The “Anima” is the embodiment of the feminine psyche within a male. The “Animus” is the embodiment of masculine qualities within a woman. The Anima/Animus are the archetypal ‘other’ within men and women’s inner psyches.
In dreams, male and females can appear as allies, guardians, and helpers, who have a strong, compelling bond. They can take the form of a lover, a sibling, a soulmate, or a parent. Sometimes, males and females appear as adversaries. The masculine pursues the female dreamer, often in multiple forms, and the feminine seduces the male dreamer, often appearing in a singular form.
The terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are not literal, but are symbolic of a greater expression and form than simple biology and gender can determine. In truth, all individuals’ psyches are hybrids, embodying both symbolic masculine and feminine principles.
The Anima and Animus source their presence in the collective unconscious and appear in myth, art, media, and religion. The Anima and Animus live in our personal unconscious as the form of our masculine/feminine ‘’otherness. Their traits are shaped and molded by our own belief systems and personal experiences, and are often projected upon the opposite sex.
In waking life, a male will identify himself with qualities in his environment that he considers to be symbolically masculine, and as this develops, he also begins to gain traits that are unconsciously feminine.
When he does not consciously accept these traits as ‘’himself’’ or his own ego, he will begin to project this idea of the symbolic feminine instead unto feminine forms in his environment. He becomes infatuated with her image, and is unconsciously processing his own feminine qualities of his Anima upon another, rather than acknowledging the individuality and true personality of the opposite sex.
The same occurs with women. Their animus becomes projected upon the male gender as if he is her own unconscious male personality. She does not realize that she is is expecting him to behave as a hidden aspect of her own psyche.
When an unrealized man has not consciously developed his symbolically feminine qualities, (like the need for relatedness or emotional sensitivity) his personality is apt to be ‘’possessed’ by the qualities of his own Anima. He may act out in a childish ways to get attention with uncontrollable emotional outbursts. Then afterward, he will not even realize that he is doing this even though it may be obvious to others.
Since the unrealized woman has not consciously developed her ‘’masculine’’ qualities ( logic, leadership, the need for freedom), her personality becomes ‘’possessed’’ by the wild Animus. She becomes argumentative and domineering, but she won’t think she is, or even notice or acknowledge the reflection of others.
When integrated, the Anima has the ability to lead a man into unexplored depths of feeling, relating, and sensitivity…and the integrated animus leads a woman into a world of spirit, power of her word, and liberation.
We can avoid anima/animus possession and withdraw our projections by integrating and unifying both our masculine and feminine personality traits, and to understand the symbolic qualities they behold for us as individuals. We have the ability to become realized and integrate by removing any limiting belief systems of what it means to be truly ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and how to see from a greater perspective the wholeness of our psyche.
Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton University Press, 1954) xxii n. 7:
On the Nature of the Animus and The Anima as an Elemental Being: two classic papers on the psyche written by Emma Jung (1882 1955)