When Anima Meets Animus


These are Jungian terms used to describe parts of the psyche. They are etymologically related to words like “animated” and “animous” and “animosity”.

The word animus in Latin means soul, spirit or courage. You can see that if we use the word “animosity” to mean “bitter hostility or open enmity; active hatred”, as according to the dictionary, then the “courage” aspect of the animus or soul is being emphasized and has “gone wrong”. This is a key to understanding the woman’s animus, her inner male.

The word anima is more lately derived and may be the matter of going back and adding a feminine Latin ending to animus, to become anima. This represents the inner female found within the psyche of a male.

Jung himself did not expect everyone to understand his concepts of the animus and the anima, and particularly not men, I think, but we can explore this concept and gain much self knowledge as we endeavor to understand it to the best of our abilities.

My favorite Jungian writer is Marie Louise von Franz, as most of you know (!) Somehow I like it when a brilliant, rational woman with a PhD describes things having to do with relationships because when the men do it, they have a set of unspoken assumptions that can leave me feeling like I’m left out in the dark. Often they seem to be writing just to each other, as well. This was the case for many centuries anyway.

Von Franz usually says it clearly. This is how Von Franz explain the animus in a woman.


“The male personification of the unconscious in woman — the animus — exhibits both good and bad aspects, as does the anima in man. But the animus does not so often appear in the form of an erotic fantasy or mood [like the anima]; it is more apt to take the form of a hidden “sacred” conviction.

When such a conviction is preached with a loud, insistent, masculine voice or imposed on others by means of brutal emotional scenes, the underlying masculinity in a woman is easily recognized. However, even in a woman who is outwardly very feminine the animus can be an equally hard, inexorable power.

One may suddenly find oneself up against something in a woman that is obstinate and cold. [emphasis mine]

According to von Franz, these are some of the favorite themes of the Animus.

“The only thing in the world that I want is love,
and he does not love me.”

“In this situation there are only two possibilities
— and both are equally bad.”

She explains that the animus never believes in exceptions. “One can rarely contradict an animus opinion.” she says, “because it is usually right in a general way; yet it seldom seems to fit the individual situation.” She continues, “It is apt to be an opinion that seems reasonable but beside the point.”

How is the animus formed in a woman? How is the anima formed in a man? They are shaped by relating to and being in the presence of the parent of the opposite sex. The man’s anima takes form through relating with the mother. The woman’s animus takes form through influence by the father.

Von Franz puts it this way: “The father endows his daughter’s animus with the special coloring of unarguable, incontestably ‘true’ convictions — convictions that never include the personal reality of the woman herself as she actually is.”

I think these things are worth contemplating. These convictions are buried deeply in us and we are usually not conscious that we have these attitudes, let alone that they are based on unexamined assumptions.


If the animus from the father is negative or dark, it may take the form of the archetypal Dark Stranger, someone like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights or Beethoven’s father as depicted in the film Immortal Beloved.

In this form it lures a woman away from any real relationships and particularly those with a man. Von Franz describes this state of consciousness as a “cocoon of dreamy thoughts, filled with desire and judgments about how things ‘ought to be’, which cut a woman off from the reality of life.”

These are some of the other characteristics of a negative animus:

empty talk
silent, obstinate, evil ideas

There is a more destructive side to this dark animus as well. “By nursing secret destructive attitudes,” von Franz explains, “a wife can drive her husband, and a mother her children, into illness, accident, or even death.”

I once read for a girl who will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She said she “always knew” she would have a near fatal accident driving over a bridge near her home (in a small town in the northwest). One of her brothers died a tragic death as well. Now a younger sister is threatened with drug abuse. I remember suggesting to my client that she find out why her mother was destroying her own children. To my horror, she registered no reaction to this statement which I had said to shock her into the reality of this dangerous situation.

Von Franz continues, “she may decide to keep her children from marrying — a deeply hidden form of evil that rarely comes to the surface of the mother’s conscious mind.” I think M. Scott Peck deals with in The Road Less Traveled as well. Then she gives a memorable example: “A naive old woman once said to me, while showing me a picture of her son, who was drowned when he was 27, ‘I prefer it this way; it’s better than giving him away to another woman.’ “

This is how the animus talks inside in the dark way. “In the depths of the woman’s being, the animus whispers: ‘You are hopeless. What’s the use of trying? There is no point in doing anything. Life will never change for the better.'”


