The Problem of Contact with Animus (February 16, 1951)
One often hears the complaint, even from people who have been studying Jungian psychology for years, that too much is said about the theory and too little about how this theory works out in everyday life.
This point of view seems to me particularly constellated at present, for it has never been more obvious that invisible forces are at work which human reason is totally unable to control.
The only place where there is any hope of our being able to come to terms with these forces, as Jung has pointed out again and again, is in the individual.
Therefore it seems particularly necessary to devote this paper as much as possible to the strictly practical side.
But any reader who has made such an attempt knows the enormous difficulties which such a venture involves.
We can only touch on a fragment of the vast tangle of problems with which our theme confronts us.
By the term animus I understand the masculine spirit or unconscious mind of woman.
Emma Jung pointed out recently that one should differentiate very carefully here between the anima and the animus.
The anima, as is well known, is Jung’s term for the feminine soul of man.
But it is really a contradiction in terms to speak of the animus as was done in the early days of Jungian psychology and often still today as the masculine soul of woman.
The word animus means “spirit” and the contrast between soul (anima) and spirit (animus) gives us a valuable hint as to the difference between the two figures.
One might say that when a man takes up the problem of his anima, be is attempting to find the “inherited, collective image of woman” which exists in his own unconscious, with the help of which he is able to comprehend the nature of woman, as Jung expresses it.
At the same time be finds his own unconscious function of relationship.
Therefore in his search for the anima, the goal of man is at bottom to find the function of relationship which he has always projected onto woman.
The goal of woman, on the other hand, is to find the inherited collective image of the spirit or mind which she has always projected onto man.
The mind of woman inasmuch as it is unconscious is autonomous and projected to an almost incredible extent although she is usually unaware of this fact.
The problem of modern woman in this respect is most clearly described in Jung’s essay, “Woman in Europe,” with all the symptoms which surround us on every side proving that the masculine side of woman can no longer he denied.
Jung says there: Masculinity means knowing what one wants and doing what is necessary to achieve it.
Once this has been learned it is so obvious that it can never again be forgotten without tremendous psychic loss.
If we are to avoid this “tremendous psychic loss,” therefore, we are obliged sooner or later to face the problem of the animus.
The spotlight in this paper is definitely on the animus and not on the anima, for it is only of the former that I can speak from direct personal experience. which is the only firm ground when one comes to the practical side.
Nevertheless, a good deal of what is said also applies to the anima, particularly as regards the technique for coming to terms with these figures.
The passages quoted above, for instance, are taken from a place where Jung is speaking primarily of the anima.
The main difference that one must always keep in mind is that, where a woman reacts with rigid opinions which go irritatingly beside the mark, a man is inclined to react with moods or with a peculiarly touchy vanity.
In other words, a woman’s unconscious reactions are inclined to he those of a somewhat inferior man and vice versa.
All the Jungian psychology in this paper naturally comes from Jung, begged, borrowed or stolen!
What I am attempting to do for undoubtedly the reader has read the psychology infinitely better in Jung’s own books is to give a modest report of how it seems to me that Jung’s ideas work out when women attempt to apply them in their own psychology.
Of course, when a woman writes of the animus, she is always up against the fact that the animus himself may have his own views on the matter.
Jung once pointed out in a seminar that whereas portraits of the anima are exceedingly common in literature, good portraits of the animus are rare.
He thought this must he because the animus himself to a great extent writes the books of women and prefers not to give himself away. (The anima, on the other hand, seems to be rather fond of sitting for her portrait!)
Therefore I never feel quite sure how much the animus, like a wily old fox, is obliterating his track with his brush.
The Predominance of the Unconscious in the Personality
The first point on which we must agree before entering on our theme is the fact that the psyche reaches far beyond our conscious knowledge.
The idea that we are really the master in our own house and the pernicious slogan, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” both die hard.
I emphasize this because, long after we have realized the existence of both personal and collective unconscious, and are quite aware that we have a shadow and an animus or anima, we find ourselves behaving exactly as if we did not know it at all.
It is not easy to shake off the nineteenth-century rational ideas with which we and our immediate forefathers grew up and which still flourish around us.
When we realize that the psyche itself extends far beyond our ego and its conscious knowledge, we are confronted with the fact that we live in an unknown, invisible country.
There is indeed a great deal of comparative material from which we can gather information.
Primitives, for instance, have at most one leg in outside reality and the other in this invisible world.
