Jung's Model of the Psyche - Part Two
Created | Updated Mar 27, 2009
Anima and Animus
The Anima and Animus are aspects of the psyche that carry one's image of the opposite sex. To Jung, we all incorporate both masculinity and femininity, reflecting the minority gene structure within each human being. The unconscious feminine part of the male is the anima, and the unconscious masculine part of the woman is the animus. In dreams, these contrasexual 'inner figures' possess the power and influence of autonomous complexes, and, as archetypal forces, have their source in the collective unconscious.
In writing about the anima, Jung states that 'every man carried within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man, an imprint or archetype of all the ancestral experiences of the female, a deposit of all the impressions ever made by woman1.' Having a collective (archetypal) image of a man or woman in the unconscious mind therefore helps the person to apprehend the nature of the opposite sex, both in the outer world and within one's own psyche.
As feminine psychological tendencies, the anima can manifest as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature, as well as facilitating relation to the unconscious. In its individual manifestation, the character of a man's anima is as a rule shaped by his mother. If his mother had a negative influence, his anima will often express itself in irritable, depressed moods, uncertainty, passivity, insecurity and touchiness. Dark 'anima moods' can therefore infect his life, taking on a sad and oppressive aspect.
Myths and legends abound with examples of dark anima figures, the so-called femme fatale. The German Lorelei, for instance, are water spirits or nymphs whose singing lures men to their death. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is warned by the enchantress Circe to ignore the Siren's call that would so enrapture the hearer that all earthly tasks would be forgotten. Such elemental, entrancing creatures would lure men away from reality, symbolising the illusionary, destructive aspect of the anima. The anima may take the form of erotic fantasy. Men may be driven to watch striptease shows or daydream over pornographic material. This becomes compulsive only when a man fails to cultivate his feeling relationships - when his feeling attitude remains under-developed and immature. It is also the presence of the anima that causes a man to fall suddenly in love when he sees a woman and knows instantly that this is 'she', the man feeling as if he has known this woman intimately for all time.
The anima (like the shadow) also has a benevolent aspect in taking on the role of guide, or mediator, to the world within and to the Self. As femme inspiratrice she may serve as muse, inspiring his artistic or spiritual development, and putting him in touch with correct inner values and hidden depths of his personality.
Jung said that if we deny these contrasexual figures in the unconscious, reject or ignore them, they turn against us and show their negative faces. It is only by accepting, understanding and forming a conscious relationship with the anima or animus that the positive side appears and becomes available for conscious awareness. (It was the difficulty for the average individual to shift their perception of themselves from the biological gender of either exclusively male or female that led Jung to refer to the encounter with the anima or animus as the 'masterpiece' of individuation.)
As corollary of the man's anima, the animus represents the woman's 'recessive maleness', her urge for action, her capacity for judgement and discrimination. A woman in an animus-dominated state tends to be dogmatic, argumentative and over-generalising. She may argue not to discover truth but in order to be 'right', to win and have the last word. She would rather be right in an argument than to take human relatedness into consideration. Life and men are judged and rejected if they do not fit the mould of her preconceived notions.
Just as the man's anima is shaped by his mother, so the animus is basically influenced by a woman's father. The father endows his daughter's animus with the special colouring of unarguable, incontestably 'true' convictions - convictions that never include the personal reality of the woman herself as she actually is.
In myths and fairy tales the dark animus plays the role of robber and murderer. One example is Bluebeard, who secretly kills all his wives in a hidden chamber. In this form the animus personifies all the semi-conscious, cold, destructive reflections that invade a woman, especially when she has failed to realise some obligation of feeling. A particular form of the animus that lures women away from all human relationships, and all contact with men, is the 'ghostly lover.' Heathcliff, the sinister protagonist of Emily Bronty's novel, Wuthering Heights, is partly a negative, demonic animus figure who imprisons Emily in a cocoon of dreamy thoughts, filled with desire and judgements about the way things 'ought' to be, cutting her off from the reality of life.
In dreams, the animus often appears as a group of men, symbolising the fact that it represents a collective rather than a personal element. It is because of this collective-mindedness that women habitually refer to 'one' or 'they' or 'everybody', with their speech frequently containing the words 'always', 'should' and 'ought'.
