Like the anima in the male psyche, a woman’s animus goes through developmental stages. The first stage represents the epitome of physical power. This energy is the stud, the take-care-of-me, the protector and the baby-maker. Examples would be Adam, Tarzan and the athlete.
The next stage brings the husband-father animus. Here we see the man-of-action who ‘brings home the bacon’ or is Mr. Fix-It. This animus energy is exemplified in the hunter, hero, prince and father.
The third stage brings an inner masculine energy that is lover, husband-father and a creative independent person. This animus is about the expression of what is individually important to a woman and thus, she is able to use the inner skills of teacher, writer and preacher to put forth her ideas and passion into the world.
Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King represent the fourth stage of a woman’s animus – the Sage. Here the animus has developed into inner spiritual wisdom.
The function of the animus is to lead a woman into the world of the spirit, learning and the power of the word. An unindividuated woman (stage 1 or 2) will not have developed many of her masculine qualities (e.g., logic, leadership, independence). She remains in a passive world without ideas of her own and will be merely following scripted gender roles.
Women with undeveloped animus will at times be “possessed” by repressed masculine qualities. She will at times become opinionated, argumentative or domineering to others, although she will not see herself that way.
Jung noted, “If a man or woman is unconscious of these inner forces [anima, animus], they appear in a projection.” We unconsciously seek romantic partners who personify our level of inner masculine or feminine development.
When we meet someone we are attracted to our anima or animus projection has already been activated. We place our inner mate onto the outer person. Although we may state we prefer a mature, independent person we may still be attracting (unconsciously seeking) someone we can take care of or someone who fits a certain gender role or image.
Additionally, we choose partners who unconsciously remind us of our original parent-child relationship in hopes that this time we will be able to not only fulfill our needs, but also the needs of our parent (now represented by our partner). The anticipation of unmet childhood needs being fulfilled correspondingly triggers both biological and psychological responses. We are ‘falling in love.’
For both established and beginning relationships, the key is to be aware of what animus or anima stages we are not only portraying but also those that we are expecting the other to uphold. We also need to be conscious of what roles or expectations are being projected on us.
With this awareness, we can better discern what the unconscious ‘deal’ is that drives our relationships. Partners can be who they truly are, not what they feel they are expected to be for their partner or for themselves. This is true love and a mature relationship.