|In Dante's Divine Comedy, Beatrice,|
his anima, guides him through
It would be tempting to say that the animus is the inner woman of male to female transgender and vise versa. That would be a mistake.
I will not argue that male to female transgender are possessed by their anima, or that female to male crossdreamers have suppressed their true femininity.
In fact, the Jung interpretation you find in this series, is very different from the standard "men are from Mars and women are from Venus narrative" many Jungians love.
The two stories about the anima and animus
It helps to keep in mind that Jung is telling two stories at the same time when presenting the anima and the animus. The first one is partly misleading, I am afraid. The second one is more useful for exploring the transgender psyche.
The first story says that the anima is the unconscious feminine side of the man, the animus the unconscious masculine side of the female. Given that men and women are forbidden to accept their "opposite side", this unconscious side is underdeveloped.
When the man projects this anima onto women out there in the real world, he therefore reduces them to clichés. He might despise her or he might fall in love with her, but he is not seeing her for who she is. He is, in fact, not falling in love with a real woman out there, but in his own underdeveloped feminine side.
The second story says that the anima is the counterpart to the persona, the mask a man or a woman presents to the world. In the same way the persona is a person's interface to the outer world, the anima is a person's interface to the inner world. The anima/animus may help a person in exploring the hidden side of the psyche.
According to this narrative, the anima/animus does not necessarily have to be of the opposite sex (as compared to the persona or the public mask). The anima/animus will, however, express personality traits that have been excluded from the persona.
In this post I will look into the first narrative. In the next post in this series I will present a more constructive interpretation of the anima/animus concept.
"Whereas the contents of the personal unconscious are acquired during the individual's lifetime, the contents of the collective unconscious are invariable archetypes that were present from the beginning", Jung writes.
"Here we meet the animus of woman and the anima of man, two corresponding archetypes whose autonomy and unconsciousness explain the stubbornness of their projections.
"Though the shadow is a motif as well known to mythology as the anima and animus, it represents first and foremost the personal unconscious, and its content can therefore be made conscious without too much difficulty. (....) the anima and animus are much farther away from consciousness and in normal circumstances are seldom if ever realized."
(Collected Works 9 ii, para 19)
|The Hulder, the animalistic woman-like|
creature with the cow's tail, is one
Norwegian incarnation of the forbidden
female side of man, the anima.
Image from the movie Thale.
So, according to the traditional Jungian narrative man has a feminine soul (anima), woman an animus or masculine spirit.
The common traits of men and women
Note that Jung reasoned that the similarities in biology made it unreasonable to think of men and women as belonging to two different species.
Because of this he developed a typology of personality traits that in no way limited some traits to women and others to men.
Men could be introvert. Women cold be extrovert. Men could base their actions on feeling, women on analytical calculations.
But his patients had, of course, grown up in a culture where the division between the gender roles where pretty strict. They were mostly recruited from the upper and middle classes of early 20th century Central Europe.
This meant that his male patients were most likely to suppress any "feminine" side of themselves and vise-versa. This repressed side then resurfaced in their dreams, in projections and untypical "irrational" behavior.
This is why Jung believes that the two stories I presented above are one and the same. Nearly all men will have a feminine anima, expressing personality traits common for women, in his culture. In the same way nearly all women will have a stereotypical masculine animus. Or, at least, so he believed.
(I am using the word "nearly" deliberately. In the next post I will present Jung's discussion of possible exceptions to this rule).
Compensating for the repressed gender
In Jung's writings the anima and the animus of men and women are underdeveloped, for the simple reason that they are unconscious and the person has not had the ability to develop these personality traits by interacting with others.
Since the feminine side of men is never allowed to develop or "grow up", it remains primitive and banal. Men who fall under the spell of their anima does become emotional (as women were supposed to be in Jung's day and age), but in a sentimental and affected way.
Women who has not been allowed to develop their intellectual and analytical side, often behave as parodies of men, according to Jung, opinionated in an irrational way.
"The conscious side of woman corresponds to the emotional side of man, not to his 'mind.' Mind makes up the soul, or better, the 'animus' of woman, and just as the anima of a man consists of inferior relatedness, full of affect, so the animus of woman consists of inferior judgments, or better, opinions.(Collected Works 13: Alchemical Studies. P. 60)
When men and women join up, the interplay between their respective feminine and masculine side may have tragic results:
"The persona, the ideal picture of a man as he should be, is inwardly compensated by feminine weakness [in the man], and as the individual outwardly plays the strong man, so he becomes inwardly a woman, i.e., the anima, for it is the anima that reacts to the persona.
"But because the inner world is dark and invisible to the extraverted consciousness, and because a man is all the less capable of conceiving his weaknesses the more he is identified with the persona, the persona's counterpart, the anima, remains completely in the dark and is at once projected, so that our hero comes under the heel of his wife's slipper."
Instead he projects his own anima onto his wife, who then -- in his mind -- appears as weak and inferior. This suits his ego well, because now it becomes easier for him to uphold the charade of being the strong man of the house:
"If this results in a considerable increase of her power, she will acquit herself none too well. She becomes inferior, thus providing her husband with the welcome proof that it is not he, the hero, who is inferior in private, but his wife. In return the wife can cherish the illusion, so attractive to many, that at least she has married a hero, unperturbed by her own uselessness. This little game of illusion is often taken to be the whole meaning of life."
