Animus Possession

Literally speaking, animus possession describes a situation in which a woman may have become dominated by the masculine aspects of her personality. Instead of our gendered personality being balanced it becomes stuck.

Animus possession refers to a state in which our adaptive capacity has become restricted.  In Jung’s view, when one part of our adaptive process is stopped, it has a consequence that our whole adaptive process is held back.

In Jungian psychology, the anima is a man’s internal other, the animus is the woman’s internal other. A woman has an inner animus, a masculine image that guides and shapes the way she relates both to men and the world at large.

  • What happens when a man becomes dominated by his feminine side? 
  • Or a woman her masculine side? 

Animus possession

Jung’s developed his model of psyche during a particular historical period.  It had its own context.  Post-Jungian theory, in line with postmodern theories, is more fluid about issues of gender.

All metapsychology is an attempt to provide a model for thinking about the mind and how it develops.  In Jungian psychology, the psyche is the primary fact of life. 

The model of psyche that Jung elaborated sought to explain it as a living, dynamic and transformative entity. 

Throughout our lives the different components of psyche interact with each other in dynamic systems that continually adapt.

The key is adaptation and evolution – animus possession restricts this 

For Jung, human consciousness is the most remarkable cosmic achievement.  It is as though, as Anthony Stevens puts it; ‘It was as if the cosmos had wished to become conscious of itself and created consciousness as a means to achieve this goal.’ (Stevens, On Jung)

Psyche has evolved out of the same material and experience as the world and the universe. 

  • In Jung’s model, the ego becomes the focal point of consciousness
  • The ego carries our sense of personal identity 
  • For Jung the ego is placed on the outer layer of psyche
  • The ego is the place where our inner and outer worlds and senses of our experience meet

Though we might like to think that our ego remains constant throughout life, particularly mature life.  In fact, it is constantly adapting and renewing itself.  Animus possession restricts this.

The psyche as Jung conceives of it is, as it were, an organ of adaptation

Throughout life, our internal psychological systems are constantly adapting to experience.  Some of these adaptations are much harder than others.

Traumatic events are hard to adapt to

Ordinary and everyday human experiences;

  • a sudden bereavement
  • discovering your partner has been having an affair
  • being made redundant

All of these events and plenty of others, have to be adapted to.  For this adaptation to work well we need to acquire and develop a fluidity about ourselves.  We are more at risk when we become too fixed in particular positions.

The Shadow

The counterpart to our ego is the shadow.  In Jung’s metapsychology, there is always a contrary side to us.  The shadow is the other side of our persona.  The part that we tend not to show. 

These two aspects of our personalities complement and counterbalance each other.  When these different parts of us work well, the shadow compensates for what might otherwise be the pretensions of the persona.  It stops us from becoming too big for our boots, too fixed or restricted in our attitudes.

In Jung’s view, our contrasexual attitudes and capacities are ‘nested’ as Jordan Peterson would say within the shadow.

  • Our tendency is to banish and exclude parts of our personalities and identities that are less acceptable to us.  These things are banished to the shadow.

So, engaging with our shadows means that a man might be able to develop a more compassionate and empathic side of himself because he could become more prepared to relate to the feminine, anima side of himself.

By contrast, a woman might be cut off from the more stereotypically masculine animus qualities.  In the course of development, a woman may have thrown out the more assertive sides of herself, seeing these as something that are undesirable.  But doing this means that the valuable qualities, for example the capacity to be assertive is denied.

How do you reclaim the qualities that you have denied without becoming overrun by them?

The anima and the animus

Of all these different and self-regulating systems, the anima/animus are the most important in terms of the ways in which we relate to the opposite sex. 

In Jung’s model a woman possesses a particular complex; the animus, a masculine aspect.  A man’s counterpart of this is the anima.

  • The Latin origin of the word anima refers to soul.  It comes from a word that means ‘to breathe’.

Everyman carries within him the eternal image of the woman, not the image of this or that woman, but a definite feminine image.  This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man.  … Since this image is unconscious, it is always unconsciously projected upon the person of the beloved, and is one of the chief reasons for passionate attraction or aversion.

Jung CG, Collected Works volume 17 paragraph 338

These systems are responsible for the way our relationships with the opposite sex work. 

The anima/animus mediate between the unconscious and the ego through our imagination and our dreams.

The focus of Jungian psychology is to facilitate and encourage healthy psychological development.  To reactivate adaptive processes when these have become held up or restricted. 

Jung’s term for this is individuation

If you are caught in a state of animus possession your relationships with other people and yourself will be restricted.  You will be like a caterpillar that cannot find a way to transform into a butterfly.

Your capacity to adapt to life and opportunities will be inhibited.  It will be helpful to find a way to work on these things before life becomes too compromised.

Contact me

I have twenty years experience of working with people, many who have needed to find a way to adapt and come to terms with themselves and their attitudes to other people.

Giving yourself the chance to speak in a confidential setting is helpful, it may be the beginning of starting to develop greater insight into yourself and your situation. 

It may help you to develop and to create better and more satisfying emotional relationships with yourself and others.

Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.