The yin and yang. There are many given meanings to this ancient symbol: light and darkness, good and bad, positive and negative, heaven and earth, love and hate, life and death …
However, in this case, the yin and yang is a perfect representation of the Animus and Anima – or male and female – that dwells within us all.
First coined by famous psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, the terms “Anima” and “Animus” both refer to the male energies present within the female, and female energies present within the male.
In this article, we will explore both unconscious archetypes (or universally present elements of the human psyche), and how they influence us in daily life.
Derived from Latin meaning “a current of air, wind, breath, the vital principle, life, soul”, the Anima refers to the unconscious feminine dimension of a male which can often be forgotten or repressed in daily life. However, in order to psychologically progress and reach greater internal balance and harmony, it is necessary for a man to recognize, embrace and connect to this latent element of his character.
As described by Jungian Psychologist Dan Johnston, the man who has connected with his feminine Anima displays “tenderness, patience, consideration and compassion.” However, repression of the female element within the man results in a negative Anima that triggers personality traits such as “vanity, moodiness, bitchiness and sensitivity to hurt feelings.”
The Animus, which is a Latin word that means “the rational soul; life; the mental powers, intelligence“, is the unconscious male dimension in the female psyche. Due to societal, parental and cultural conditioning, the Animus, or male element within the woman, can be often inhibited, restrained and suppressed. On the other hand, some societies and cultures (such as the Western way of life), ruthlessly impose masculinity ideals as ways to excel, succeed and get anywhere in life for women.
All of these external elements can contribute towards a negative Animus, which reveals itself in a woman’s personality through argumentative tendencies, ruthlessness, destructiveness, and insensitivity. However, integrating a positive Animus into the female psyche can result in strength, assertiveness, levelheadedness and rationality.
In the mind of Jung – who derived many of his thoughts and teachings from Eastern Philosophies – in order for a person to be whole through the process of “Individuation”, a person must encounter and work to embrace their internal Anima or Animus.
As Jung goes on to explain, the process of this becoming whole – or Individuation – can be described as:
becoming an “in-dividual,” and, in so far as “individuality” embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as “coming to selfhood,” or “self-realization.”
Thus connecting with our inner male or female element is essential for the development of self-awareness and understanding, which are important components of soulwork.
Making The Connection
Connecting to your inner Anima or Animus does not require you to become homosexual or lesbian, as commonly thought. And if you identify with either of these sexual orientations, it doesn’t require you to become heterosexual either. Why? Because these dormant elements within us have nothing to do with sexuality, and everything to do with creating a balance on the scales of passive (female) and aggressive (male) energies within us.
In essence, what we are striving for is an androgynous state, the state that is often attributed to our Spirits which balance all opposites into one unified whole.
So how can we further complete the process of Individuation, how can we connect to that other hidden side of ourselves? Here are some suggestions.
For Males – Connecting to the Anima
Connecting to the Anima for males is about understanding feminine energy which manifests itself as passivity, sensitivity, and emotionality. Suggestions include the following:
- Practice the art of listening with concern and compassion.
- Rediscovering your passionate side through romantic gestures.
- Taking care of, or nurturing something.
- Practicing thoughtfulness and consideration of the needs of others.
- Expressing the inner Anima creatively, e.g. music, art, sculpture, poetry, dance.
- Practicing mindfulness, meditation and other ways to get in touch with, and understand, inner emotions.
- Expanding your hobbies or interests to incorporate feminine energies in your life.
- Practicing Self-Study in order to develop greater consideration of your internal needs for love and fulfillment.
For Females – Connecting to the Animus
For females, connecting to the inner Animus is also about understanding masculine energy which manifests itself as everything that is active, dominant, and logical. Suggestions include:
- Practicing assertiveness.
- Adopting a role or position that puts you in authority/dominance.
- Learning to take charge of something in your life.
- Discovering and developing your leadership abilities.
- Reading non-fiction instead of purely fiction.
- Becoming more self-sufficient and self-reliant.
- Learning masculine skills, (e.g. fixing car problems, handy-man abilities like using drills, fixing broken appliances, etc.)
- Gaining more emotional balance by practicing mindfulness, meditation, and Self-Exploration, etc.
- Learning to become more rational by studying the approach to problems, decisions and situations by rational people.
In essence, the basic question you need to ask yourself is: “what is the current balance of male and female energies in my life, and what needs further development?”
Females for instance, may possess more Animus (male) energy than female energy, and thus will need to get back in touch with the Anima (female) energy latent in the unconscious mind. Vice versa for males. Essentially, creating a balanced self is always contextual, and changes from person to person.
Through meditation I have often experienced the state of inner androgyny, of the inner balance of male and female or Anima and Animus. The feeling brings great equanimity and wholeness.
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