(Collected Works 7 P.309)
(Collected Works 7 P.309)
To get out of this crippling hell, both of them have to face the dark side of their soul and come to terms with what is missing in the image they have of themselves.
Jung and the sexist stereotypes
Jung and the sexist stereotypes
Jung again and again writes in a way that make it seem that all men has a suppressed anima and that all women has a suppressed animus. In other words: It looks like women are supposed to be emotional and men are supposed to be analytical and so on and so forth.
Among the followers of Jung this becomes even more clear cut: The masculine and feminine roles seem to be inborn and given by nature. Some Jungians therefore appear deeply conservative and outright sexist.
One clear example is this is found in a paper written by Emma Jung, Jung's wife in 1934 ("On the nature of the animus", found in Animus and Anima: Two Papers ).
It is amazing to see how she, as an intelligent intellectual woman, can come up with the following description of the "real thinking of women":
"In general, it can be said that feminine mentality manifests an undeveloped, childlike or primitive character; instead of thirst for knowledge, curiosity; instead of judgment, prejudice; instead of thinking, imagination or dreaming; instead of will, wishing.
"When a man takes up objective problems, a woman contents herself with solving riddles; where he battles for knowledge and understanding, she contents herself with faith or superstition, or else makes assumptions. Clearly, these are well-marked pre-stages that can be shown to exist in the minds of children as well as those of primitives."
It is unclear whether this is a description that applies to women in general or the animas of men only, but the underlying view of the female psyche is disturbing. You can see this in her comparison of the female psyche with the one of "primitives".
Emma Jung's argument is indeed that the masculine side of women, the animus, may express itself as the thinking man, but it is underdeveloped:
"The power and the authority of the animus phenomenon can be partly explained by the primitive mental lack of differentiation and reality."
So it could be that she consider herself a woman with a well developed animus. Still, the whole paper reeks of sexism and even racism.
We now know that the psyche of women (or "primitives"!) cannot be generalized in this way. There are just too many bright women scientists, artists, politicians and business leaders around to make the model work.
I suspect this was the case also in her days, herself being the proof of this.
The anima and the animus are not fixed entities
|While Darth Vader is Luke's|
shadow, Leia is his mirror sister.
She proves that the
anima does not have to be
childlike, stupid and defenseless.
The reason is the following: If you study the logic underpinning the theory, it becomes clear that the way the anima and animus play out is determined on the development of that person's persona.
That is: The anima and the animus compensates for what is missing in the persona, the mask he or she presents to the world.
Emma Jung knows this, and even explains this in her paper:
"[Carl Jung] understands these figures to be function complexes behaving in ways compensatory to the outer personality -- behaving as if they were inner personalities and exhibiting the characteristics that are lacking in the outer and manifest conscious personality."
In hindsight it is easy to see where the Jungs go wrong. They try to force the anima and the animus into fulfilling two roles at the same time.
On the one hand, the anima is, in the words of Emma "the collective image of woman carried in the psyche of the individual man". On the other hand it is a part of the psyche that expresses personality traits that have been expelled from the persona.
This model would work well if all male bodied people lived up to the masculine stereotypes, and all female bodied persons had a "feminine" persona. But the very existence of trangender people proves that this is not so. So does the fact that the expected gender roles change over time.
It is as if Emma Jung forgets Jung's basic concept -- i.e. that archetypes do not contain symbolic content in themselves: they only trigger the production of such symbols. In the first "story" presented above we see that the anima and the animus are given symbolic content (the woman as the childlike primitive and so on).
In an age of Hilary Clintons, Gro Harlem Brundtlands, Indirah Gardhis and Condoleezza Rices it is very hard to uphold the idea of the childlike and primitive woman.
The transgender dilemma
If you try to understand the anima and the animus -- as they normally are presented -- as transgender, you are in for a lot of pain.
Does a male to female transgender have an anima (if he is understood as a man) or an animus (if she is understood as a woman)? Is the the sex of the archetype determined by the biological sex or the psychological sex? And what if the concepts like sex and gender are ambiguous?
The truth is that the traditional interpretation of the anima and animus complexes is of little use to transgender persons. They become new strait jackets used to force them into the pigeon holes of a suppressive society.
The idea of the animus and the anima as repositories of repressed traits belonging to the other physical sex makes perfect sense, however. The way transgender people try to express "their other side" through dreams, fantasies, role playing and cross dressing points to the very existence of such an archetype.
This will be the topic of the next post in this series.
A dangerous method
If you find Jung interesting, you might also want to take a look at the David Cronenberg movie, A Dangerous Method, which covers Jung's conflict with Freud and the influence of Sabina Spielrein. Sabina, a very intelligent woman and researcher, played an important part in the development of the thinking of both Jung and Freud. But again we see how the presence of intellectual women fail to change the overall perception of women as emotional beings, and men as analytical. Neither Freud nor Jung gave her the credit she deserved. This says a lot of the power of stereotypes in any culture.
More posts in the transgender psychology series.