Electric Dreams

Jung, the Desired, and Dreamwork:

Working with the Anima/Animus

Richard Catlett Wilkerson 

(Electric Dreams)  (Article Index)  (Search for Topic)  (View Article Options)

Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (2001 March). Jung, the Desired, and Dreamwork: Working with the Anima/Animus. Electric Dreams 8(3). Retrieved December 30, 2001 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams  


"If the encounter with the shadow is the 'apprentice-piece' in the individual's development, then that with the anima is the 'master-piece.'" Jung CW 9 I, Para 61.

Originally the idea was that a man has an unconscious & undeveloped feminine side and a woman has an unconscious and undeveloped masculine side. Late 20th Century capitalist society has shown that men may also show undeveloped masculine as well as feminine traits, as can a woman show underdeveloped feminine traits. And that the issue of masculine and feminine is not the gender issue it once was. Men may exhibit high degrees of emotional development and women high degrees of intellectual achievement. The whole notion of what is masculine and what is feminine has come under deep scrutiny and is generally problematic. However, if we look at the masculine and feminine as traits separate from gender, we may still gleem some gems from a kind of dreamwork that goes beyond the adaptation of the ego to the outer world and the shadow this creates.

Classical Analysis:
Anima. The inner feminine side of a man.
Animus. The inner masculine side of a woman.

In classical Jungian analysis, the individual would begin to develop these unconscious areas once the analysand had caught on to the idea of the Shadow. But the Anima/Animus pair go beyond mere underdeveloped functions.

With the Shadow, we said that it was part of us that got repressed or pushed away. With the Anima/Animus we say that it was *never* part of us, but infinitely attracts us. When a man says about a woman "It's Her" or a woman says, "That's Him" we are getting close to what Jung meant by the strength of the pull of these Archetypes. When we are in love, its seems the most intimate and personal event we have ever experienced, but when our friends and family are possessed by fascinations and loves, we are aware that they are not completely themselves and are acting out patterns that seem to occur over and over in life, myth and fairy tales.

In dreams the Anima/Animus are said to show up as opposite sex characters. But they really are more like myths than real people. (And myths in both senses of the word) For a man, the anima can be said to be the collection of all the experiences man has ever had with women. And for the woman, the animus is said to be the collection of all the experiences women have had with men. But Jung was quite aware that we all have both. So lets just look at this level of psyche as what we see as "Totally Other", in that it can be felt out a bit, but never fully understood.

Exercise: a. Write down the sentence: "All men are [blank]" and fill in the first ten things that come to mind. b. Write down the sentence "All women are [blank]" and fill in the blank with the first ten things that come to mind. Can you recall dreams where you were attracted to someone with these characteristics?

From Whitmont:
"Anima and animus tend to operate like partial or separate personalities made up of different composite patterns. In man, the (anima) behaves like a different individual "other" personality with whom he is "stuck" or to whom he is "married". For the sake of individuation it is necessary for him to find out what this other personality is like, how it feels, thinks and tends to act. In a given situation one has to consider not only one's own reaction but also how the anima reacts, what she desires, likes or dislikes. Like a problematic partner, the anima has to be treated with attention and consideration but also with discipline and experimental interplay and challenge. " ( p185)

We can only relate to this other by giving them some means of expression and showing a willingness to learn from them as well.

In dreams, they classically appear as unknown figures of the opposite sex. But are all opposite sex characters Anima/Animus characters? There are some good reasons for saying "No", especially when the opposite sex characters are mother or father like. The Pair not only present themselves to us as guides to parts our ourselves that need development, but also as fascinations with things and people that lead us into destruction. Thus its better to say that the Pair are mediators of the unknown, with one foot in our world and one foot in the beyond.

I'm going to suggest 3 dual levels of depth that Anima/Animus characters present to us in our dreams, Projection/Desire , Identity/Acting out and Inflation/Enchantment.

The first level is an accumulation of our opinions, personal and cultural of the opposite sex , but also an accumulation of what we *don't* know, but need to move towards wholeness. In our dreams they may appear as our lovers or unknown others we are attracted too. What we desire is carried by them, and so they not only appear as the girl and boy next door, but as the "Him who It" or "She" for whom we would sacrifice ourselves. In psychological parlance, its said that our desire is "projected" into another person. To the degree that we *have* to have the love object. This call of the other can be very strong. It's said to call the child away from the parents to be an adult. It calls us away from our secure routines to something new and untried. It calls us from partial participation in life to risking our whole selves in the world.

There seem to be three main tasks associated with this, (1) the development of parts of our self we hardly understand, (2) finding in ourselves what we seek in others, and (3) learning to recognize when the desires and attractions are larger and more powerful than we are.

