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What Is The Jungian Anima Archetype?

Updated on March 13, 2019
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Aisling is the author of "Dog Funeral Evangelism." Her articles on dream interpretation and Jungian psychology have over 2.1 million views.

What the Anima Is and How it Appears in Dreams

The Anima is the hidden, unconscious aspect of the gendered male's psyche.
The Anima is the hidden, unconscious aspect of the gendered male's psyche. | Source

Those involved in Jungian psychology often toss terminology specific to that school of thought out as if the concepts are household words but never really explain them to those with no grounding in anything remotely Jungian.

Here is a little information regarding not only archetypes in general, but it will also delve into the Anima archetype in particular, with the goal of helping readers understand more, not only about the Anima as an archetype, but also about the unconscious or hidden aspects of themselves.

What Exactly is an Archetype? What is the Anima?

At its core an archetype is simply a blueprint or a prototype that is universally understood. An example of an archetype is the Great Mother, the prototypical mother from where all that one expects when encountering individual "moms" originates.

Jungian psychology uses archetypes as the basis for giving names to various different 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.

While individuals are divided into female genders, the psyche has no such division. The psyche, the whole psyche, is neither female nor male. The psyche is a whole unit, comprised of both masculine and feminine elements.

The conscious part of the psyche corresponds to the physical gender of the individual while the unconscious part is viewed as the gender opposite the physical.

For men, the female, unconscious, hidden part of the psyche, the elusive female within the male is called the Anima.

Masculine and Feminine Principles

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 example, a 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 up for it to have 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 broadcast, those transmissions are simply undetected waves in space, undetected by human ears.

Integrating the anima can be a revelation for men.
Integrating the anima can be a revelation for men. | Source

The Divine Whole

The essence of one's entire being, the part of the being that includes not only the physical part of being but also incorporates the mental, emotional, and spiritual selves as well--the person in his entirety--is not a gendered man or a gendered woman. Instead of being limited to a form that is basically an incomplete male or female unit, each human being is a complete and completely whole microcosm of existence itself.

Being is complete, and each human a complete being.

Forms and roles are incomplete expressions of existence. Since every one is a complete life expression, no one is limited by physical form or gender. The linkage of life to the incompleteness inherent in gender is damaging to its self-image; the individual self fails to function as a full, complete, whole form of self-expression.

There is no need to find another person to "complete" one's self. In fact, looking for another person to make one complete only makes one more dependent. When one looks for completion in another person, one turns the other person into a projected image, not an authentic partner. For men, the image projected outward and onto another woman is an image of the Anima.

The Anima is a prototypical construct, not a personal being.  There is no "his anima" or "my anima" or "your anima"  there is only THE Anima.
The Anima is a prototypical construct, not a personal being. There is no "his anima" or "my anima" or "your anima" there is only THE Anima. | Source

The Anima: There Can Be Only One

All archetypes are singular, prototypical structures. Since the Anima is an archetype, it is also such a structure. The Anima is not a personal entity. There is no "my Anima" or "your Anima." or "his Anima." There is only the Anima.

However, there are individual responses to and ways of identifying with the Anima. And while the Anima is not related to the female sex, since it is a feminine energy it is often confused with those individuals of the human sex that one has encountered.

Various female figures fill the Anima's shoes and those individuals leave imprints on the psyche. Those individuals and one's experiences with those individuals shape how one relates to the hidden female inside the psyche. Those individuals and experiences with those individuals leave an imprint, not on the actual archetype itself, but on the individual's image and impression of it.

If one's experiences with females in general are positive, one will find it much easier to relate to and ultimately integrate the Anima.

However, if one's associations and experiences with women, especially those from one's formative years, are negative, then the Anima will be viewed negatively and integration a much more difficult process.

The degree of relational difficulty encountered with those women directly correlates to the degree of difficulty integrating the Anima.


The Anima: She's Not Your Mother

The Anima, that archetypal female energy, is not the same as those women one has encountered in waking life. The Anima is the prototypical form for the concept of the Feminine

While the entirety of the archetypal female is far too complex to summarize in a paragraph, some of the concepts she symbolizes are ideas such as the power of receptive intuition, the rhythmic pulses of the natural world, the power of creativity and fertility. She is the concept of forgiveness, the ability to receive love, and that part of the life force that nurtures and supports.

A Positive Anima Relationship Gives Men Authentic Power

A positive relationship with the Anima allows a gendered male more power and access to creativity.
A positive relationship with the Anima allows a gendered male more power and access to creativity. | Source

The Anima in Dreams

When one relates positively toward the Anima, one may find her appearing in dreams as women one personally finds inspirational, or one may dream of soul guides, or sometimes the Anima may take the form of religious figures such as the Virgin Mary.

However, if one his a negative relationship with the Anima, she may appear in dreams as similarly negative female figures such as an evil sorceress, a woman leading one into perilous situations, or even women from waking life with whom one has a negative relationship.

One may even experience dreams of women driving one's car which symbolizes Anima possession, or that state of being wherein the unconscious is actually controlling the conscious mind.

Femme Fatale: Dangerous Anima Image

Negative experiences with women can lead to a negative relationship with the Anima which is expressed as the femme fatale.
Negative experiences with women can lead to a negative relationship with the Anima which is expressed as the femme fatale. | Source

When one relates to the Anima in a negative manner, one views the Anima as a dark and dangerous figure--the Anima, for the man, becomes a femme fatale.

In waking life, this association with the Anima as femme fatale can lead to an attraction to dangerous, disturbed, unstable, or controlling women.

Often men find themselves attracted to women they view as sexually provactive or even sexually dangerous. They may feel that activities with such women are fun ways of tasting "forbidden fruit." Other men with a damaged view of the Anima are attracted to "damsels in distress."

Whether one is attracted to the dangerous dame or the damsel in distress, this attraction is actually an attraction to one's own internal image of the Anima. Whether one's proclivity is toward conquering or rescuing, the root of the action is found in one's view of the Anima.

When one attempts conquering women, one is actually attempting to conquer one's own inner psyche. The same is true with the rescuer, except what the man is actually attempting to save is his own vision of the Anima; he is attempting to vicariously heal his own inner mind via activities with external women.

Anima/Animus Carl Jung

Last Words

Integrating the Anima, that is, relating to the Anima in a healthy way, coming to terms with formative experiences with women and viewing women, not as personal projections or opportunities to complete one's self, is integral to psychic health.

Men who have done the difficult work of Anima integration are able to utilize their own intuitive information, able to be strong, yet forgiving, they are generous with their time and resources.

Because they are fully complete they are comfortable with their own masculinity, men who have integrated the Anima, are the men who are authentically powerful, not controlling or feeling they have something to prove.

They are the men who truly make a mark in the world, the men others look to as role models because they are complete human beings--not halflings in search of completion.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Aisling Ireland


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