What they call the land of the spirits is to them the greater reality of the two, and studying their ways of dealing with their spirits can be compared to reading a description of the country before taking a journey.
We can also find comparative material in many other fields.
I mention, for instance, the great religions, both of East and West, the Gnostic systems, alchemy and, on a lower level, witchcraft and magic.
We may say, however, that all secondhand accounts of what Jung calls the collective unconscious have only a relative value.
They are absolutely invaluable in amplification and comparison, but the sine qua non of any real knowledge of the unconscious is actual experience.
It cannot be emphasized too often that psychology is an empirical science.
Jungian psychology especially is frequently misunderstood as a philosophy or even a religion, but always by people who have had no experience of it themselves and who therefore find reports of other people’s actual experience so strange that they assume it must be a matter of philosophical or mystical speculation.
They are really more or less in the position of peopleing to an explorer’s account of some strange tribe whose habits are so different to their own that the listener may involuntarily find himself thinking: “He is pulling the long bow,” or “fishermen’s tales.”
Some people go even further and, when something from the unconscious catches them and forces them to experience it, they think they are seeing ”white mice” or say, like the man when he first saw a duck-billed platypus: ”Why, there ain’t no such bird.”
Yet, we have not very far to seek for evidence that we are moved by things within ourselves which differ from our conscious personality.
How often do we say: “What possessed me to do that?” Or we are angry with ourselves because we have done the exact opposite from what we intended.
Yet, somehow, we hate to draw the logical conclusion, and even doubt the evidence of our own senses, rather than face the alarming fact that there are forces within us that act independently and oblige us to carry out their intentions.
They are what we call complexes.
The following incident may illustrate the difficulty of admitting unusual facts.
A storm on the Lake of Zurich once detached a floating public bathing establishment from its moorings at the upper end of the lake.
It was on a winter’s night and it drifted right down the lake to near Zurich before it was discovered and towed back to its base.
This peculiar incident was related at a dinner party that night and a young woman exclaimed with relief:
“I saw a bathing establishment in the middle of the lake from my window this morning, but of course I did not mention it because I knew it really could not be there!”
She was unable to admit the evidence of her own eyes until she was provided with a rational explanation, and we constantly miss the most obvious psychic facts due to the same prejudice.
Jung, in his seminar on Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, spoke of the realization that we consist not only of consciousness but also of the unconscious, and that our conscious will is constantly being crossed by unconscious wills in ourselves.
It is as if you were ruler of a land which is only partially known to yourself, king of a country with an unknown number of inhabitants.
You do not know who they are or what their condition may be: time and again you make the discovery that you have subjects in your country of whose existence you had no idea.
Therefore you cannot assume the responsibility, you can only say: “I find myself as the ruler of a country which has unknown borders and unknown inhabitants, with qualities of which I am not entirely aware.”
Then you are at once out of your subjectivity, and are confronted with a situation in which you are a sort of prisoner: you are confronted with unknown possibilities, because those many uncontrollable factors at any time may influence all your actions or decisions.
So you are a funny kind of king in that country, a king who is not really a king, who is dependent upon so many unknown quantities and conditions that he often cannot carry through his own intentions.
Therefore it is better not to speak of being a king at all, and be only one of the inhabitants who has just a corner of that territory in which to rule.
And the greater your experience, the more you see that your corner is infinitely small in comparison with the vast extent of the unknown against you.
Once we have realized that we are not the king in our psyche, not the master in our own house, we are paradoxically enough in a much stronger position.
We have escaped from our subjectivity, that is, we have gained a tiny piece of objective ground where we can stand and look around us.
A great deal that belongs in our own inner world has always been in projection: those things which we do not see in ourselves are automatically projected into our environment.
We do not make projections but we find pieces of ourselves parts we have not recognized projected into our environment.
How many of us have a favorite bête noir, for instance, who conveniently carries all the qualities that we do not want to recognize as our own?
It is nearly seven hundred years since Meister Eckhart exclaimed: “It is all inside, not outside, for everything is inside.”
But how few people have realized as yet what he meant.
When we experience the fact that our conscious ego is only an inhabitant in a small corner of a vast territory, we naturally want to know something about the other inhabitants.
Before Jung, the unconscious insofar as it had been recognized at all was mainly regarded as repressed material which could just as well be conscious.
The latter is quite True at any rate in theory of what Jung calls the personal unconscious.
