The yin and yang. There are many given meanings to this ancient symbol: light and darkness, good and bad, positive and negative. In this case, the yin and yang is a perfect representation of the Animus and Anima — 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, these represent both unconscious archetypes (or universally present elements of the human psyche), and how they influence us in daily life — personally, interpersonally and collectively.
Derived from Latin meaning “a current of air, wind, breath, the vital principle, life, soul”, the Anima refers to the unconscious feminine archetype in the male psyche which may often be forgotten or repressed in daily life. However, it is necessary for a man to recognize, embrace and connect to this latent element of his character to progress psychologically and reach greater internal balance and harmony. As described by Jungian Psychologist Dan Johnston, the man who has connected with his feminine archetype 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 and sensitivity to hurt feelings.”
The Animus, which is a Latin word that means “the rational soul; life; the mental powers, intelligence“, the unconscious male archetype 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 ruthlessly impose masculinity ideals for women as the only ways to excel, succeed and get anywhere in life 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 explains, 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.”
In essence, what we are striving for is an androgynous state that is often attributed to our unified self which balances all opposites and brings great equanimity and wholeness. Creating a balanced state of inner androgyny is always contextual, and changes from person to person.
This integration begins with the shedding the “either’ and the ‘or’ and recognizing instead the ‘all’. One of the ways we may experience this integration is the decision is to accept that need for deep rest and the need for massive action are no longer in opposition; instead they begin to mutually support one another in a trustworthy flow. It can feel like order and chaos begin to co-exist within you in perfect harmony. We become more spacious in our external expression and relationships with a greater capacity for both deep vulnerability and firm boundaries. The tendency to reactively collapse into contraction, judgment, or withholding decreases. Over time, we become vast enough to embody an essence that can contain multiple perspectives without abandoning ourselves or the other person out of defense from the wound. We become brave, even bold, with a steadfast and profound integrity, allowing us to connect in more innovative and creative ways. We can get authentic with each other from a place of deep honesty and inner security, rather than from our externally conditioned behavior pattern.
So how can we further complete the process of Individuation, how can we connect to the latent/hidden side of ourselves?
CONNECTING TO THE ANIMA
Understanding feminine energy which manifests itself as passivity, sensitivity, and emotionality. Some suggestions:
- Practice the art of listening with concern and compassion.
- Rediscovering passion and creativity; expressing creatively, e.g. music, art, sculpture, poetry, dance to incorporate feminine energies in your life.
- Practicing thoughtfulness and consideration of the needs of others.
- Practicing mindfulness, meditation and self-inquiry to develop greater consideration of your internal needs for love and fulfillment and other ways to get in touch with inner self.
CONNECTING TO THE ANIMUS
Understanding masculine energy which manifests itself as everything that is active, dominant, and logical. Some suggestions:
- Practicing conscious assertiveness, adopting a role or position that puts you in authority/dominance, discovering and developing leadership abilities.
- Becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant internally in thoughts and emotions as well as externally in the physical world.
- Gaining more emotional balance by practicing mindfulness, meditation, and self-exploration, etc.
- Adopting rational approach to problem solving, decision making and managing situations through logical thinking.
(Did you notice the commonality of practicing mindfulness and meditation for both? My absolute personal favorite to achieve greater self-awareness and self-discovery!)
When you become adept in deepening your yin and yang individually, or rather, make concerted efforts to balance both simultaneously.
The basic question to ask yourself is: “what is the current balance of male and female energies in my life, and what needs further development?” “is my anima and animus supportive of each other or sabotaging the expression of the other”?
I welcome you to share your experiences and views and help expand the consciousness.