If we men think it is problematic to be able to discern if and when we are projecting our anima, then wait, there’s more to challenge every man on the planet: every woman’s animus!
While men tend to undervalue feminine attributes, making it even more essential that we come to accept that these traits are an integral part of our own personality and thereby enhancing the possibility of becoming “relatively immune to the more destructive aspects of anima influence” (Frieda Fordham, An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology, p. 115.)
“Women, on the other hand, tend to exaggerate the value and importance of male attributes, so that it is flattering to them to develop these in themselves, and they sometimes overdo it, becoming masculine women---that is women ruled by the animus (the unconscious of a woman contains a male element, called the animus) rather than women who can make use of his qualities to enrich their femininity. If the animus overrules her a women will always be making trouble with ill-considered remarks, aggressive behaviour, and obstinate opinions. Women’s movements, which always have the driving force of the animus behind them, express the unconscious aspect of women’s nature and often depreciate or forget those feminine qualities which are equally valuable and absolutely necessary to a balanced and healthy life.” (Fordham, op. cit., p. 115)
The animus “seems to be (like the anima) derived from three roots: the collective image of man which a woman inherits; her own experience of masculinity coming through the contacts she makes with men in her life; and the latent masculine principle in herself….The anima produces moods, the animus produces opinion, resting on unconscious assumptions instead of really conscious and directed thought….In the course of normal development the animus becomes projected on to many male figures, and when this projection has been made, a woman takes for granted that a man is as she sees him (i.e. in the guise of the animus) and it is almost impossible for her to accept him as he really is. This attitude can be very troublesome in personal relationships, which only go smoothly so long as the man conforms to the assumptions that the woman is making about him. The animus can be personified as any male figure, from the most primitive to the most spiritual, depending on the state of a woman’s development. He can even appear in dreams as a boy, and is often heard simply as a voice. Another peculiarity of the animus, as distinct from the anima, which is always seen as one woman, is its tendency to be expressed as a group of men. To quote Jung:
The animus is rather like an assembly of fathers or dignitaries of some kind who lay down incontestable, ‘rational’, ex cathedra judgements. On closer examination these exacting judgements turn our to be largely sayings and opinions scraped together more of less unconsciously from childhood on, and compressed into a canon of average truth, justice, reasonableness, a compendium of pre-conceptions which, whenever a conscious and competent judgement is lacking (as not infrequently happens), instantly obliges with an opinion. Sometimes these opinions take the form of so-called sound common sense, sometimes they appear as principles which are like a travesty of education: ‘People have always don it like this’, or “Everybody says it is like that’. (Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, par. 332, quoted by Fordham, op. cit., p. 56-7)
“This critical judgement is sometimes turned on the woman herself as an over-active conscience, giving her feelings of inferiority and stifling initiative. At other times, it is directed on the people round her in a thoroughly destructive and indiscriminating fashion. She will then criticize her neighbours, tear strangers’ characters to pieces without a shred of real evidence, or making disparaging remarks to her family or the people with whom she works on the grounds that ‘it is good for them’. ‘I believe in calling a spade a spade’ or ‘I don[t believe in spoiling them’ are typical animus statements. An intelligent and educated woman is just as much as victim of this animus power as her less-educated sister. The later will quote the daily paper or some vague body called ‘They’ to support her convictions—‘They say it’s so’ or ‘I saw it in the paper’—while the former will rely on some authoritative body; the university, the Church, the State, or perhaps some book or historical document. This side of a women craves power, and however gentle and adaptable she may be in her everyday life, she becomes tyrannical and aggressive once her animus side is aroused, and is quite blind to any reason. Because of this animus activity it is really difficult for a women to think in an unprejudiced way.” (Fordham, op.cit., p 57)
To reflect upon developments in feminism, Fordham writes these words:
It is true that the feminists chose to develop their masculine side, but in doing so they relegated their femininity to the unconscious, so that they simply reversed things instead of widening their consciousness. (Ibid, p. 116)
On a personal note, I have, tragically and blindly, been raised by a woman’s animus, without recognizing its existence. More tragically and blindly, I have had the animus of at least four different women projected onto me, without being able either to recognize or to confront the destructive dynamic. The circumstances in each situation were quite different, including one emerging from a divorce, another escaping a ‘dictatorial spouse’ to continue to camouflage and to deny her alcoholism, another to escape an alcoholic husband and a fourth wrestling with a tragic death. My blatant and sabotaging ignorance, linked to a culture that has so buried itself in professional dialogue that references either some specific psychiatric illness, or a glib personality analysis, had serious impacts on both parties in these relationships. Complicating these situations, along with multiple other circumstances requiring a learned and disciplined professional judgement, clearly missing from those in positions of authority (mostly men), were men blind to the complications of their own unconscious and the implications of its power in the lives of individuals for whom they bore responsibility.