The characters played by Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp in the film Chocolat are archetypal figures, the animus and the anima. This is what gave the movie its enchanting aspect, its magical feel and its deep, delightful spell casting.


Jung tells us that Sleeping Beauty is a story about a woman awakening to her animus.

The animus tends to produce opinions in women. The creative woman in good relationship with her animus may be thoroughly feminine but have “invincible character and speak with power”. She may have strong beliefs in what is right and wrong.

The animus isn’t meant to be negative. When properly developed, it can build a bridge to the Self through creative activity.

The positive qualities of the animus are:

spiritual wisdom

It is a difficult task to develop a positive relationship with the animus. It can take much time and genuine suffering as it requires conscious attention.

“But,” explains von Franz, “if [the woman] realizes who and what her animus is and what he does to her, and if she faces these realities instead of allowing herself to be possessed, her animus can turn into an invaluable inner companion.”


Anima: [according to Marie Louise von Franz] “A personification of all feminine psychological tendencies in a man’s psyche, such as vague feelings and moods, prophetic hunches, receptiveness to the irrational, capacity for personal love, feeling for nature, and — last but not least — his relation to the unconscious. It is no mere chance that in olden times priestesses (like the Greek Sibyl) were used to fathom the divine will and to make connection with the gods.”

If you will read the description of the Sibyl in Robert Graves’ masterpiece I, Claudius, you may see how a man relates to his inner world before the mediating light of the anima. In the macrocosm, the Sibyl played an anima role for Roman civilization. She is the perfect compliment to the ultra-rational Roman! I believe that Graves was going through a dark experience with a woman at the time the wrote the book as well.

Anima: [femme fatale according to Bill Taggart] “… at the same time, she is the great illusionist, the seductress, who draws [a man] into life with her, Maya — and not only into life’s reasonable and useful aspects, but into its frightful paradoxes and ambivalences where good and evil, success and ruin, hope and despair, counterbalance one another. Because she is his greatest danger she demands from a man his greatest, and if he has it in him she will receive it. [emphasis mine]

Anima: [according to Paul Watsky] “Anima functioning demands that a man’s ego participate in a value-imbued relationship with his mind.” [emphasis mine]

Anima: [according to John Beebe at Watsky] “I find it helpful to think of the anima as the emotional attitude a man takes towards anything he reflects upon….” [emphasis mine]

Anima: [according to Ann Belford Ulanov on Watsky] “Anima … forms a bridge, across which the contents of the Self come to address the ego.

Animus and Anima: [from Watsky] Jung writes of the anima and animus that: “both archetypes … can on occasion produce tragic results. They are quite actually father and mother of all the disastrous entanglements of fate…. They are powers in the unconscious, in fact, gods….


In Jung’s own words: “Just as the father acts as a protection against the dangers of the external world and thus serves his son as a model persona, so the mother protects him against the dangers that threaten from the darkness of his psyche. In the puberty rites [of wiser “primitive” societies], therefore, the initiate receives instruction about these things of ‘the other side,’ so that he is put in a position to dispense with his mother’s protection.”

Lacking proper instruction in this, Jung explains, the modern man moves this projection from Mother to Wife.

He continues, “Under the cloak of the ideally exclusive marriage he is really seeking his mother’s protection, and thus he plays into the hands of his wife’s possessive instincts. His fear of the dark incalculable power of the unconscious gives his wife an illegitimate authority over him, and forges such a dangerously close union that the marriage is permanently on the brink of explosion from internal tension-or else, out of protest, he flies to the other extreme, with the same results.”

It would be during a Venus retrograde transit that these internal tensions would be most likely to become explosive. It is their urge to become conscious during the time Venus is travelling through the Underworld.

Jung explains that the anima comes between [a man and his wife] like a jealous mistress who tries to alienate the man from his family…. [If] that happens, he will eventually ask himself, “What is the anima doing here, when it alienates a man from his own family, his wife and children?”

Jung continues, “Our first thought is that the man of honour [i.e., the man with the great outward persona, business reputation, etc.] is on the lookout for another woman. That might be — it might even be arranged by the anima as the most effective means to the desired end. Such an arrangement should not be misconstrued as an end in itself, for the blameless gentleman who is correctly married according to the law can be just as correctly divorced according to the law, which does not alter his fundamental attitude one iota. The old picture has merely received a new frame.”


