To best explain what the anima and animus are, I will quickly reference two basic concepts we have learned about in the past articles: number one, the necessity of integration.
To grow as a person, you must integrate unconscious content by bringing it into the conscious territory. This integration of the unconscious happens through what Carl Jung calls the confrontation with the shadow.
To survive in a constantly threatening world, it is necessary to confront the hostile, threatening parts of life so one can analyze them and bring them under some form of control.
These negative things’ confrontation extends throughout one’s life from basic moral lessons to seemingly life-threatening tasks. These confrontations of the worst evils and terrors are necessary and unavoidable.
The reason why this is the case is explained with concept number two, the necessity of opposites. For one’s inner light, one’s consciousness to grow in size is necessary for there to be greater darkness.
After all, there can be no light without darkness, and a light can only shine its brightest when there is greater darkness to define it. This psychological fact implies that all human beings have a negative side, a side full of dark traits that we desperately try to keep unconscious.
After all, if we don’t keep them unconscious, they might contradict the image we collectively tried to project to others that of a moral, hard-working member of society. Nonetheless, that side is there, just as there is a negative side to everything. It is only by coming to terms with this negative unconscious side that our positive, conscious side can grow.
After we have re-established these two basic concepts, an adequate explanation of what the anima and animus are can be provided.
When Jung says that there is a negative side to a human being, this is a general observation. What we haven’t discussed are some of the specific contents one can find in their shadow. One of these opposite contents that you can find internally inside your own shadow is the opposite of your gender. If you are a man, there are feminine tendencies inside your unconscious mind. If you are a woman, there are masculine tendencies inside your unconscious mind.
These opposite tendencies are unconscious contents that one must integrate and bring under control. For a man, these unconscious tendencies can be referred to as the anima. For a woman, they are referred to as the animus. These archetypes of anima and animists are often kept unconscious because they are difficult to reconcile with our conscious existence as a man or woman.
If one is a stereotypically masculine brute, it will take a long time for that man to recognize his capacity for empathy and meekness. Suppose you’re a woman and are a stereotypically feminine damsel. In that case, it will take a while for that woman to develop assertiveness and reflection when a man recognizes that he has an inner anima and vice versa. It is necessary for females to bring these classically feminine and masculine traits under control to use the positive, feminine, and masculine characteristics and rein in the negative ones. This will take a while, though often, before one recognizes their inner anima or animus.
Two things can potentially happen projection and possession.
Let’s start with projection. Earlier has been mentioned that a person might project their shadow onto the world around them if it isn’t properly integrated. When this happens, the world will take on an evil, malevolent character. The same thing can happen with the anima and animus, but instead of it being projected onto the world, it’s projected onto members of the opposite sex.
For example, let’s say a man encounters a beautiful woman. This woman might be attractive for her looks, brains, interests, or many other things. The man sees these qualities as positive because they reflect all his inner anima’s positive attributes. After a certain period, the man becomes obsessed with this woman. She’s perfect for him. Unfortunately, as humans are wont to do, he will project only the positive aspects of his inner ornament onto her and ignore all the negative ones.
Let’s say this man gets into a long term relationship with this woman. After a while, he realizes that even though she has all these positive qualities, she has a lot of negative ones. She’s messy; she’s rude, she does drugs, whatever. Eventually, this hypothetical couple breaks up when this happens.
A man might say to himself, wow, she is not who I thought she was. Well, who said she was what you thought she was? You only thought she was this angelic figure because you projected this archetype of the feminine spirit onto her.
You didn’t love her for who she was, faults and all. You loved her because you thought she was the physical manifestation of your inner ornament for the most part.
The reverse is valid for a woman. If you want to see some severe examples of animus projection, look at some old videos of women fainting in the aisles while watching Michael Jackson or the Beatles back in the day.
The men are handsome, rich, talented, and sensitive. They are projecting their inner animus onto these men. However, as we all know, a decent number of famous people are complicated and troubled behind the scenes, moving on to possession. This is where things can get potentially ugly, like how the shadow can subsume a person’s ego and turn them into a monster.
The anima and animus can subsume a person’s ego and turn them into an avatar. Possession is usually instigated after the man or woman has a negative experience with somebody of the opposite sex, be they a father, mother, brother, sister, lover, etc. When a man is possessed, he becomes prone to irrational moods to use Jung’s words. When a woman is animus possessed, she becomes prone to irrational opinions.
If you’re having a hard time conceptualizing this, allow me to cite you a couple of examples regarding animus possession. All mention something related to Jordan Peterson. One of the pivotal moments in Peterson’s career was his interview with Cathy Newman of Channel four.
This was a pivotal moment, not just because of the amount of attention he received after this, but because of all the Internet memes. This interview generated the focus of these memes centered around Cathy Newman’s combativeness with Peterson. Generally speaking, she either argued against everything he said, or she tried to turn what Peterson said into something fitting her ideological worldview vis a vis. So the purpose of this was to make Peterson out to be some evil, underhanded trickster. Soon after this Newman interview, Peterson had another interview. During this interview, Peterson commented on the Newman interaction and said that she was animus possessed. \She had irrational opinions.
Now, as for a man being anima possessed, the best example I can think of comes from a video game called Silent Hil. The protagonist of Silent Hill is a man named James Sunderland. During the game, he encounters the physical manifestation of his inner anima in the form of Maria. You can tell by Maria’s choice of clothing and her flirtatious behavior that she is a form of wish fulfillment for James. The only problem is she isn’t real because James has made bad choices in his life and finds himself in a dangerous place like Silent Hill. Maria represents everything he wishes he could escape to. Use Jung’s words. The imperfections of real-life with its laborious adaptations and manifold disappointments naturally cannot compete with such a state of indescribable fulfillment.
Possession by the animus or anima is usually instigated by negative experiences with the opposite sex. They can be instigated by positive experiences, like if a man has been overly protected by his mother for all of his life and develops Semin edible complex.
Nonetheless, it seems like negative experiences tend to spur the possession once one becomes possessed. One successful way of counteracting this possession, according to Jung, is to recognize other variations of male and female. Now, what does that mean? Well, suppose you’re a man, and you have a terrible experience with a woman. In that case, if someone tells you that not all women are like that, it’s in your best interest to recognize that by continuing to surround yourself with other women that are more mature, wise, and integrated, the possession tends to lose its grasp. This won’t be easy because possession can give people a sense of righteousness. For instance, Cathy Newman must have felt powerful taking on this man who she must have perceived as a purveyor of the patriarchy. James must have felt justified in conjuring his anima in physical form after dealing with his wife’s death due to illness.
Nonetheless, these benefits are illusory, temporary. If this fact is recognized, one will suffer the consequences. Jung has also mentioned tendencies to become a homosexual might be related to anima or animus projection.