Like the anima, the animus has a positive and valuable side; he too can build a bridge to the Self through creative activity, and can personify initiative, courage, objectivity, and spiritual wisdom. Where the governing principle of anima was eros, that of the animus is logos. That is, the power of meaning and competence is derived from tasks in the outer world, whereas the anima has traditionally been about establishing relationships to the inner world. However, with the changing social structure, where for many women the animus is already well developed, the task paradoxically may be to develop more anima-like issues 2 (for example conflict over whether or not to have a baby).
Though dreams play a central role in Jungian analysis, Jung never organised his ideas about them into a general theory. He did, however, spell out his attitude toward them. Inevitably, some of his concepts are cast in the form of disagreements with Freud.
Jung did not regard the dream as a potentially deceptive message requiring careful decoding or as a wish fulfilment, nor did he agree with Freud that all unconscious contents were repressed conscious material. Instead, Jung described the dream as a psychic fact, and as a spontaneous self-portrayal, in symbolic form, of the actual situation in the unconscious.3 In short, the dream is a natural and meaningful event, generated by psychically-determined activity in the unconscious.
Jung observed that the psyche is a self-regulating system that maintains its own equilibrium just as the body does. That is, every process that goes too far inevitably calls forth compensations. As a basic law of psychic behaviour, the theory of compensation remains at the heart of a Jungian approach to dream interpretation. One of the key questions raised when confronted by a patient's dream is: what conscious attitude does it compensate? This approach acknowledges that the dream is not an isolated event separate from daily life and lacking its character. It brings the unconscious into relation with consciousness, and provides what is needed to restore psychic balance and wholeness. It also essential to have a thorough knowledge of the dreamer's personal situation at that moment, given the dream contains material which the dreamer's outer life has constellated in the unconscious.
Compensation, therefore, accounts for the appearance in a dream of psychic material that is necessary to correct a one-sided conscious attitude, and thereby promote a better adaptation to life. An example, given by Jung, of a compensatory dream is that of a young man whose father was driving erratically while drunk. Having no foundation in fact, the son is convinced his father would never behave in this extreme fashion. His relation to his father is positive (too positive), admiring him for being unusually successful. The dream, in presenting an unfavourable picture of the father (and elevating the son) is a compensatory attempt to bring the father down a peg, forcing the son to contrast himself with his father, which is the only way he could become conscious of himself4.
The actual dream may be unpleasant or painful since it shows aspects of the dreamer's life that are going wrong, but which the dreamer, for various reasons, has neglected, ignored or repressed. In this sense, dreams express what the ego doesn't know or understand: an inner reality, not as the dreamer prefers it to be, but as it is. Assimilating unconscious (dream) contents is then considered an ethical process, making it important that the values of the conscious personality are not denigrated and remain intact. It is up to the dreamer to make an informed decision to change in the light of the dream's message.
Jung came to understand analysis as a series of alchemical operations, with the work of alchemy providing a paradigm for the individuation process. He applied insights gained from alchemy into the phenomenon of the transference and counter-transference taking place in the relationship between analyst and patient. Using a medieval alchemical text, the Rosarium, to illustrate and amplify this transferential experience, he created a 'psychological model of the transference'5.
At the unconscious level both analyst and patient were participating in a coniunctio, a drawing together of opposites with their interaction producing substantial change. In alchemical terms, when two chemical substances combine, both are altered.
The transference relationship between male analyst and female patient also resembled that between the alchemist and his soror mystica, his mystic sister or anima. Jung mapped out the psychodynamics taking place within the analytic relationship - specifically the pull from male to female and visa versa. The following could also be applied in real life relationships and marriages6:
The uncomplicated, direct conscious personal relationship.
The relationship between the man and his anima and the woman and her animus.
The unconscious relationship between his anima and her animus.
The relationship between the woman's animus and the man and between the man's anima and the woman.
The unconscious activities of the animus and anima are crucial. They contribute to the formation of the bond and ensure it possesses a powerful charge of feeling and libido. The work of analysis is to make oneself conscious of contents that have hitherto been projected. This leads to knowledge of one's partner and to self-realisation, and so to the distinction between what one really is and what is projected into one, or what one imagines oneself to be. By making therapeutic use of projection, analysis channels and strengthens the drive to individuate.
In later life, Jung was more interested in seeing personality from an alchemical perspective. In his 'alchemical model of personality', he took the four basic alchemical substances (Sulphur, Mercury, Salt, and Lead) as metaphors of the way personality 'operates' in life7 (ie, individuates). Knowledge of these substances, as qualities with which we all resonate, gets to the 'being' of who we are.