This gospel is according to Marie Louise von Franz: “In its individual manifestation the character of a man’s anima is as a rule shaped by his mother. If he feels that his mother had a negative influence on him, his anima will often express itself in irritable, depressed moods, uncertainty, insecurity, and touchiness…. Within the soul of such a man the negative mother — anima figure will endlessly repeat this theme:

I am nothing.
Nothing makes any sense.
With others it’s different,
but for me . . . I enjoy nothing.

“These anima moods cause a sort of dullness, a fear of disease, or impotence, or of accidents. The whole of life takes on a sad and oppressive aspect. Such dark moods can even lure a man to suicide, in which case the anima becomes a death demon.”

“The anima appears in this role in Cocteau’s film Orphee,” Von Franz continues. A familiar first cousin is the French femme fatale and the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s opera Magic Flute (a mild version). The Greek Sirens and the German Lorelei are negative anima figures as well. They symbolize”dangerous illusion”.

“Another way in which the negative anima in a man’s personality can be revealed,” von Franz explains, “is in waspish, poisonous, effeminate remarks by which he devalues everything.”

The Greek Sphinx is also a negative anima figure. If you remember the story of Oedipus, she “riddled” men to death, keeping them bound up in destructive intellectual games and then tossing them into the sea. .

Projecting the anima onto a woman is an immediate and automatic thing. Von Franz explains, “Women who are of ‘fairy-like’ character especially attract such anima projections, because men can attribute almost anything to a creature who is so fascinatingly vague, and can thus proceed to weave fantasies around her.” On the positive side, von Franz explains, “the anima takes on the role of guide, or mediator, to the world within and to the Self…. This is the role of Beatrice in Dante’s Paradiso, and also of the goddess Isis when she appeared in a dream to Apuleius, the famous author of The Golden Ass, in order to initiate him into a higher, more spiritual form of life.”

The key to this process is that a woman must question the sacredness of her own convictions. Only then can she accept higher wisdom from the unconscious that contradicts the opinions of her animus.


This anima figure is of the watery type (versus earthy, the other yin element) and she has that “fairy quality” von Franz speaks about. She is distantly related to mermaids, ondines, sylphs, the Lorelei and the Sirens in Ulysses. She can be dangerous in her ability to seduce or lure a man to his death but in her positive aspect she is alluring, not luring.


Jung is writing about the singular anima and the plural animus:

With regard to the plurality of the animus as distinguished from what we might call the “uni-personality” of the anima, this remarkable fact seems to me to be a correlate of the conscious attitude.

The conscious attitude of woman is in general far more exclusively personal than that of man. Her world is made up of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, husbands and children. The rest of the world consists likewise of families, who nod to each other but are, in the main, interested essentially in themselves.

The man’s world is the nation, the state, business concerns, etc. His family is simply a means to an end, one of the foundations of the state, and his wife is not necessarily the woman for him (at any rate not as the woman means it when she says ‘my man’). “

The general means more to him than the personal; his world consists of a multitude of co-ordinated factors, whereas her world, outside her husband, terminates in a sort of cosmic mist.”

Hmmmmmmmmmmm … well, things to think about here.

Jung elaborates:

“A passionate exclusiveness therefore attaches to the man’s anima, and an indefinite variety to the woman’s animus.

“Whereas the man has, floating before him, in clear outlines, the alluring form of a Circe or a Calypso, the animus is better expressed as a bevy of Flying Dutchmen or unknown wanderers from over the sea, never quite clearly grasped, protean, given to persistent and violent motion. These personifications appear especially in dreams, though in concrete reality they can be famous tenors, boxing champions, or great men in far-away, unknown cities.” [end of extended Jung quote]

I have often preferred to put it this way, acknowledging that the inner and the outer are complementary, that men are emotionally monogamous and women are sexually monogamous.

Do you think it could be true that men are attracted over and over again to the same physical type (always a blonde, big breasted, long legged and straight haired? always a tiny, flat chested, redheaded tomboy?) while women are attracted to a variety of different types of men? Or do you think this is exclusively an inner experience.

