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.
In wake of my spiritual awakening, however, finding labels for myself has become less important, and exploring and mapping the depths of human consciousness not just for myself but for other persons potential future benefit has become more important for me. Jung has been a huge inspiration for me regarding this, his theories of the human psyche greatly enhancing my own psychological health. However, it’s come to my attention that the time in which Jung lived considered homosexuality as unnatural, and this has risen a great many questions in regards not only in sexual orientation in relation to his theories, but also in gender identity.
I can’t speak for all of humanity, but my own search of the unconscious has brought a few things to light for me personally. Perhaps someone who comes across this and is looking for an alternate theory like myself will be illuminated by what I have to write.
I’ve read of many people wanting to scrap Jung’s theories completely and to come up with a new modern friendly version instead, where homosexuals and non-binary genders aren’t ostracised as defects. However, I see a problem in this. The problem being that his theories work. This makes it more likely then, that his theories were just incomplete. Much like British explorers of the Americas a few centuries ago, the whole thing that he believed to have mapped is perhaps only part, seen incompletely.
A post that I did manage to save onto this blog was one about the discovery of my positive animus, my inner male counterpart. He appeared to me in a dream about six months ago, emerging from a void alone and heartbroken, after years of being repressed by his more negative counterpart. Before then I’d identified as trans-masculine for a while, completely taken over and identified with my negative animus. This is only in my case though. I don’t think it’s safe to assume that all trans-gendered persons are anima/us possessed. And even if they were, I’m not sure there’s actually anything wrong with that in itself, seeing how we are all equally part masculine and feminine. As long as it’s the healthy, positive version of the archetype I think it’s probably fine. I wasn’t healthy and positive though, and I wasn’t fine. I was living in response to trauma. A lifetime of negative fatherly influence trying to make itself known through me.
Apart from that time when I was negatively animus possessed, I’ve always identified as agender. Or, more accurately, my ego has. My ego doesn’t identify with any gender. It never has done. I still consider myself genderqueer though as an all inclusive term, because my archetypes themselves are very much distinctly feminine and masculine and depending on which one I am currently identified with my gender identity may shift slightly. Note I said masculine and feminine and not male and feminine.
I think there needs to be a distinction between the masculine and feminine characteristics and the archetypal container they come packaged in. In this case, feminine characteristics usually belong to the female archetype, just as masculine characteristics usually belong to the male archetype. However, I don’t think that this is set in stone, as in reality people portray both no matter their gender. For example: I’ve noticed I get nervous around assertive women. Their ‘masculine’ characteristics set off warning bells in my own negative animus. I’m weary of them and I don’t get too close. But if I’m around a sensitive man with more feminine characteristics in their ego, I feel much more relaxed.
In this way the anima is usually the container for the feminine archetypes, whilst the animus is usually the container for the masculine archetypes, which then are either extended into the ego or are projected. There may be exceptions, such as a feminine animus and a masculine anima, but personally, this hasn’t been my experience. Instead, what this has been leading up to for me is a revelation along the lines of a person having both an anima and an animus.
At first I rejected this idea, because it wouldn’t make much sense for non-binary genders. I wanted to think that the soul-image was outside the duality of the masculine and feminine opposites, and that it’s usually just projected onto members of the preferred sex in a way that was compatible with the complexes formed as part of the ego. In my case, I’ve often wondered whether my bisexuality/lesbianism was a result of my negative animus complex blocking access to my soul-image, which then caused some sort of rerouting through my positive female complexes. Something I also don’t believe is innately wrong or unnatural, if that were the case. But I don’t believe it is the case.
I remember back to when I had that dream of my positive animus. Round about that time my mother became a prominent figure in my dreams. Indeed she won’t leave me alone. She appears almost every night. As a positive influence in real life, her qualities also tend to extend into my dream world. She’s my helper, my support, and my guide. She also often protects me when I’m facing the more shadowy parts of my self. For a long time I wondered what aspect of me she represented. I just couldn’t figure it out.
Last night, however, I had a dream that I was literally being taken on a tour around my psyche by this female guide. (Awesome dream. Everything looks good in there.) At one point however, I got lost, but then a male character led me back on track. This made me realize a trend. The positive male characters in my dreams are often leading, whilst the positive female characters in my dreams are often guiding. And then it hit me. The answer I’d been looking for all this time. This inner female that has been coming to my conscious awareness more over time: she is my anima. I felt the absolute truth of it as soon as I thought it.
Indeed, Jung states that the anima figure in men’s dreams often projects itself onto the waking mother figure. Whilst the animus projects itself in dreams onto many different men. I often questioned the validity of this theory: until I realized that it pretty much follows the same pattern in my own psyche. I don’t really understand the dynamics of this, but I hope to in time.
Looking back, I can see how my anima has also manifested in dream characters like the Virgin Mary, and my animus in dream characters such as Lucifer. I also met my wise old woman/higher Self once in a dream, a long time ago, which was scary. But I digress. In waking life I’ve projected my anima onto Hindu Goddesses such as Shakti and Kali, and I’ve projected my animus mostly onto the Christian God, seeing how I was brought up Christian, and the Wiccan horned God. The interesting thing about all this, is that my mother figure and my animus both appeared in my dreams about the same time. I believe they are intimately entwined, on roughly the same health level, one unable to survive without the other.