Social, cultural, and even professional “expectations” that incarnated the merely stereotypical “cardboard” image of the “weaker” gender (woman) in the face of male “power” as embodied in organizational hierarchy, were, are and will continue to be reductionisms of both the full responsibility of those at the top of those organizations, and the individual men and women for whom they will continue to exercise authority. To be bold and frank, weak unconscious men who are afraid of the wrath of feminist activists who are themselves incarnating a seriously eroded and simplistic image of the feminine (as tools of a political campaign for equality), make decisions that result in an exposure of the paucity of basic learning and understanding, and in decisions that fail to account for the most profound details of what appear to be both threatening and complicated situations.
As indicative of the most barren comprehension, and the resistance to investigate the complications of one’s own person, I recount a brief conversation with an ecclesial leader, as I inquired about the “spirituality” of one of the leading laymen in a congregation to which I was being assigned:
“What is his spirituality?” I asked.
“Oh, red book for sure!” came the vacuous answer. In some churches, an obsession with a “red” prayer book, (Cranmer) over-shadowed a more contemporary “green” book, with a more contemporary theological perspective. The former included phrases such as, “I am unworthy to gather the crumbs from under Thy Table” as part of the penitential prayer, while the latter edited those words and their implications from the parallel text.
Had either the leader or the layman bothered to contemplate the more evasive and also more interesting and resonating readings of human personality, they could have appreciated much more fully their relationship to both the church itself and to whatever they believed the deity to be.
And while there is no guarantee that additional awareness of the unconscious would offer more insightful and knowledgeable, and more foresighted leadership, one can always hope.
“Some knowledge and experience of the collective unconscious is …absolutely necessary, if we are to understand those forces which have in our time moved vast numbers of men and women to throw over their civilized standards and act in a brutal and terrifying way. Nations are made up of separate men and women and the study of the individual shows, ‘as in a test tube’, the forces which move them; ‘psychopathology of the masses is rooted in the psychology of the individual.’ ( Jung, The Fight with the Shadow, par. 445, quoted by Fordham, op. cit., p.118) But in any large gathering of people it is not the unique qualities of individuals that count---these only serve to differentiate, not to unite them---it is rather what is common to al—namely the archetypes. When the same archetype is active in a number of people it draws them together, as if by magnetic force, and drives them to act in an irrational way. In additional, a group to preserve its life must stress the adaptation of each of its members, so that differences become a disadvantage and average qualities are cultivated. Hence the large the group the more stupid it is likely to become; even a collection of highly intelligent people will act at a much lower level of intelligence than its individual members, and Jung once said bitingly that a hundred intelligent heads added up to one hydrocephalus.
In 1928, he wrote:
Our admiration for great organizations dwindles when once we become aware of the other side of the wonder: the tremendous piling up and accentuation of all that is primitive in man, and the unavoidable destruction of his individual in the interests of the monstrosity that every great organization in fact is. The man of today, who resembles more or less the collective ideal, has made his heart into a den of murderers as can easily be proved by the analysis of his unconscious, even though he himself is not in the least disturbed by it. And in so far as he is normally ‘adapted’ to his environment, it is true that the greatest infamy of the part of his group will not disturb him so long as the majority of his fellows steadfastly believe in the exalted morality of their social organization. (Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, par. 240, quoted by Fordham, ibid, p. 118-119)…
Since the development of applied science in the last hundred years, man’s material progress has been rapid, but he has moved dangerously far from his roots in the soil. The taller the tree the deeper its rots should go, but modern man has little relationship with nature, and so has become dangerously unstable and a victim of any storms that blow. In addition, our social organization with its laws—written and unwritten—and its system of education, represses his unconscious instinctive nature and civilizes him outwardly, while learning what is primitive in him untamed and chafing under the restrain. And as he does not realize how primitive he really is, he becomes like someone who unaware carrier dynamite in his pockets disguised as harmless cigarettes. Anything that weakens his repression may loose an outburst of violence, or result in chaotic and disorderly behaviour, in an attempt of the unconscious to compensate for the over-civilized and one-sided conscious attitude. When life is orderly and disciplined the compensatory unconscious will manifest itself in a chaotic manner, but when disorder rules, as it does to some extent after the war, and to a much greater extent during revolutionary periods, the unconscious attempts to compensate by producing symbols of order, and man begins to long for a settled and orderly state of affairs. (Fordham, ibid, p. 119)
Clearly, the church, and the education system demand a level of order and discipline to protect themselves from the kind of public ridicule and contempt that would so threaten its ‘established’ trust. At the same time, that rigidity also represses the very collective unconscious that will inevitably erupt, without appropriate or legitimate professional comprehension and address.
For all men who are reading this, or whose partners are reading this, please take away some basic understanding and appreciation of the existence and the implications of both anima and animus. And for those in positions of responsibility, please refrain from the seductive trap of thinking “everything is fine” in your organization if the reports of growth in numbers of adherents, enrollees, and revenues provide graphs pointing upward. Especially in learning and allegedly spiritual enterprises, none of those numbers are relevant, and their relevance to the for-profit, corporate world is much less than the ‘holiness’ in which they are worshipped.