The shadow in its personal aspects has its home in this layer.
In some passages Jung even identifies the two, and it could therefore be called our nearest neighbor in the vast extent of the unknown which surrounds us.
It is clear that considerable knowledge of the shadow is required before we are in a position to take up our problem with the more distant figures, including the animus.
The shadow is a minor figure in oneself which is the exact negative of the conscious personality.
One usually regards it as something inferior and, in its commonest form, it is composed of all the negative qualifies which one does not want to see in oneself.
But, in the case of people who are living below their possibilities, the shadow can contain very positive qualities, as Jung often pointed out.
In its personal aspect, the shadow is not really difficult to recognize, although this is a long, weary and often exceedingly painful undertaking.
The real difficulty comes from the contamination of the personal shadow with figures of the collective unconscious behind it.
This represents a great complication of the work.
For instance, people with a sensitive conscience, once they see their dark side at all, may lose their sense of proportion and begin to make themselves responsible for the devil himself!
Therefore, learning to discriminate between the personal sphere and the great figures of the collective unconscious is of the utmost importance.
The figure nearest to the ego and shadow is the anima or animus.
Jung often speaks of a kind of marriage between the animus and the shadow, which makes a combination that is far too strong for the weak conscious ego.
In a 1932 Seminar, he goes into this aspect in considerable detail and points out that a woman must be in possession of her shadow that is, aware of her inferior side in order to be in a position to relate to her animus at all.
People who think they are just too marvelously good and thus deny their shadows altogether are, he says, literally “possessed by devils”:
They are all eaten up by the animus and the animus grows fat on it, he is strengthened by that excellent nourishment, he gets so strong that he can possess the conscious and then the conscious is under his rule.
Therefore the animus should not be connected with the shadow, that connection should be broken, despite the fact that you arrive at the animus by way of the shadow; for you can never arrive at the animus unless you see the shadow, unless you see your own inferior sides.
When you see your shadow, you can detach from the anima or animus, but as long as you don’t see it you have not got a ghost of a chance.
To put it still more simply: You haven’t a ghost of a chance while the animus and shadow are married, for the game always stands at two to one against the conscious ego.
We shall see further on what it means psychologically to be “possessed by devils,” and we shall also return later to the role of the shadow in our problem of contact with the animus.
Making the Acquaintance of the Animus
It is a well-known fact, quite outside psychological circles, that the soul (anima) of man frequently presents herself in personified, feminine form.
I mention only Dante’s “Beatrice,” Petrarch’s “Laura,” and Rider Haggard’s “She.”
But the fact that the spirit of woman presents itself in masculine form seems to me much less well known.
Had anyone drown this conclusion at all clearly until Jung recognized this counterpart to the anima in the unconscious of women?
Now that we have realized the empirical existence of this figure, this spontaneous product of the unconscious, we can find traces of it in many places, though often in a negative form.
The demons that possessed women, for instance, were usually of the masculine sex.
I mention, for instance, Asmodaeus, the evil spirit in the Book of Tobit who possessed Sarah and killed her seven husbands, before Tobit, with the help of the angel Raphael, exorcised the devil by means of the heart and liver of a fish.
Moreover, the “little master” of the witches and the “Grand Master” of the covens were almost always masculine.
The fact that the Christian God, particularly the Protestant God, is exclusively masculine presumably made it more difficult for woman than for man to recognize her individual spirit, for it was always projected.
This may be one of many reasons why woman realized the existence of her male counterpart so many centuries later than man.
I mention this only in passing, for it would lead us too far from our subject to continue this theme.
It should be mentioned that in earlier and more peaceful days, when the unconscious fitted smoothly into the prevailing religion, the great majority of people could find the answer to all these questions if indeed they were even asked within the tenets of their faith.
There are indeed fortunate people today whose unconscious still fits in the framework of some established religion, and such people should on no account be disturbed, for, in these chaotic days, a real hold of any kind in the invisible world is of the greatest value, not only to themselves but also to their surroundings.
I experienced this vividly last autumn when I went to a Catholic village in Switzerland for a weekend.
It contains an unusual amount of rest homes for Catholics, largely for monks and nuns.
I immediately experienced a feeling of the most extraordinary peace in the village, which I at first attributed to the herds of cows, the mountains, the turning leaves and the mellow autumnal sun.
But, shortly before, I had spent my holiday in a place where all these things were present, without experiencing anything of this unusual feeling of inner security.
