What Is the Jungian Animus Archetype?
Archetypes are basically symbols for prototypical energetic blueprints that are immediately and cross-culturally understood.
Everyone knows what a “mom” is–she is the person who carries a child to term in her womb, who gives birth to that child, who nurtures, supports, and assists in its upbringing.
There are certain expectations one has when encountering a mother. Those expectations, the ideas of what a mom is and what a mom does are an inborn part of the psyche.
The foundation for those expectations and for the inborn understanding of who and what moms are can be found in the archetype known as the Great Mother.
Jungian psychology uses archetypes as the basis for giving names to various psychic functions. Archetypes are basically the way in which Jungians attempt to give the unnameable a name, to label the psyche so that it can be more easily understood.
The Anima, along with the Animus, the Self, and the Shadow, comprise the four primary Jungian archetypes.
Simply put, the Animus is a Jungian concept that symbolizes singular, prototypical masculine principles, not human, gendered males.
The Animus is part of a gendered female’s unconscious psyche or the hidden male within the female.
However, in Jungian analytical psychology, the terms “male” and “female” do not relate to gender. They relate to energetic principles such as action and passivity.
Read on to discover why this distinction is so important.
Understanding what the Animus is, and more perhaps more importantly, what it is not, and learning how to have a proper relationship with it is a difficult yet crucial process one undergoes on the path to individuation.
While a person’s body may come in a male or female sex, the entire being consists not only of the outward gendered form, but also of that which is hidden in the form of psychic functions and cognitive processes.
Jungian psychological theory posits that the psyche is not gendered. It views the psyche as a whole unit, but makes a distinction between that of which one is consciously aware and those parts of the psyche that are unconscious or those elements of the psyche of which one is unaware.
According to this theory, the conscious part of the psyche correlates with the outward gender; the unconscious part is considered to be an expression of the sex opposite the outward gender.
For women, the hidden male within the female psyche is called the Animus.
The Animus archetype, while symbolizing masculine principles, is not synonymous with the men one has encountered in one’s life.
The Animus is the archetype of masculinity, not males themselves.
While the Animus and what it symbolizes is far too complex to sum up in a paragraph, some of the energies contained in the Animus are the principles of action, spirit, reason, and logic.
As an active principle, the Animus gives a woman her ability to fully use her creativity by transforming intangible, intuitive ideas into manifest form in the waking world.
From the Jungian view, Individuals exist on two levels: the inner and the outer. The whole being is comprised not only of one’s outward, physical form but also as one’s intangible, inward self-awareness.
According to this school of thought, every individual’s existence is a dichotomous dance between the visible and the invisible, between subjective manifestations of form and absolute unmanifest reality, and between the masculine and feminine principles.
When speaking of masculine and feminine, and male and female from a Jungian standpoint, one must understand that neither term equates to subjective gender roles of the sexes.
Male and female have nothing to do with gender. Male and female are terms used to define principles, energies, ways of thinking or action.
Masculine refers to energies which are active and propelling.
Feminine refers to that which is passive and receptive.
There is no hierarchy of importance between the male and the female; neither is privileged; both are needed, acting in cooperation with one another for the being to function as it was intended–as a complete, whole, independent being.
As an example, passive energy is intuition because intuition is information that is received by the mind. But for that information to be useful, it must be analyzed and acted upon for it to have a purpose.
Think of a radio. If it only received transmissions, it would be useless. Those transmissions must be broadcast to have any purpose. The opposite is true as well–if there is no device for receiving the broadcast, those transmissions are simply undetected waves in space, undetected by human ears.
Archetypes are singular prototypical structures, blueprints, so to speak, of the forms encountered in the waking world. The Animus, as an archetype, is also one such prototype. There is no “my Animus” or “your Animus.”–there is only the Animus.
Unfortunately, archetypal blueprints are often dismantled and refashioned to resemble the faces and experiences one has with people filling the shoes of an archetypal image.
To say that the animus is “male” or “masculine” simply means it is the archetypal expression of that which is active and propelling. Logic, spirit, the ability to act of intuitive impulse or to give form to creative thought–these are all incorporated in the Animus.
