The Evolution of my Animus ~ how he grows and changes as I do

The Evolution of my Animus ~ how he grows and changes as I do

During a conversation on Twitter with Marc Nash I made a throwaway comment about having hero/animus issues. What I’d meant was how the hero (or if you prefer ‘main character’) of one of my novels reflected my own animus. If you are not familiar with the concept of animus/anima then do have a bit of a read. I’m not a psychotherapist and I’m just a writer so those with more wisdom than I on this subject will need to bear with me, without yelling at me that I’ve got it wrong.

Wikipedia, that first port of call for information has this to say about what the anima/animus actually is/are:

The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of the male, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.

The anima and animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possesses or the masculine ones possessed by the female, respectively. It is an archetype of the collective unconscious and not an aggregate of father or mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or teachers, though these aspects of the personal unconscious can influence the person for good or ill.”

Much of my life I have found I am a poor fit for being terribly feminine. I climbed trees and made boats and roamed the countryside pretending to be an astronaut. But when I wasn’t being a tom-boy, I wrote. My first novel was written when I was ten years old. I’ll tell you a little more about that shortly.

Jung, whose work on the anima and animus is really worth dipping into, explained that neither is static and is something with develops and changes as the person grows. I’m only going to focus on the animus here as for my sins, I am a woman.

Jung stated that there are four parallel levels of animus development in a female.

The animus “first appears as a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or muscle man, such as ‘the fictional jungle hero Tarzan‘”.

In the next phase, the animus “possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action…the romantic man – the 19th century British poet Shelley; or the man of action – America’s Ernest Hemingway, war hero, hunter, etc.”

In the third phase “the animus becomes the word, often appearing as a professor or clergyman…the bearer of the word –Lloyd George, the great political orator”

“Finally, in his fourth manifestation, the animus is the incarnation of meaning. On this highest level he becomes (like the anima) a mediator of…spiritual profundity”.Jung noted that “in mythology, this aspect of the animus appears as Hermes, messenger of the gods; in dreams he is a helpful guide.” Like Sophia this is the highest level of mediation between the unconscious and conscious mind.

My first novel had an astronaut as the hero. At the time I was fascinated by science fiction and read avidly pretty much everything the library held in the genre. I read things that were so beyond suitable (rest assured, though, parents, much of it went over my head and I only understood a lot later if I reread things) and some fiction written for kids. I was amused greatly recently by an advertising campaign for Lynx deodorant where macho archetypes such as life guards and fire fighters were ‘trumped’ by an astronaut, and if this is to be believed then the astronaut is the ultimate champion or muscle man!

By the next novel, the hero had become a detective. I was completely (and irrevocably) in love with Sherlock Holmes and once I had devoured all the novels and short stories, I branched out into detective fiction of all kinds. For me, the detective was the ultimate romantic man. I stayed writing the detective/adventure genre for all of my teens, only venturing into other areas in my later teens when I became increasingly interested in the paranormal and what you might term the mysteries of life.

The hero of my novel written in my mid twenties was a lost soul, really, betwixt and between the romantic man of earlier but never quite evolving into the ‘word’ that Jung describes. He carried no great message either for me or for any readers at the time. My own descent into depression and apathy at this time following a rejection of a second novel that had reached committee stage at one of the big publishers, meant that I ceased to write.

But the processes beneath it all carry on like an underground river which seeped into the foundations and causes an eventual collapse of my resolve never to write again. A story, and an evolved hero took over my life, almost ten years ago now and if I look too closely at the time, I quake at the implications of it. I won’t talk about the story as such because that is another thing altogether. But I’d like to talk about the hero.

He’s not me, obviously. He’s himself. I’ve often wondered if he exists somewhere out there; in my psyche he’s so complete I think I know him better than I know myself. So the lines can become blurred. He’s the kind of person who makes an impact on others, usually despite not wanting to; he’d rather hide away and not mix with people. There’s events in his life he’s managed to wall over, remove from his everyday consciousness so that he doesn’t get ripped apart by them all the time. He’s intuitive but also quite reluctant to trust that sense of ‘knowing’ that he gets, often over-riding it to try to deal with things logically, rationally. His father is the kind of man who holds up logic, reason, good sense, as things to aspire to, to live your life by, and Antony desperately wants to please his father, to emulate him. Antony’s the quiet, shy clever kid in the corner that got picked on till he turned on his attacker and flattened him; but the bullies had to get in one final beating just to hammer the message home: you’ll never really beat us. He’s wary of people because he’s had too many so far who’ve let him down.

