Reinterpreting the Anima/Animus Function

In my last post I pretty much wrote a huge essay on how I thought perhaps everyone had both an anima and animus, and how that would justify modern developments such as gender identities and sexual orientations that are different to what was considered the norm in Jung’s day. However looking back I see a grand flaw in my theorizing. I was trying to take an already pre-existing heterosexual idea and make it fit the times, rather than starting again right at the beginning.

Trying to disconnect gender identity and sexual orientation completely from the anima-animus I found myself at the very beginning. What is the function of the anima/animus? What is it supposed to do? Stripped right to its bare bones the anima-animus function works as a psychopomp: a mediator between the conscious and the unconscious. Assuming that Jung thought the unconscious to be primarily or at least at first mostly comprised of the traits of the opposite sex, then it serves to reason that Jung believed the anima-animus function to be contrasexual. But what if the unconscious isn’t mostly made up of traits of the opposite sex? 

Dissecting the labels of the masculine and feminine further, we could say that the masculine and feminine are boxes that society has attributed a particular set of traits to. The masculine label is stereotypically portrayed as active, assertive, and logical, whilst the feminine label is stereotypically portrayed as passive, receptive, and emotional. However, at its heart, that’s all it is: labels. Especially with the changing times, gender these days is seen as more down to how a person feels personally rather than down to particular attributes they may or may not hold. Although at times the two may go hand in hand, it would be foolish to assume they’re the same thing. Gender identity then, is for the most part not connected to the anima/animus function. 

We could say, however, that due to heteronormativity within the collective unconscious, especially during the time in which Jung lived, a persons inferior traits will most likely be projected onto the opposite sex. A good theory that I have read elsewhere is that the purpose of the sexual and romantic attraction that is attached to the anima-animus figure is due to its need to disconnect the psychic energy from the mother figure and onto another external or internal being that has the traits we need to integrate in order to ‘complete us’. So basically it is most likely the way the Self draws our attention to it. And as most people are both heterosexual and keep a distinction between the masculine and feminine it serves to reason that the anima-animus function would probably most likely represent itself as the opposite sex within the larger population.

The more one integrates and finds their true Self, however, the less they need the sexual and romantic lure of the anima-animus function to mediate for them. This is where the wise old wo/man is seen to appear. What I assume is actually happening is that the ‘relationship’ one has with the anima-animus figure becomes less sexual and more platonic, and because of heternormativity it seems that the wise old wo/man would appear to be the same sex as the individual, instead of the opposite. So now instead of the anima-animus figure being needed to integrate for the individual, the wise old wo/man takes over to impart knowledge more directly so that the person can do it themselves now that their self-awareness has expanded enough. 

At this stage the unconscious has been brought out of the shadows enough to be structured and its contents are now more easily accessible to the figure that stands between the unseen and the conscious. In this way I see the wise old wo/man basically as a ‘level up’ of the anima-animus figure, the same figure but with an improved function and an improved way of going about things. If this seems hard to believe then consider how the function of the anima-animus in its most integrated state basically does exactly the same thing as the wise old wo/man. They are both one and the same, a guide and a helper to the hero, just in their different guises. The main purpose now of that figure which guards the unconscious is no longer primarily integration of the whole, but instead representation of the whole. No matter how much is integrated the entire Self cannot be accessed at all once, and that is where the wise old wo/man steps in. 

I propose then, that the anima-animus figure instead of being a contrasexual function, is actually the psyche’s center of integration. And the wise old wo/man is the psyche’s representation of the entire Self. Due to heteronormativity they may present themselves as the opposite sex and the same sex respectively, but it shouldn’t be considered unusual for them to show themselves in a different gender. Gender identity and sexual orientation this way are completely disconnected from both the anima-animus and wise old wo/man figures. What I believe instead is that these functional centers will take the form and identity which is most necessary in order to do their job. 

More to come in a later post.

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