Russell Crowe’s Ben Wade character in 3:10 to Yuma (2007) gave a good rendering of constancy and loyalty in the anima as he referred constantly to “the woman with the green eyes”.

Marie Louise von Franz writes, “A passionate exclusiveness therefore attaches to the man’s anima and an indefinite variety to the woman’s animus. Whereas the man has, floating before him, in clear outlines, the alluring form of a Circe or a Calypso, the animus is better expressed as a bevy of Flying Dutchmen or unknown wanderers from over the sea, never quite clearly grasped, protean, given to persistent and violent motion. These personifications appear especially in dreams, though in concrete reality they can be “Italians” or famous tenors, boxing champions, or great men in far-away, unknown cities.”


David Tresan, a member of the San Francisco Jungian Institute, addresses the anima in his 1992 article The Anima of the Analyst-Its Development. Quoted from an article by Paul Watsky which also discusses the anima: According to Tresan, in 1944, “as the result of a near-fatal heart attack and the ensuing ‘three weeks of nightly visions,’ Jung’s illusion of personal power came to an end.

“For the first time he underwent ‘total submission to his seemingly immanent death …’ and a ‘direct and immediate experience of beauty unmediated by his intellect.’ As a result, Jung came to perceive the anima differently, as ‘purely and irremediably irrational, the archetype of life,… direct, awesome, and immutable….’ “

What is true for Jung is true for other men as well.


According to Darryl Sharp’s Lexicon, the Axiom of Maria is a precept in alchemy: “One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.

“Jung used the Axiom of Maria as a metaphor for the whole process of individuation,” he explains. “One is the original state of unconscious wholeness; two signifies the conflict between opposites; three points to a potential resolution; the third is the transcendent function; and the one as the fourth is a transformed state of consciousness, relatively whole and at peace.”


A man’s relationship to his anima is important because “she” mediates between the conscious and unconscious.

At the four levels of individuation, this might be the style of relating. [For the women reading this, you can figure out what part you play for a man in his pursuit of Soul in your presence — which of these descriptions fits you best as the potential recipient of his projections.]

This is quoted from Jung by Watsky.

1. In the earliest stage of projection, the anima is conceived as the purely biological woman, the mother, something to be fertilized [perhaps personified by Eve]

2. In the second stage, sexual Eros still predominates but there is an aesthetic and romantic level “where woman has already acquired some value as an individual”; [the archetypal Helen of Troy ? … think of the great scene in Goethe’s Faust]

3. In the next stage Eros is raised to the heights of religious devotion and thus she spiritualizes him in a type of spiritual motherhood; [perhaps personified by the Virgin Mary]

4. Sapientia … wisdom — the Holy Grail! [also Sophia … here a man’s anima functions as a guide to the inner life, mediating to consciousness the contents of the unconscious.


Jung described four stages of animus development in a woman.

1. [The animus] first appears in dreams and fantasy as the embodiment of physical power, an athlete, muscle man or thug.

2. In the second stage, the animus provides a woman with initiative and the capacity for planned action. He is behind a woman’s desire for independence and a career of her own.

3. In the next stage, the animus is the “word,” often personified in dreams as a professor or clergyman.

4. In the fourth stage, the animus is the incarnation of spiritual meaning. On this highest level, like the anima as Sophia, the animus mediates between a woman’s conscious mind and the unconscious. In mythology this aspect of the animus appears as Hermes, messenger of the gods; in dreams he is a helpful guide.

HIS: To assimilate the effects of the anima, a man must discover his true feelings.

HERS: To become familiar with the nature of the animus, a woman must constantly question her ideas and opinions.

How do you stack up here? How’s your individuation process coming along?

This is taken from an article by Verena Kast, a Swiss Jungian analyst. Many have tried to describe the individuation process so critical in an understanding and pursuit of Jungian psychology but this is a particularly succinct definition I find very workable.

Individuation has four aspects:

1. becoming first increasingly independent from parents and — more important — from parental complexes;

2. second, becoming more competent in relationships;

3. third,becoming more of who and what you are;

4. and fourth, becoming more ‘whole’ — which I call the spiritual dimension.


It seems that it takes great suffering or the loss of something a man cherishes to defeat the last vestiges of the ego and reveal to him the mysterious love, beauty and wisdom of the anima.

Source: When Anima Meets Animus

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