The animus and masculine principles do not equate to the actions of or one’s experience with physical men. However, one’s relationship with physical gendered men will leave an near indelible impression on how one relates to the animus.
In fact, one’s relationship with gendered males will either allow a woman to easily relate to the animus and have a great deal of personal power and self-awareness or it will cause the woman to attempt to deny her male self and actually become animus possessed.
If one’s encounters, especially those encounters experienced during the formative years, have been primarily negative, then one will have great difficulty identifying with the animus in a positive manner.
What the above statement means is that a woman will attempt to keep any trait she considers “male” pushed away into the shadow, and will attempt to remain unconscious of her male self. She will remain a halfling, unable to integrate a critical portion of her own psyche.
The degree of difficulty one has in integrating the animus is directly proportionate to the degree of difficulty one has had in dealing with those of the male sex.
If a woman has had negative experiences with men in general or difficult a difficult relationship with her father figure, she may attempt to dissociate herself from the male part of her psyche.
However, when one attempts to deny, repress, or completely disassociate one’s self from the Animus, a curious phenomenon can occur.
Instead of keeping one’s self safe from anything to do with masculine energies, one actually becomes possessed by them.
The unconscious is a part of one’s whole self–there exists no way of performing psychic surgery to excise that which one dislikes.
The unconscious will perform its role; one can either be friendly with it and use it as an ally, or one can attempt to deny it and watch it behave as an enemy.
The animus denied becomes the monster the woman believes it go be–it does not go quietly into that good night of the unconscious. Instead, it acts out. It actually possesses the woman who denies it.
All of those ideas of men–that they are domineering and controlling? They find expression through her.
She becomes domineering, she becomes controlling, she becomes opinionated, she is incapable of reason or being reasoned with.
Worse, she is completely unaware she has the characteristics.
Still worse, since it is denied, the animus sulks.
Since its natural expression is found in action and that action is denied, the animus, takes the only action it can: it tells the woman, “what’s the use” and “this will never work” and “might as well not even try” and “you know this is going to fail” and other negative self-talk.
And until the animus is integrated, all of those negative statements are true to some degree.
Because one must be a whole unit to fully function and a woman not utilizing her male half is only half a person.
She is a woman looking for completion in an outer man, an outer man who more than likely is simply looking for an outer woman to complete his own incomplete self–a projection, not a person.
“You complete me.”
That line from the film, Jerry Maguire, melted audience’s hearts and went on to become a household catchphrase.
Renee Zellwigger’s character swoons as she translates a lover signing the phrase to his beloved.
And even though he has her at, “Hello,” it is Cruise’s character’s vocalization of the line Zellwigger’s character translated earlier, that alerts her to the fact that greatest dream has been fulfilled.
She, like the deaf woman in the elevator, has finally filled her life’s calling. She, too, has now completed someone.
While many people believe they are seeking love when dating, what most are seeking is what the characters sought in Jerry Maquire–completion.
The idea is meant to be not only romantic, but a way of giving expression to love itself.
The idea of “soul-mates”–two parts of the same person who cannot rest or be satisfied or feel fulfillment without the missing partner is meant to give voice to the power of love.
Soul mates are viewed as the acme of love.
But why is existing a half life, unable to fully express one’s self, one’s life, unable to fully manifest and flower as a human being until finding the missing piece of one’s two piece jigsaw puzzle something that so many people long for?
Jungian psychology posits that it is because there truly is something missing in the lives of so many people but that missing piece isn’t found in another’s form, it’s found in the dark of the unconscious.
According to Jungian thought, what one is actually seeking when searching for one’s “other half” is actually the integration of the elements of the unconscious psyche.
When a woman is searching for her soul mate, the reason the pictures and ideas that come to mind often appear so unrealistic is because she isn’t looking for a man, she is looking for the man.
She isn’t looking for a human being at all, but for that perfect expression of maleness which can only be found in the pure form of the animus.
