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November 19, 2017

We Look for Ourselves in Other People: What Can Be Learned from the Holy Masculine.

We are always looking for ourselves, no matter which way we turn.

I wrote a previous article on the anima, the “female” aspect of the human psyche based on Carl Jung’s analysis.

When we repress the anima within ourselves, it can express itself in a number of unhealthy ways. However, if the anima can be recognized and embodied through our experience, then we can round out our personality and go on to cultivate healthy and productive relationships.

Now, I’d like to make the same case for the animus—the masculine function of the human mind that lives in every one of us.

The embodiment of the animus manifests itself as heroism: the willingness to face the unknown with confidence and poise, to stare into the abyss and not to tremble when it looks right back at us. To experience the inner hero is to feel the strength of our own humanity thrusting us forward to overcome challenges and master our existence. This could look like a great king, a courageous warrior, or a mystical medicine man. To undertake any dangerous and frightening endeavor with vigor and conviction is to access the animus.

In much the same way that the anima is often a reflection of our relationship with our mother, the animus is a reflection of our relationship with our father. The quality of that relationship comes to determine the manner in which the animus expresses itself in our lives. If our relationship with our father was tarnished in some way, whether it be through having an overbearing father or one who never asserted himself, then it becomes more difficult to get in touch with the inner animus and have it express itself in a healthy manner.

For example, people with abusive fathers often become violent themselves as a means of retaliation. In unfortunate cases like these, the child has no sense of what healthy masculinity would even look like, because the only form of it that they have seen has been deeply warped.

Now, let’s take a look at the negative and positive forms that the animus might take, as Jung describes in his book Man And His Symbols.

“Like the anima, the animus does not merely consist of negative qualities…He too has a very positive and valuable side; he too can build a bridge to the self through his creative activity.” ~ Carl Jung

The negative manifestations of the animus are fairly predictable, for we have all faced these qualities whether in other people or in ourselves: stubbornness, egotism, arrogance, recklessness, brutality, and empty talk.

But when the animus has been fully acknowledged and embraced, which often takes making peace with the paternal relationship, the positive side can emerge. This includes all of the qualities that make Western culture such a powerful force in the world; as Jung notes, it incorporates “an enterprising spirit, courage, truthfulness, and in the highest form, spiritual profundity.”

As I spoke about in the previous article, whether we are born male or female is not all that relevant to our relationship with the anima and the animus. We each have both forces acting inside of us. The important piece is that we don’t neglect one or the other, and instead work to foster a conscious relationship with both the masculine and the feminine forces within us. If we fail in this, these powerful inner forces can work against us, with potentially devastating results. As the masculine and the feminine are the fundamental forces of our existence, we must take caution that they not become skewed in any way, both on a personal and a cultural level.

Take the 2016 presidential candidates for example. Whatever we might think of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (the two most unpopular candidates in modern American history), it seemed like Trump represented the corrupt and tyrannical father and Clinton represented the overbearing and devouring mother. This does not look good from an archetypal standpoint, and I personally believe that has something to do with us having lost our connection with our mythological origins.

Now, how can we embody the animus?

My message to both men and women would be to embody their own heroism and fatherliness.

Physical exercise is a great tool for connecting with the animus. Finding healthy forms of competition is another. Taking more responsibility in our lives is always helpful. I would recommend doing the self-authoring exercise, which helps people orient themselves and iron out their goals.

For me, training mixed martial arts really helped me through a lot of my own issues with the animus. I’ve never been really comfortable asserting myself, and engaging in the intense exercise and competition that comes with combat sports has helped me with my self-esteem and confidence.

It is also useful to cultivate an awareness of the animus, both conceptually and an experientially. For me, it has been helpful along the path of self-discovery to intellectually understand what these forces mean—that is to say, their mythological context and their role in society. Studying it has helped me begin to put into practice the balancing act of keeping both parts of my psyche healthy. In this way, I have a sense of when the animus is expressing itself, and whether or not this expression is harmful or meaningful. To be able to identify the animus when it is active within us, is to begin to harness it as a positive force in our lives.

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Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Film still
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Lindsey Block

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