Kicking Anima Possession for Fun and Profit

In the classic 1993 film Groundhog Day Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, finds himself in a frustrating loop where he wakes up in the same hotel, on the same day, in the same town again and again.

Likewise, It’s easy to fall victim to circumstance passively surrendering to the same types of resistance again and again in what seems like an eternal recurrence of failed relationships, goals, diets, or artistic projects.

This is often due to a quite sinister phenomenon called Anima possession that develops because of an over reliance on the parts of the psyche many of us are most comfortable using.

What is the Anima

To understand the Anima we have to start with an ancient idea that people tend to identify with one of two of the polarities that have been historically described as yin and yang, active and passive, sun and moon, or masculine and feminine.

Carl Jung described this polarity as a tension between the Greek conceptions of Logos and Eros.

Here’s Jung on how he conceptualized these ideas:

“By Logos I meant discrimination, judgment, insight, and by Eros I meant the capacity to relate. I regarded both concepts as intuitive ideas which cannot be defined accurately or exhaustively. From the scientific point of view this is regrettable, but from a practical one it has its value, since the two concepts mark out a field of experience which it is equally difficult to define.” ( Jung CW 14 pars. 224f)

Below are some common activities that I’ve noticed in myself and others preceding a difficult bout with Anima possession.

  • Failure to listen properly (waiting for turn to talk)
  • Forgetting or ignoring milestones in relationships like anniversaries, birthdays, etc
  • Unbearable resistance or fear of self expression especially through dance, music, or poetry
  • A hyper competitive attitude towards spiritual topics .ie constant fierce debates trying to prove that a certain system, concept, or idea is superior

Now, we’ve reached a bit of a fork in the road.

Fortunately, some readers won’t have any trouble with the above activities. (no worries I’ll cover Animus possession in my next post!)

However, if that’s the case it’s still not a bad idea to keep reading because you may have already or may one day soon date someone who’s at risk and it’s probably helpful to know what you’re dealing with beforehand.

Or, if you’re anything like me, one or more of those activities described you perfectly and this article was written to explore ways in which we can use functions of the psyche that are underdeveloped.

Recognizing Anima Possession

Carl Jung in “A World of Dreams” by PBS

So, if the we ignore qualities that nourish the Anima long enough she’ll grow quite bitter and resentful (understandably) and things tend to turn out poorly overall.

Common side effects include, but aren’t limited to:

  1. Sudden swings in attitude or prolonged bouts of unexplainable moodiness
  2. Challenges with assertiveness and a lack of certainty about even the most trivial decisions
  3. A faux facade of stoicism that dissolves at the first sign of trouble devolving into toddler like tantrums (example, I once threw my smartphone out of the window of a moving car because an ex-girlfriend criticized me for texting on a “date”)
  4. A crippling combination of procrastination and perfectionism especially with regards to creative and self improvement related tasks
Lilith: She’s great when you get to know her! Painting by Bob Orsillo

Repression Doesn’t Work

Returning to Groundhog Day when Phil first realizes that he’s stuck in a loop he uses the opportunity to indulge further in his worst habits. He binge drinks, drives like a reckless maniac, and has a series of one night stands.

Soon, he learns the hedonistic approach only serves to briefly numb his starving Anima.

The relationship of Phil and his love interest, Rita, is the quintessential representation of an unhealthy persona and anima dynamic.

In one of my favorite scenes, Rita responds to Phil’s phony, inauthentic advances just as the Anima responds to goals and schemes that don’t integrate the entire psyche.

Finally, Phil let’s his mask slip off. He decides to learn French, piano, and ice sculpting in a series of many loops.

He hilariously recounts the most trivial details of the townsfolk lives masquerading as a psychic and charming Rita.

These Anima feeding activities improve Phil significantly and he starts to care about the people around him ultimately arranging his loops in a way to save a homeless man.

(selectively) Letting Go

Similarly, we can make great strides in our lives by paying attention to the activities that trigger possession symptoms.

I’d highly suggest becoming familiar with your Myers Brigg personality type and identifying your inferior function.

What to do next is scary and the best way to harden yourself is to watch and learn from this scene in another classic movie Fight Club (1999)

In my experience, the way to properly integrate the Anima is to bravely and tirelessly dive into activities that make you feel uncomfortable guided by a personality function that you have zero experience using.

Like Phil discovered, this is no miracle cure.

However, somewhere along the journey an entirely authentic expression of an individual emerges and integrating the Anima is a vital step on the path.