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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (film)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In C. G. Jung‘s analytical psychology, the animus is the unconscious contrasexual component of the female self—that is, the woman’s supposed “inner male.”

The animus presents itself to consciousness in a series of archetypal images. Usually a primitive, sexual figure emerges first. As a woman progresses, the initial primitive symbol is followed by a series of increasingly refined, “higher” images.

Jung says the animus may take either a dark or light form. Like all symbols, it mediates destructive or creative forces from the depths of the unconscious. The negative animus has been symbolized by figures like Frankenstein, the Werewolf, Faust and Dr. Jekyll‘s evil counterpart, Mr. Hyde. And it’s, perhaps, been historically embodied by maniacal types such as Jack the Ripper and Diocletian.

The positive animus is symbolized by the male heroes of world myth. It is incarnated in wrestling figures like The Rock (lower, more sensual form), the Romantic poet Shelly (higher level of eros), Winston Churchill (societal or cultural hero), and Mahatma Gandhi (spiritual exemplar).

Critics of Jung’s archetypal psychology tend to say his theories about gender are far too generalized, sexist and metaphysical.¹

¹ See for instance, Naomi R. Goldenberg, Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions.

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La vera anima del genio crudele by Shock2006 via Flickr

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was a clever guy. Whenever he created a new concept, he almost always adapted previously existing ideas. This gave his overall theory a kind of historical resonance and, one could say, mythic appeal.

The same strategy is often used by rock stars, film and TV producers, fiction writers and corporations (e.g. Alice in Chains, The Omega Man, Stargate Atlantis, East of Eden, Apple Records and Apple Inc).

Jung’s idea of the anima is no exception. Historically, the word anima may refer to:¹

  • the Latin term for the “animating principle”, see vitalism
  • the Latin translation of Greek psyche
  • Aristotle’s treatise on the soul, de anima
  • in Christian contexts, the soul
  • spirit

In Jung’s psychological theory the anima is the unconscious contrasexual component of the male Self—that is, the man’s supposed “inner woman.” The anima presents itself to consciousness in a series of archetypal images, with a primitive sexual figure usually emerging first. As a man develops, this primitive symbol is followed by increasingly refined, “higher” images.

English: The Wicked Witch of The West, melting...

The Wicked Witch of The West, melting after being doused by Dorothy. From the first edition of The Wizard of Oz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jung says the anima has dark and light forms. Like all symbols, it mediates both destructive and creative forces from the depths of the unconscious.

An example of the negative anima would be dreaming of a leather-clad Whipping Mistress who beats and binds male victims into submission. Some activists for contemporary sadomasochism movements claim that their behavior represents a socially safe redirection or “playing out” of the negative anima. However, many places where this kind of activity occurs are designated as “Common Bawdy Houses” and remain illegal. Another instance of the negative anima could be The Wicked Witch of the West or the blood-dripping Hindu goddess Kali, for whom horrific animal sacrifices regularly take place at Kali temples in India.

Jungian thought maintains that such images (and related practices) contain enormous potential for psychological growth, providing their energy is understood and positively redirected by the conscious ego.

Lady Di memorial

Lady Di memorial by osmotic_agent via Flickr

Positive anima symbols would be the archetypal image of the Fairy Godmother or the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin.

Historical embodiments of destructive anima-power arise in ruthless figures whose negative archetypal power dominates consciousness, such as Queen “Bloody” Mary of England. On the other hand, benevolent figures like Lady Diana Spencer and Mother Teresa each in their own way represent positive incarnations of the anima figure.

Jung also sees the Blessed Virgin Mary as a positive anima figure. For Jung, Jesus’ mother Mary is nothing more than an archetypal symbol of a vague “feminine principle.” Like other theories and belief systems claiming to embrace all religions within their own perspective, Jung’s rendering on this central aspect of Catholicism differs dramatically from the Catholic view, itself. And on this point Jung has been roundly criticized for simplifying complex religious and mythological data to suit his own purposes.

Related Posts » Animus, Great Mother

¹ See also



Image credit - UggBoy♥UggGirl via Flickr

In Sigmund Freud‘s psychoanalysis, the ego is the conscious, structured and reasoned aspect of the id. The ego is not present at birth but emerges from the id, acting as mediator between the often conflicted demands of the id and the superego.

In Carl Jung‘s analytical psychology, the ego is a highly continuous “complex of ideas which constitutes the centre of [one’s] field of consciousness.” As the psyche’s “point of reference,” the ego’s partly biological component is offset by cultural influences. Its function is to balance the forces of the collective unconscious, the personal unconscious, external society as well as ethically good and destructive influences from both internal and external stimuli.

Jung borrows from Aristotle‘s idea of ‘effects from a First Cause’ by saying that the ego stands in relation to the self as “moved to the mover.” The ego is said to arise from and, in some cases, is at risk of being overtaken by the collective unconscious (as in inflation). Jung claims that many people mistakenly regard their egos as the total self. To compensate for this limited perspective, the collective unconscious tends to assert itself. Because of the almost limitless power of the collective unconscious, this can be a tricky time for the ego, which must represent the forces of the unconscious through language, symbols or art to maintain its autonomy.

In comparing industrialized mankind to so-called primitives, Jung sees the Western ego as a high achievement of humanity (recall that Jung is writing during the modern period). He says that the egos of modern individuals are better differentiated and less luminous than those of their, as he sometimes implies, cruder ancestors. Although no longer wholly identified with the numinous, modern egos are surrounded by a “multitude of little luminosities”-that is, the unconscious affords different ‘lights’ to ego consciousness without overtaking it entirely. And different individuals exhibit different lights from the unconscious.

Although offering an important alternative to the psychoanalytic wisdom of the day, Jung tends to make sweeping generalizations about the ‘normal’ Western ego, revealing that he too, at least in part, is a product of his times. And his archetypal theory tends to downplay the idea of wholly spiritual influences from above, or at least, constrain these influences into his somewhat limiting theory.

Related Posts » Archetypes, “Ego, Archetype and Self: C. G. Jung and Modernity