Each of us has a manic, extravert, compulsive side (ie, sulphur); a bitterly wise, introvert, inhibitory side (ie, salt); a dense, depressive side (ie, lead); and a volatile, evasive, reflective side (ie, mercury). The work of individuation, of differentiation of the Self, is therefore to enact a long series of operations on these substances (of personality), as if doing alchemy on ourselves.
Other Jungian Concepts
Jung defined this term as 'a meaningful coincidence' of a psychic and a physical state or events which have no causal relationship to one another. Such synchronistic phenomena occur, for instance, when an inwardly perceived event (dream, vision, premonition, etc) is seen to have a correspondence in external reality; that is, the two (or more) events are connected by meaning and in time, but not by causal relation, and where the inner image of premonition has 'come true'.
It seemed to Jung as though time, far from being an abstraction, is a concrete continuum which contains qualities or basic conditions that manifest themselves simultaneously in different places through parallelisms that cannot be explained causally, as, for instance, in cases of the simultaneous occurrence of identical thoughts, symbols, or psychic states.
Freud's use of the term libido as 'sexual energy' was extended by Jung to mean psychic energy in general. Rather than lumping all instincts (as expressions of psychic energy) under the concept of sexuality, Jung instead viewed sexuality as but one form into which psychic energy can be channelled.
Psychic energy can flow in a number of channels - biological, psychological, spiritual, and moral - changing direction and flow into another channel if blocked. A shift in the flow of energy has purpose and functions to maintain a balance in the psyche as a whole.
This is a major Jungian concept. Jung's ontological position for understanding the psyche is based upon esse in anima (Being-in-Soul), which refers primarily to the continually creative act of fantasy; that is, the psyche creates reality every day.
Jung states that our psychic substance consists of images, and that all consciousness and experience of the inner-outer world depends on 'fantasy-images' of the psyche.
It is imagination that creates our images of nature, that creates our worlds and shapes our material realities. Everything is in image before it is in body or mind, and what we see around us is already constructed through the images (guiding fictions) that we carry of it. Paradoxically, we live in the midst of these images and yet they are also within us. As in dreams, the psychic world is experienced empirically as inside us and yet it encompasses us with images.
Since our psychic reality consists solely of images, which, in turn, are structured by archetypes, image-making is recognised as a royal road to soul-making. For Jung, to be 'in soul' is to experience the fantasy in all realities and the basic reality of fantasy. So Christ, for example, is a collective image of the Self and has a real psychic force, quite independent of the historical question of Jesus.
Modern psychology (clinical, experimental, behavioural, etc) do not generally accept Jung's ideas mainly on the grounds that his work is (a) too inaccessible, and, (b) too introspective, mystical and unscientific. That is, critics suggest Jung was too 'inner-directed' for life in the modern world, too little focused on the problems of relationship and social adjustment, with his ideas not fully equipping his followers to treat the problems of contemporary men and women. Add to this that Jungian analysis is considered elitist and suitable for only the leisured, cultivated and the rich (and thus without universal application) and the list of his detractors begins to mount.
However, Jung did attempt to apply empirical methods in his psychology, driven by a need to affirm the objective value of his personal, subjective experiences. He also valued the human individual above statistical norms, and his open-minded attitude allowed him to give serious attention (often in the face of ridicule) to the irrational, acausal elements of life that science generally disregards - the parapsychology, spiritualism, precognition, dreams, astrology, alchemy, life-after-death, synchronicity, UFOs, etc. His insatiable curiosity, his search for intellectual truth, made him question every orthodoxy, challenge conventional wisdom, often at the risk of being labelled a heretic. But his fascination with the unconscious and one's inner relationship to the Self, his mythic and religious orientation, and his love of the generally despised and marginalised aspects of life make his work most appealing to those dissatisfied with purely pragmatic scientific approaches to natural phenomena. Jung said 'science comes to a stop at the frontiers of logic, but nature does not - she thrives on ground as yet untrodden by theory8.'
In summary, many of Jung's ideas and theories may, in retrospect, seem rather crude and outmoded. Nevertheless, like William Blake, he was an introverted visionary who held a complementary relationship with his Age, a pioneering spirit who laid the foundation for subsequent, 'more enlightened' discoveries of the mind.