The friend I was with has considerable resistances to the Church and was always mildly grumbling at the amount of priests and nuns whom we met.
I was therefore astonished to hear her say suddenly: “I know why it is so peaceful: their religion is really holding the unconscious of these people. They are not split underneath as we are.”
But desirable as that condition may be, today it is rather the exception than the rule.
Particularly the people who come to psychology are usually suffering from some kind of disharmony within themselves.
It is true that in the majority of cases this disharmony is projected onto the outer world, so the conscious problem is that in one way or another they are at odds with their environment.
I remember Dr. Jung saying some fifteen years ago, when he was still in the thick of his practice, that almost everyone came to him for a different reason. In the majority of cases, it sufficed to give help with the outer difficulties, to open up a new attitude toward them, for instance, or to point out things that had been overlooked.
As he also emphasizes in his writings, it is only a small minority that is destined to tread the difficult inner way of coming to terms with the collective unconscious, that “longest of all paths,” as the alchemists call it.
It is this minority whom I have in mind when I speak of the problem of contact with the animus.
Once we have definitely realized that we have a shadow and are no longer naively projecting all our own bad qualities onto our unfortunate neighbors, and are also aware that our consciousness is only an infinitely small comer in comparison with the vast extent of the unknown within us, we have gained a piece of firm ground from which we can begin the task of making the acquaintance of our anima or animus.
On the one hand these figures have a personal aspect so that we can talk of my animus or my anima, but, on the other, they are also inhabitants of the collective unconscious, so that it sometimes seems far more correct, as Jung noted, to speak of the animus and the anima.
In quarrels between two women, for instance, the matter often becomes hopelessly confused if they make an attempt to find out who was to blame.
And when they first study psychology and begin informing each other that they are quite willing to grant it was the other’s animus, the matter usually goes from bad to worse!
But in time, when they can see that the whole quarrel was arranged by the animus and that both were more or less his victims, they can often gain a piece of objective ground from which a real understanding can be reached.
In the spring of 1938, toward the end of his seminar on Zarathustra, Jung went into this matter in some detail.
He was speaking of the projection of the dark side and of seeing the devil projected into someone else.
He pointed out that, in analysis, the patient is gradually convinced that he “cannot assume Mr. So-and-So to be the arch-devil” who can interfere seriously with his soul.
But the first result of seeing this projection is often introjection: the patient assumes that he himself is the devil.
Nothing is gained by this, for of course the patient is not the devil either, so the latter “falls back into the sauce and dissolves there.”
Then the analyst has to say: “Now look here, in spite of the fact that you say there is no terrible devil, there is at least a psychological fact that you might call the devil.”
Then the analyst might go on to suggest constructing a devil so as to provide a form or vessel in which the returning projection can be caught.
There has been a general belief, in almost every form of human society, in some kind of personification of evil per se.
And it is inevitable that we shall either project collective forces onto our neighbors, or introject them into ourselves, if we do not allow for the reality of the figures of the collective unconscious.
Therefore it seems to me of vital importance that we should never forget that the animus however personally we may take him is also a figure of the collective unconscious.
In another seminar, Jung pointed out that as soon as a woman begins controlling her animus, or a man his anima, they come up against the herd instinct in mankind. Man’s original state was one of complete unconsciousness and this condition still persists in us all today.
As soon as we attempt to liberate ourselves from possession by the anima or animus, we arrive at a different order of things, which means a challenge to the old order.
If one sheep goes by itself ahead of the flock, it will seem like a wolf to the others and thus be exposed to attack.
Moreover, no sooner do you get rid of one devil than you have all the other devils against you:
If a man makes a modest attempt at controlling his anima, he will be right away in a situation where he is tested to the blood; all the devils of the world will try to get into his anima in order to bring him back into the fold of mother nature. . . . The same with a woman: every devil circulating within 100 miles will do his best to get the goat of her animus.
The truth of these words will be evident, I think, to any woman who has made a serious attempt to come to terms with her animus.
The people in her environment are, on the one hand, fascinated by the fact that she has gained a standpoint au-dessus de la mêlée but, on the other, their unconscious particularly their animus is irritated by the fact that something has been done contra naturam.
Therefore she often finds herself exposed to the most unexpected attacks, usually of a very irrational kind. ~Barbara Hannah, The Inner Journey of Women, Page 105-114