Events bring him to crisis point and beyond it into a free-fall where all he’d once held as certain, sacred, have become unanchored in his new reality. Having lost all his certainties he is faced with starting again, of setting out on a journey to find the self he’d lost or buried long ago. That’s where the third stage of animus expression kicks in. He’s faced with the need to speak, to bring back the truths and to voice them, to release the toxic secrets of his life and be free.

To aid him in this quest, another representation of my animus emerges. Father Peter is the wise old man so many people have said to me they’d love to meet and spend time with. He’s the guide to Antony’s dark journey, and he’s the ‘mediator of…spiritual profundity’. He doesn’t make it easy for his young protégée but he fulfils a role that has long been lacking in the lad’s life: someone who can listen to him, with intelligence and wisdom and discernment. The Bet has two further novels that follow it, as yet unpublished, but the journey Antony takes becomes deeper and darker in each one. For him realising that there is no final resolution for his trials is a tough one, because he’s so very scarred and damaged, yet his ability to keep going even when the journey becomes subterranean is what I hope may inspire others who come to read it. You see, as I have said before, if life is a journey, then any short-cut is a death trap. We all grow and evolve and change during our lives; attempts to remain still usually result in being swept away on the tide of life itself. 

16 thoughts on “The Evolution of my Animus ~ how he grows and changes as I do

  1. I’m so pleased you wrote this. I was feeling a little lonely out here (well, me and my muscle-bound Viking animus) I’ve suffered from a hyper-active animus most of my life. I’m so pleased there are others out there.


    • Oh I think there are plenty of us!! I just don’t think that many writers are clued into Jungian thought, sufficient to realise that it’s not just invention that creates a character.
      Marc (who is @21stcscribe) on Twitter said his anima pops up a lot.
      Thanks for dropping by!


  2. I enjoyed your Jungian take on the characters you’ve created. I’ve seen the same animus development in myself, so totally relate to what you’re saying. I’d add that the very fact that you’re a writer of words and that you’ve kept at it all these years suggests an anima with a strong word orientation.

    I’ve started “The Bet.” (I read it on my Kindle for my hour on the treadmill every day) and am fascinated by your young protagonist. I haven’t met Father Peter yet, but look forward to getting to know him. I enjoy your writing very much! Now I’m off to walk and read.

    Blessings, my writer friend,



    • I am so glad you are enjoying it. I think Peter may appeal to you very much too.
      Yes, a very strong word orientation (plus, history. Ashurst works in a museum and has a great love of both history and literature).


  3. Really interesting – knew nothing of this! i am off to see if my writing reveals anything I didn’t know about myself…Not sure I would necessarily have agreed that Shelley ‘possesses initiative and the capacity for planned action’ so will have to read more. Great post!


    • It’s very worth doing. I’d hate for a psychoanalyst to read about the female protagonists and analyse me from how I write about them!!
      Thanks for reading!


  4. Viv – this is absolutely fascinating! Thanks for sharing it with us! It goes some way to explaining why, of my last three works, two have been headed by female protagonists and why the third, a sci-fi story, had three genders (one male, one female and one child-carrier), two of them leaning toawards the feminine. I consider my Muse to be feminine too, so that all ties in. Another part of my psychological jigsaw has just fitted into place. Wow.


  5. “if life is a journey, then any short-cut is a death trap.” This is excellent! As a hospice volunteer, I can see how this process is important, too. Well-written.


  6. He’s reluctant to trust his knowing? Fascinating. Mine would claim world presidency if he thought I would believe him…not that I haven’t determined what his lying twitches are at this point, after 20 years… Maybe mine doesn’t trust his own power as much as he claims to. If yours is insecure about his knowledge, there’s good reason to think mine might be. That would explain why he claims to have virtually any power needed at the time, while all my other figures regularly taunt him for his big claims. Some of his ideas are shockingly, impossibly, true. Some are ridiculous from the start and evoke massive criticism from everyone else…


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