Now, this makes me wonder about the shadow. I’ve noticed that in Jungianism a man’s negative anima will often resemble a woman’s shadow, and a woman’s negative animus will often resemble a man’s shadow. The truth is, the negative aspects of either the anima or the animus are steeped in shadow.
Before I realized the truth of my anima, I considered this inner divine feminine image to be the positive opposite to my feminine shadow, since every archetype has one. But then, as has been realized, if that opposite actually turns out to be my anima, then wouldn’t that make my feminine shadow basically a negative anima? The traits matched up.
I am coming to reject Jung’s belief that the contrasexual image is restricted solely to the soul image. In fact I think they’re two separate things completely. The contrasexual image (detached from its projection onto lovers) I believe forms part of the ego, extending from personal subconscious complexes that form our experiences of the opposite sex, which in turn extend from the contrasexual half of the soul-image. In this way, I believe that every person is comprised of the two main universal archetypes throughout all layers of consciousness: the masculine and the feminine. Although one may be weaker, I believe that they roughly take up the same amount of psychological space.
The masculine and feminine aspects in turn have each their own shadow. And so in this way, a person is made up of primarily four parts: the masculine, the feminine, and their respective shadows. From there they split into their separate complexes and archetypes. For example, a persons masculine nature may be comprised of the wise old man, the animus, and the puer, whilst a person’s feminine nature may be equally compromised of the wise old woman, the anima, and the puella. I have also met my inner boy child (puer) in my dreams, and from reading up online I’ve noticed many other women have too. So I can say that this part of my theory has some empirical evidence to back it up.
In relation to sexual orientation, I think a person’s preference is the development of many things on a subconscious level. A projection of the relative half of the soul-image rerouted through a mixture of personal complexes and identifications. I say this because personally I believe that the deeper one goes into the unconscious and the closer one gets to the source the less these things become important. We’re all one really. The one but many, all from the same source, transcendent of duality completely. But that is perhaps a post for another time.
This brings me to the function of the animus in men and the anima in women. What’s the point of it if they’re not going to be projected onto a member of the same sex romantically? Perhaps maybe this is why LGBTQIA persons may be more prone to noticing their same sex soul-image. They are projecting it onto persons romantically, whilst straight cis-gendered persons may just project it onto idols they wish they were more like, perhaps embodying it better. I also suggest that in this case it functions mostly as a support and an embodiment to both the contrasexual soul-image and the ego, as I’ve noticed in my dreams also lately, these three seem to come together. And similarly in homosexual persons, the contrasexual soul-image mostly works to support and embody both the the same sex soul-image and the ego.
This isn’t the same as the hermaphrodite archetype though. That suggests that the same sex soul-image is a kind of a deeper contrasexual soul-image in its own right. And this makes no sense to me, because it makes it out to be not only on a different level in a a potentially more inferior way in comparison, but it just starts an infinite inward spiral of anima-animus-anima archetypes.
It’s also not the same as the double archetype. The double is classified as being between the ego and the soul-image. But as is now obvious, I believe the anima-animus to be two parts of one whole soul-image, which need to be worked on simultaneously before one can move onto the higher self. The double does basically have the same theory, however, but again, I don’t like how it elevates the contrasexual soul image, as it implies an inequality. As I said before, I believe everyone has both masculine and feminine characteristics throughout all levels of consciousness, and that includes the soul image. And just like the anima and animus seem to be intimately entwined, so do their shadow counterparts also seem to be.
So, to recap: It’s possible everyone has both an animus and an anima. In their entirety they are comprised of the personal soul-image, the personal subconscious masculine and feminine complexes, their respective shadows, and also their respective collective unconscious attributes. Other archetypes such as the divine child and the wise old wo/man can overlap with the personal masculine and feminine complexes part of the anima-animus, but usually I would consider them separate.
Post Note: Something that came to me today in regards to the function of the anima-animus soul-image within relationships is the suggestion that when one projects one half of the soul image, they identify with the other. Perhaps this is why the other works to support the ego. So for example, a straight man would project the anima and identify with the animus, whilst a homosexual person would project the animus and identify with the anima.
Looking back I’ve actually noticed this a lot in myself. The interesting thing is that this is similar to Jung’s theory in that a homosexual man will identify with his anima, but in his case he saw it as a sign of psychological immaturity, not realizing that the man would’ve been projecting the other half of his soul-image instead. And then of course projection of any kind shows inferiority anyway, since the goal of any person, whether straight or homosexual is to withdraw both the projections and identifications, integrate them, and then embody them equally and safely within the expanded ego-persona.
I also suggest that whilst a person will mostly identify with one half of the soul-image and project the other, the two cannot be separated completely, meaning that aspects of both are projected and identified with but in varying amounts. This makes sense because whilst the main half of one’s projection lands on the persona-ego of another, there needs to be some sort of projection to meet the contrasexual embodiments of the persona-ego in the other which have been extended from the contrasexual half of the soul image.
Example: Take a straight couple. The man would project his anima and identify with his animus, whilst the woman would project her animus and identify with her anima. But the man would also project a little of his animus onto the masculine characteristics within a woman’s ego which are extended from her animus, whilst in a similar light the man’s ego already contains feminine characteristics extended from his anima, which the woman will then project her anima onto. This concept extends to homosexual couples, although reversed, respectively. The variation of projection and identification between the two however may be down to how well integrated a person is as well as down to their sexual orientation and gender identity.