Learn all about the Animus archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to Jungian Psychology.
What is the Animus Archetype?
The word ‘Animus’ originates in Latin and in its original use encompassed ideas such as the rational soul, mind and mental powers, life, courage or desire.
From 1923 the psychoanalyst Dr Carl Jung began to use the term Animus to describe the unconscious masculine side of women, which transcended the individual’s personal psyche. Whilst he referred to the animus at times as the woman’s soul, he more often indicated his belief that the animus was the unconscious mind of the woman.
This contrasted with his approach to the anima, which he believed firmly functioned as the soul of the man.
Animus Archetype & Ancient Greek
Jung presented the concept of the animus as the ancient archetypes of Logos. In Ancient Greek ‘Logos’ is a term for a principle of order and knowledge.
As the male, Logos is identified with power, action and thought. Jung believed that the animus archetype is, therefore, a personification of masculine tendencies in a given woman’s psyche.
This would include any traditionally masculine qualities which the woman in question possessed, such as strength of assertiveness, physical strength, courage, vitality, and the desire for power, control and achievement.
As such he placed a great emphasis on the importance of the animus one of the most important autonomous complexes.
4 Levels of Animus Development
Jung considered that the ‘Animus’ archetype was more complex than its Anima counterpart, theorizing that women possess a host of different animus images as opposed to the single dominant anima image of the male.
He identified four levels of animus development in a woman, as follows:
1) Man of mere physical power
The first appearance of the animus as a personification of mere physical power, such as a sports champion. This stage appears in the dreams or fantasy of a woman.
2) Man of action or romance
At this stage the animus possesses the capacity for planned action and initiative. Examples include romantic heroes such as Lord Byron and men of action, such as TE Lawrence. This stage is the motivator for a woman’s independence and career ambition.
3) Man as a professor, clergyman or orator
In this phase the animus becomes the ‘word’. As a result they are personified in the form of ‘speakers’ such as professors, clergymen, orators and so on. Examples of the man in this form include famous orators such as Winston Churchill and famous clergymen such as Pope Francis.
4) Man as a spiritual guide
In this fourth and final manifestation the animus is the incarnation of spiritual meaning, the highest level of mediation between the conscious and unconscious mind. Jung suggested that at this stage the animus appears in the form of Hermes, the messenger of the Gods. As a result, he appears in dreams as a helpful guide for the individual.
Animus & Female Psyche
This process of development allows the individual concerned to cultivate an independent, idea of self, one which is not subjugated by society, by embodying and manifesting a deeper word. As a result, the woman becomes more internally aware of, and capable of expressing, her feelings and beliefs.
- When the animus is integrated into the female psyche in a healthy manner this can allow the woman to embody a broad range of positive, masculine qualities.
- She is likely to demonstrate the capacity for strong rational and logical thoughts processes, as well as the capability of thinking in a clear, non-biased or attached form.
- These qualities can bring tremendous benefits to both the personal and work life of the individual.
- The woman is imbued with a strong, centred nature which allows her to exude a confident and strong aura to other people.
- She can successfully bridge both theoretical and practical knowledge, having more effective capacities in exploiting both academic and technical skills.
- She is a more able problem solver, using both her logical thought processes and practical capabilities to find solutions to problems which stand in her way. She is able to show persistence, stamina and sustained effort in applying herself to any given task.
However, Jung believed that any of the aspects of the male outlined in the four stages of development could be projected onto a man, and that if this happened it could cause acrimony and unrealistic expectations in the relationship of the people involved.
If a woman should disregard or try to suppress her masculine qualities and nature then she is in fact likely to become possessed by the animus archetype.
This can lead to her assertive qualities becoming instead aggression and ruthlessness, whilst the analytical thought processes which she possesses may transform into argumentativeness.
Animus Archetype Characteristics & Traits
- When the animus overwhelms the female psyche or becomes displaced then the woman can be caused to display some less positive traits.
- She may appear arrogant to those around her, exuding an ego and ‘know-it-all’ demeanor which is off-putting to other people.
- She may become loud and irritating to others, or in even more extreme forms may display a tendency towards bullying and sadistic behaviour.
- She is likely to become controlling in her nature, needing to be able to have control and power over those in her life.
- Her ability to relate to, and communicate with, others is damaged.
Animus Archetype Examples
Examples of the archetypal Animus in various stages of its development include the following figures:
- Tarzan – a primitive but physically strong male.
- James Dean or Steve McQueen – the embodiment of undirected, unconscious masculine energy, but not unattractive.
- James Bond or Hugh Grant – a suave, sophisticated man of the world.
- Steve Jobs or Elon Musk – a strong, creative, masculine man who presents as more androgynous.
- Barak Obama or Bobby Kennedy – evolved masculine who embodies evolved secular values.
- Mahatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr – the masculine combined with the spiritual, transcending the ordinary and secular.
- Jesus Christ or Mohammed – the conscious spiritual incarnation of the masculine,
Further reading on the animus archetype includes:
- Animus and Anima – by Emma Jung
- The Animus: The Spirit of Inner Truth in Women – by Barbara Hannah
- Transforming Sexuality: The Archetypal World of Anima and Animus – by Ann Belford Ulanov and Barry Ulanov