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Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychoanalyst, has perhaps had more impact on the social sciences and humanities than on the modern-day profession of psychiatry. His theory of the collective unconscious, a set of “archetypes” which form the shared foundation of every human psyche, lacks a scientific basis. And yet, I’ve often thought that there may be something in his theory of the anima and animus, the archetypes which represent the feminine aspect of a man’s personality and the masculine aspect of a woman’s. (As to how the theory might apply in LGBTQ contexts–I haven’t got an answer.) These figures play a key role in creativity–hence the mythic figure of the Muse, who inspires the male poet.

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Jane Morris, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti (1869). Jane was a favorite “muse” of the pre-Raphaelite painters. Leicester Galleries.

Women have their male Muses, of course. And I think that the phenomenon of fandom can be explained, in part, by this theory. Over and over, I’ve seen how the experience arouses creative energies, whether they be manifested in art, fiction, poetry, music, or crafts.

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Ciarán Hinds with fans at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2013. Photo: Getty Images.

20. The Animus

“What’s been on your mind lately?” asked Dr. Liffey, kicking off her shoes and tucking her legs beneath her on the sofa. After the first consultation, she had become less formal.

“Men,” said Tabitha. “I’ve been thinking about men a lot.”

“Anyone in particular?”

She told Anna about meeting James and Galen at the dinner party, and finding both men interesting and sexy. “They seemed to have a different kind of friendship than women do. More combative, and yet more intimate at the same time. And then I met a pair of men at the farmer’s market, and it was the same thing. They had this connection that I envied.”

“And have any figures like that appeared in your dreams?”

She looked at Anna, surprised. “Yes, as a matter of fact. The hero in my dreams is young, younger than the men I mentioned. But he has the same kind of friendship with another warrior. In fact, I think they love each other. Though he’s definitely not gay,” she said, feeling her face heat at the memory of briefly kissing the warrior and running her hands over his body. His skin had been very hot to the touch.

“Why do you say that? Are the dreams becoming more sexual?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“You said there is a hero, a central figure. Tell me about him.”

“I perceive him differently depending on the persona I am in the dream. At first I was his mother, when he was a little baby, and after that a girl he wants to marry, and then a warrior woman who’s training him.”

“What’s he like?”

Tabitha considered this. “Well, he’s very young, as I said. Intelligent. There is something sad, even mournful about him, but at the same time, he has that cockiness that young men have, when they feel strong and graceful in their bodies.” She nodded to herself, thinking about the warrior. “Yes. He’s like a dancer in the way he moves, so that it’s almost impossible to take my eyes from him. But he can be terrifying. In my last dream, he fought another man and decapitated him with one swing of his sword.”

“Tabitha, have you ever heard of the Jungian archetype called the animus?”

She shook her head, and Dr. Liffey explained, “Carl Jung thought that every man’s psyche included a feminine element, and every woman’s a masculine element. They exist in the unconscious mind and manifest themselves in dreams. The animus embodies the more physically dynamic, intellectual, and creative sides of a woman’s personality. He is often a very ambivalent, energetic, dangerous figure.”

“So you think that this young man is my animus?”

“Possibly, though it’s unusual for him to be so young in a woman your age. The animus begins to take form in childhood based on the woman’s relationships —or lack of them— with men. He determines what kinds of men a woman finds masculine and sexually attractive. And if he’s not properly integrated within the woman’s personality, he can be destructive and violent.”

Tabitha rubbed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then she said, “I’m sensing that you think this all has something to do with Corbin Crowe.”

Dr. Liffey’s eyes met hers. “Yes, I do. You effectively lost your father, Tabitha, had him ripped from you. And it’s not clear what sort of father figure he was, during the first years of your life. Then as a young girl, you were confronted with the terrifying nature of his crimes. Your unconscious mind may be using these dreams to work through your confusion over that. You said that this figure started as a baby, and then grew into a youth, and now he’s a violent young man. It’s almost as though your animus has been arrested in infancy all these years, and now he’s manifesting himself very powerfully, growing older and stronger.”

“Forcing himself on me, after I tried to erase him for so long,” said Tabitha. “I suppose that’s possible. But I’m not comfortable talking about Corbin Crowe. I’m not sure I ever will be. I don’t even like to think about him. I used to be curious, when I was little, but my mother refused to speak of him. When I was about sixteen, I stopped asking. That was my decision.” After that, Tabitha had resolutely avoided reading or watching any reportage about the Hill case.

“I won’t force you to talk about him,” said Anna. “But you need to understand that he may be at the bottom of these dreams. At some point, you may need to confront Corbin Crowe in order to move forward with your life.”

“You mean I would have to visit him in prison?” asked Tabitha, shocked.

“Not necessarily. I mean that you’ll have to confront your memories of him, your fears, and your questions about who he really is, and was.”

“He’s a murderer and a rapist,” replied Tabitha stonily. “That’s all I need to know.”

Copyright 2017 by Linnet Moss

Notes: The animus has his dangerous side, which may be why women are attracted to forceful, hyper-masculine figures (or actors who seem to embody a corresponding physical type). How interesting to think that this is merely a projection of what is already present within oneself.

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Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast.”