Exercise: Recall a dream with some interaction with a person whom
you are strongly attracted. a. Describe what they might be like. What type of person are they? Are they a feeling person, a thinking type, a person of action, a spiritual person? b. How can you bring to yourself a little of what they offer? If what they offer is something destructive, ask yourself what alternatives you might try that aren't as destructive but still address the desire. c. Where does the person or relationship with that dream person seem to be leading you? Is the offer one that seems attractive but will harm you in the long run, or is it leading you into some new territory or avenues in life?

Finally on projection/desire, this whole thing may reverse and like in any love relationship also be seen in intense hatred.

Identity/Acting out

This is the level of Anima/Animus relationship were we become possessed and act in compulsive ways. Instead of real feelings , we offer sentimental quips and fall into brooding withdrawals or fits of passion. Instead of real consideration we offer opinions and prejudices, become dogmatic, argumentative and over generalize. Perhaps it is the unconscious awareness that the Anima/Animus carry what we most desire that we often try to just grab it and imitate it. Sometimes it is easier to pretend to be it instead of really coming to terms with it.

EXERCISE: a. Anima: Where in the dream do you find exaggerations, distortions and falsifications. When are the romantic scenes just too romantic, too many candles, too loud of music? b.Animus: Where in a dream do you find priests and politician types that are spewing out opinions that are old, borrowed and over generalized?


At the deepest levels of Anima/Animus we must let go the idea that they are something or someone we can control. We can develop our own relationships, but there is always a part of ourselves that will forever elude us and be outside our will. The Anima/Animus has the ability to completely enchant us and make us believe we are far more wonderful and great than we are. Actual and potential become confused in a person whose ego is inflated and puffed up by the Anima/Animus. In Greek mythology there are like the sirens. They sing so beautifully that a man hearing the song will abandon all reason and leap into the sea or crash his boat against the rock to be near them. How often does this happen in real life?

And conversely, we may believe that we are much more awful and bad than we really are. A powerful inner negative Anima/Animus may continually whisper exaggerated and false truths to us.

The answer of how to deal with such powerful attractions is eternal. Note the anima?like figure that Oedipus encountered, and even after getting by this tricky anima figure, he ended in ruin. An example of our cultural failure to come to terms with anima is in the substance abuse (including TV, movies, food and other bridges of desire) that is rampant. And the failure on a culture level of animus may be seen in the large groups that hold unexamined opinions and force them on others. The Jungian view on all this would be that we address these issues first by removing the board in our own eyes. To the degree that we can accomplish this, the Anima/Animus become our guides to the unknown, the mediators of the deep unconscious. Since they lurk around our undeveloped parts, they are our guides to what we don't know about ourselves and lead us along the path of wholeness. Since they are connected to deeper layers of the unconscious, they can also be the mediators of our journey towards the Self.

A few comments on Anima/Animus in dreams. While we are looking from a distance at this deep part of the psyche, a close encounter is something quite different. Some encounters with the Anima/Animus leave us changed for life, just as do our love and hate relationships. In a way its quite silly to give an exercise, as this implies that the entity is something *we* control and evoke at will. But I feel justified in that we already recognize this double feature in dreams, that the dream figures are somehow ours and yet are autonomous and have their own wills too. By coming to experiment and play and interact with these dream figures, we can perhaps steer our course better through stormy waters.

Jung: _Aion_, CW 9, II esp. chap 3, "The Syzygy: Anima and
Animus," pp. 11?22.

________. psychological Types, SW 6, esp, chapter 11
"Definitions," under "Soul [psyche, personality, personal,
anima]," pp. 463?470, and under "Soul?Image," pp. 470?472.

________ "The Relation between the Ego and the Unconscious" CW 7,
esp part 2, chapter 2, "Anima and Animus," pp. 188?211.

Jung, Emma (1957) _Animus and Anima_. New York: Spring

Hillman, James (1985) _Anima: The Anatomy of a Personified
Notion_ Dallas: Spring Publications.

Sanford, John A. (1980). _The Invisable Partners_. New York:
Paulist Press.

Whitmont, Edward C. (1969)._The Symbolic Quest_. see both the
chapters on "Male and Female" pp. 170?184 and chapter 12 "The
Anima" pp 185?200 and chapter 13 "The Animus" pp 201?215.

SELF: =======================================

Jung: _Psychological Types_ CW 6, esp, chapter 11,
"Definitions," under "Self," pp. 460?461.

________. _Aion_ CW 9, esp, chapter. 4 "The Self," pp. 223-35,
and chapter 5 "Christ, a Symbol of the Self." pp. 36?71.

________. (1957) _The Undiscovered Self_, New York: Mentor
Books. (also as cw 10, p. 247?305)

Edinger, Edwin (1972) Ego And Archetype. Baltimore: Penguin

Whitmont, Edward C. (1969)._The Symbolic Quest_. see both the
chapters on "The Self" pp. 216-230 and chapter 16 "The Ego-Self
Estrangement" pp. 250-264.


For the Latest Links collected on this subject in relation to dreaming, go to the DreamGate Links page