Since humans typically define themselves by outward gender, the idea that the gender opposite one’s own can somehow exist inside one’s self seems positively preposterous.
It is only logical to search for completion, that is to seek the male, outside one’s self in the form of gendered males.
Unfortunately, until the contents of the shadow are somewhat integrated, until one clearly sees how one is distorting the animus, until one recognizes what one truly believes about men and male energy, one’s image of the animus will remain contaminated by one’s experiences with men.
One is instead attracted to others based upon how well one believes they match one’s projections.
Projections are the elements of one’s self that one typically denies exist in one’s self. They are qualities and characteristics that one views as existing outside one’s self.
Why do so many women fall for the same type of man again and again?
Because until one achieves a high degree of individuation, one is not actually attracted to others as they actually are.
A contaminated view of the animus leads to contaminated projects and attractions.
Of course, none of this occurs on a conscious level. It couldn’t.
Unless she is a masochist, no woman would consciously say to herself, “I believe that men are domineering and controlling, let me therefore go out and see if I can scare up some domineering and controlling men to cause me a lot of pain and heartbreak.”
Instead, the unconscious takes control and guides a woman toward the image that it imprinted upon it.
She will find the same man again and again because that man is the image imprinted upon her psyche as the definitive image of who and what men are.
She will repeatedly fall for the same guy until she purifies her own relationship with the animus.
The unconscious will find expression no matter one’s attempts to deny it. If it does not achieve conscious acknowledgement in the psyche, it will find an expression outward in physical form.
Once one begins understanding the difference between gendered males and the masculine principle, separating men from the Animus begins. Once that begins, faulty images and concepts that one has placed onto the animus are cleared.
When the contaminated animus is purified, it becomes easier to bring it out of the shadow. It becomes easy to relate to the unconscious, it becomes comfortable to imagine that one has a male aspect contained in one’s female form.
Once animus integration occurs, a woman’s psyche becomes the embodiment of the dynamic dance of the passive and the active–the emergence of the whole woman begins and the need for completion ends.
A woman who has integrated the animus can now view potential partners as people, because they now are people–they are no longer projections. One can have authentic relationships because one is an authentic person. One can allow others to fully be themselves because one is acting fully as one’s self. Old patterns fall away, new experiences enter.
The benefits of animus integration are not limited to interpersonal relationships. All aspects of a woman’s life benefit.
Whereas the alienated animus expressed itself via animosity, the integrated animus expresses itself as an indispensable ally.
Logic and intuition become balanced. Spirit and soul are united. All of the negative self talk turns to positive encouragement. All of those intuitive impulses are acted upon with wise judgement and confidence. Creative ideas now easily find shape in manifest form. The controlling woman lets the reins go and steps into a place of authentic power.
Instead of repeating messages of “what’s the use” the animus now tells the woman, “let’s see who can stop us.”
The manner in which the animus manifests in dreams depends upon the woman’s relationship to it.
A negative relationship produces negative dream images such as men without faces, masked men, finding one’s home invaded by intruders, chase dreams, and dreams about discovering a man at the wheel of an out of control car.
The integrated animus typically takes on a far more pleasant form, such as The Wise Old Man archetype or males who act as sages or guide or advise the dreamer. Dreams of men bearing gifts are another type of animus dream.
While the animus archetype can be found throughout literature, the process animus integration finds its best expression in the tale of Beauty and the Beast. In that tale one learns the truth of the animus: it never actually was a beast, it was simply under a curse–a curse that will lift only when the true image hidden inside the beastly form is seen, recognized, and loved.
Men in current society and pop culture that qualify as animus figures include Nelson Mandela, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Legend.
Human beings are complete, fully functional entities. No individual is half a person. No individual needs completion.
What every individual needs is recognition of that that completion, one needs to acknowledge one’s status as a whole unit and know that wholeness to be a fact of existence.
For women, a dramatic step towards recognition of her wholeness comes in animus integration and animus integration begins with making a distinction between one’s experiences with human, gendered males and the concept of archetypal maleness and masculine principles.