We’ve frequently discussed the development of characters and that the change related to this development across our writing process is something to be strived for. The same holds true when thinking about how to incorporate the anima and animus in writing. These archetypes of the individual character’s unconscious provide both the opportunity to demonstrate character development in our writing and to write to the individual archetypes that our readers possess.
The anima and animus represent a character’s internal growth process as related to accepting and integrating the counter-gender aspects of her/his self. For our male characters, their relationship with the anima represents their growth of “feminine” traits such as sensitivity and empathy. The more developed anima helps our male characters better understand others and their multifaceted nature, whereas the underdeveloped anima sets our male characters up for disappointment due to rigid expectations of ideal objects (re: others) through a lack of empathy. For our female characters, their relationship with the animus represents a development of “masculine” traits such as strength, independence, and understanding. As our female characters’ animus develops, they gain a better understanding of the world at large and a better understanding of self. Underdeveloped animus represent a simplified view of strength and independence, e.g., the use of “masculinity” as a tool instead of a way of being. It is through failing by applying underdeveloped anima/animus aspects or through external guidance or experience that our characters’ unconscious more fully develop.
Another way that anima/animus can manifest is as a breach between the unconscious and the ego. As we covered in the blog on the Id, if a character is not tending to her/his unconscious needs there is the chance that the unconscious will override the ego in order to get needs met. The anima/animus can function in the same way, if the individual pays too little attention to these aspects of the unconscious they can manifest independent of the conscious filters our characters have in place. This can be demonstrated through a character that may overly suppress her masculine side, and because of the suppression of the animus may become overly aggressive and not sensitive to the needs of others. A male character may suppress his anima, which then may manifest in feelings of hopelessness, becoming so emotionally vulnerable that he cannot take action (versus being aware of an honest with his emotions and allowing them out in a moderated way).
As I caveated in the introduction blog, this theory is a product of the time it was written and relies heavily on gender stereotypes. In writing this blog, I struggle to strike a balance between the academic presentation of the information and presenting it in a light that inspires writing. That all is to say, while I presented the material in its time and gender specific context, we as writers do not need to hold the ideas with such rigor. We should add the information to our toolbox and use it how we see fit, we are not psychologists we are writers, and as is usually the case for writers, our goal is to synthesize information from multiple sources to create something new. I hope you take this information and use it to inspire yourself and not limit yourself.
As always, from my couch to your pen happy writing!
And keep sending in your questions! mailto:W.T.Jowett@outlook.com