4 Carl Jung Theories Explained: Persona, Shadow, Anima/Animus, The Self

A Brief Introduction to Carl Jung and Jungian Psychology.

Harry J. Stead
Oct 2 · 6 min read

The Persona

In every public arena we present an exaggerated version of ourselves which we hope will make an impression. The character we display in our occupation is not the same as at home. When alone we have no one to impress, but in public we wear a mask, a persona, so that we might impose a desirable image of ourselves onto others. Every profession has subtle agreements about the manners which are acceptable, and those which are not; and it is expected that the individual will adapt to these requirements without anyone having to openly explain them. A doctor, for instance, is expected to behave as a doctor should, with a patience and sympathy that would be difficult for an ordinary person to achieve; any propensity for impatience or hostility would not be acceptable, and for good reason.

The Shadow

If nothing else, the persona is obedience to expectations; it is the mask one wears to convince himself, and others, that he is not an altogether bad person. But one cannot go beyond the persona until he has incorporated into his character those darker character traits which belong to what Jung called the ‘shadow self’. The shadow is everything that we have denied in ourselves and cast into oblivion, or rather everything that the ego has refused to associate with itself, but that we can notice in other people — such things might include our sexuality, spontaneity, aggression, instincts, cowardice, carelessness, passion, enthusiasm, love of material possessions. It embraces all those sins, dark thoughts, and moods for which we felt guilt and shame.

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Anima/Animus

Jung believed that nested inside the shadow are the qualities of our opposite gender. The anima is the archetype that expresses the fact that men have a minority of feminine qualities; and the animus expresses the masculine qualities within women. In every man there is a woman, and in every woman a man; or rather, there is the image of the ideal man/woman, which is, as a rule, formed in part by the experience of our mother/father, and by the influence of culture and heritage. One might argue that the ideas of feminine and masculine are based on arbitrary stereotypes. But Jung presented the concepts of the anima and animus as the ancient archetypes of Eros and Logos. Eros (the female) is associated with receptivity, creativity, relationships, and wholeness.. Logos (the male) is identified with power, thought, and action. (In Ancient Greek Eros means ‘love’, or ‘life energy’; whereas Logos is the term for a principle of order and knowledge.)

The Self

After one has overcome the persona, and integrated his shadow and the aspects of the anima/animus archetypes into one’s character, one then is given access, Jung believed, to enter into the deepest and highest reaches of the psyche, the archetype of wholeness– which Jung named the ‘Self’, the most significant of all the archetypes. ‘The Self embraces’, Jung writes, ‘ego-consciousness, shadow, anima, and collective unconscious in indeterminable extension.’ (Mysterium Coniunctionis, page 108.) The self then is the sum of everything we are now, and everything we once were, as well as everything we could potentially become; it is the symbol of the ‘God within us’, that which we are as a totality.


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Harry J. Stead

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Watch my video essays here — https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCox0arNMck5WJeUVCE0AXiQ

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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