Understanding Animus: The Man Within Every Woman
Carl Jung tells us that inside every man is a woman, and vice-versa. He calls it Animus.
In simplest terms, animus represents the male aspects of a female’s psyche. It’s everything traditionally masculine and unconscious about a female summed up in one image. Animus is a woman’s guide to assimilating masculine traits and the masculine principle, yang, and gaining access to deep layers of the psyche. She can be fully feminine while also incorporating traditionally masculine traits.
Animus can be the single most important dream character in a female’s life because it’s tied to a primary function of dreaming: to help harmonize and unite the conscious mind with the unconscious mind.
Animus is an archetype, a blueprint for thinking processes and behaviors, and archetypes arise from the deepest layer of the psyche, way outside conscious awareness for most people. The blueprint is an outline, and personal experience with men—beginning with a woman’s father or her first important male parental figure—fills in the details.
Animus can be a friend, guide, husband, or lover, depending on what a woman needs and the nature of their relationship. And it’s a relationship that lasts a lifetime. Some dream characters come and go, but animus is there from childhood to the end. The form he takes tends to be one that a female responds to at whatever stage of life she’s in, and he can keep the same face for years at a time. A woman knows her inner man on sight and feels him even when he’s not visibly present. He can be at her side whenever she wants or needs him.
Animus in Dreams
Animus tends to pop into a woman’s dream life, help her with some things, go on adventures together, give her the boost she needs, then go away for a while. And in typical animus fashion, he’ll be off doing some manly, important thing, then show back up in her dreams at just the right time. The implication is that her animus has a life of his own even when he’s not in her dreams.
Animus dream characters tend to change form and develop over time, often reflecting a female’s conception of an ideal man at that time of her life. During her childhood, he is a father-figure. During her teenage years, animus is portrayed as a man of action, of muscle. He’s the quarterback of the football team, the Tarzan to her Jane. He continues to evolve through stages—the house-husband type, the professor type, the man of words and ideas—and if all goes well he becomes a sort of spiritual guide, her own personal Buddha or wise man—except a lot hotter! Animus is keenly attractive but won’t necessarily be the most physically attractive male. It tends to show more as a personal magnetism, especially as a woman matures.
These roles played by animus figures are the best way of identifying them in dreams. Additionally, they are identified by a feeling of close familiarity. Keeping a dream journal helps with identifying them because they recur, either as the same character or as a type of character. Anima figures tend to appear in men’s dreams with a rotating array of faces and forms, whereas animus figures tend to keep the same appearance for long stretches. They can appear as males a female knows, as celebrities, athletes, and other famous males who embody the role, and as completely imaginary characters.
Animus = Animated
Animus animates a woman, no matter what stage of life she’s in. When the relationship is good, she can be both fully feminine and comfortable acting masculine, and her life will be filled with purpose and gusto. When the relationship is bad, it’s really bad and shows, especially in her sarcasm and criticism. She’ll know exactly where to hit a man where it hurts, and she can make a sport of it. The fireworks get intense when she confuses her inner man with the man or men in her life. Then it’s a fight to the death—usually emotional and psychological death, but sometimes physical, too.
Fireworks can be caused, too, when a woman dreams about animus, her ideal inner man, loving him, and thinking it means she subconsciously wants to leave her mate. Her relationship with animus is internal. She can have both a mate and animus in her life, and she can love both equally and differently. But she errs when she expects the men in her life to live up to the ideal shown to her in her dreams. It’s called animus projection, and it’s bad news.
A woman’s Shadow stands in the way of accessing her animus in a good way. Shadow is a guardian at the gate to deeper access to her unconscious mind. Once Shadow is dealt with, animus becomes a consistent ally and friend.
Understanding Animus | For a firsthand account of a woman’s discovery of her animus, see Tracey Cleantis’s excellent article: Jung for Dummies: Animus Planet.
Understanding animus | Read about the woman in every man, anima.
Understanding Animus | Here’s a quick video that explains animus in the Jungian tradition: