psychological hybrid! It’s a brilliant expression of a difficult concept and will be enormously helpful to me from now on! I’m glad you found it compelling as well.
      Stay warm! J

  6. Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right. He absolutely represented a type of fountain: the masculine stream of energy flowing from the Self that I couldn’t access until I came to terms with the lovability of my masculine side! I love it. Thank you very much fore this insight.

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