All people contain both masculine and feminine qualities. Masculine traits include planning, order, accomplishments, competition and linear thinking. Feminine qualities include spontaneity, non-competiveness, intuition and looking relationally at situations.
As children we learned, mostly by our parents, to act, believe and feel based upon the values given to feminine and masculine qualities. We were taught to overvalue and undervalue certain traits in ourselves in order to have our needs meet. For example, if a girl was rewarded for being ‘just like dad’ she may tend to admire the intellect, be goal-orientated, and have repressed emotions.
We also were modeled by our parents and other adults as to how men and women (or how masculine and feminine) relate in relationships. Gender roles and expectations were defined and played out, again reinforcing what men and women ‘do’ in relationships.
Difficulties exist when qualities become imbalanced and when gender roles remain limited. In society, we see this imbalance when the masculine sets forth and discovers without the feminine relationship trait. This leads to the invasions of lands, the building of structures, and medical research which lack the consideration of nature and peoples involved.
Individually, we may still be trapped in a limiting role of what a man or woman is, as well as expecting a similarly limiting role for others (e.g., men are supposed to be …). We may become the agreeable, smiling girl or the stoic, rescuing boy when triggered by certain situations or people.
On an ever deeper level, as Jung explained, “Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman [termed anima]. The same is true of the woman: she too has her inborn image of man [animus].” The concepts of anima and animus are very complex, yet, awareness of the developmental stage of our inner partner is key to understanding many aspects of our selves, including how we choose intimate partners.
Take a moment to reflect to what degree you value certain masculine and feminine traits. What messages were given to you as to how men and women are to behave in relationships? Do we feel men are to be ‘providers’ and ‘make us laugh’? Are women to be ‘good-looking’ and ‘caring’?
When our imbalances are noted, we can consciously integrate those qualities which have been previously downplayed or choose to enhance others. As we become more balanced we heal our psychic gender-splitting and free ourselves from limiting and less mature ways of being and relating. Similarly, we offer the same growth for our partners, friends and others.