The Animus Diet – Part Two

The Animus Diet - Part Two

Twelve weeks ago, around the start of the year, I made a conscious decision to start something completely new in my life, I call it the Animus Diet. Yes, I appreciate that January and dieting tend to go hand-in-hand, however, this was an entirely different kind of diet because there would be no calorie counting or weighing scales involved. Not even a tape measure, as I attempted to slim down my overweight animus, ‘Brutus’ and build up my skinny anima, whom I refer to fondly as ‘Olive Oyl.’ It was only when I discovered the wonderful cartoons at the beginning and at the end of this article that I recognised the characters as archetypes for my inner masculine and feminine aspects. In the first part of this article Journey of Love: The Animus Diet I wrote about my initial thoughts, reflections and changes that I felt I needed to make and I explored a number of suggestions about how to put these in place. This article picks up where week four left off as I continue to explore my inner masculine/feminine imbalance. And so the animus diet continues.

One of the first things I noticed is that by not physically pushing the body but loving it while swimming or walking, I assist my body in numerous ways. For the positive affirmations (the spinach!) I give whilst exercising are often rewarded with heroic energy. Three months on and I see that I relate to my body in a different way. What really helped was deepening my understanding that the relationship one has with nature closely resembles the relationship we have with our bodies. For in recognising my body as a sacred vessel, I slow down. My eating slows down too and co-operatively, I feel my feminine and masculine sides take more care of the body’s well-being. For instance while walking through ancient woodland I notice my feminine body embrace the possibility and promise of creation, life, and rebirth while I await inspired impregnation by my animus. Recognising hunger as often being spiritual, and not always physical, feeds up my skinny feminine side with divine and sacred food.

And on the subject of sacred, a few weeks ago I woke up divinely hungry to visit London and see all the amazing art at the National Gallery. It had been several years since I last spent the entire day soaking up the incredible artwork there. As usual I visited my favourite paintings, only this time I felt something numinous pulling me around the gallery, for I felt literally frogmarched towards the Virgin Mary herself more than ever before. Everywhere I looked there she was, Madonna and Child. What on earth was going on, I asked myself, in tears and reverence as I moved from one Madonna to the next. Again, and again I was brought before the Queen of Heaven. “Okay,” I told my soul, “I surrender, do what you will with me” as I was finally brought before Leonardo’s da Vinci’s ‘Cartoon’ for what seemed an age. I remember sitting there in the crowded alcove trembling before the beautiful charcoal and chalk drawing, while my heart shook and danced in delight as the holiest of women came into view.

The next day where it came from I have no idea but all of a sudden the thought dropped into my awareness. I decided I would grow my grey hair out and nothing was going to stop me, because it was time. I just knew it. My ego knew it too, needing to be cast even further to one side. For, alongside sorting out my wardrobe at the start of the year and the letting go of clothes and shoes no longer needed, this seems to complete my desire of both inner and outer change. I feel I no longer wish to lighten my hair. I have always loved the look of middle-aged women who chose to keep their hair colour natural, with their fifty shades of grey, silver and beautiful white hair. I want to see myself clearly, see who I am, not the woman I’m not, not the woman society wants to see. I anticipate it taking around two years to grow my hair into a one length shoulder grey bob. Looking forward to having my first big ‘chin length’ cut, and then focus on growing out those highlighted layers.

Then the poetry arose; soaring poems of deep understanding, ascending love poems that swept me away and finally a tribute poem Dear Poet which I dedicate to all poets and writers. In writing this poem I felt my inner Olive filling out, just getting a hold of me, singing beautifully and, with my trimmer Brutus, together they worked to release the Self’s awe inspiring song. A symphony of the soul of love. During this time I reread my poetry book, where I’ve recorded many poems from age 15 years to my 50th year. I observed the conflicts and battles between the feminine, animus and the shadow observing how my soul evolution has been working itself out. Recently I received the most wonderful feedback from another poet, who felt that my book was a journal of the soul. This is one of the most beautiful comments I have ever received. In my poems I can see how often the Self has had to step into the poem itself to help me battle it out and learn how to integrate those inner archetypes further. In my mind’s eye now Brutus and Olive are in each other’s arms dancing round the room.

My dreams during this animus diet have been abundant, a sea of change from the one or two dreams per week I was remembering. Unwisely, I had thought that after eight fruitful Jungian study years my dreams had finally began to dwindle, but no! My focussed work on the animus archetype had brought them back ten-fold. In dreams, gangs of men on motorbikes roamed the countryside looking for me. I would wake up feeling the animus was looking to kill me. In order to confront his bullying, before sleep, I would tell myself I must be clever and use my feminine ways. In later dreams, I found myself watching football games and studying them in close detail. Knowing the animus, I realise, is important. In the series of dreams that followed next I found myself lying beside a man, mothering him, offering him love while another man was threatening to kill himself. Then onto last night’s dream where I met the most beautiful man, a lover and a poet, whilst swimming one day, and we soon became lovers. An ecstatic dream of integration.

I didn’t know how this diet would finish but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next and how the deep mysteries of life and creativity astound on such occasions. A few days ago I received news of my estranged mother’s suspected heart attack. Faced with the crucial choice of not seeing her before death and continuing to remain stuck in my childhood suffering or confronting my pain and risking rejection, I chose to visit, not for reconciliation but to say goodbye in my own way. Initially, I realise (in retrospect) that the animus was furious at me, screaming, ‘No, no, no don’t go! She’ll only reject you. She hates you, and won’t your father also be there? Fuck her!’ I could actually feel Brutus filling me up with hate from the inside. My whole body went rigid, I couldn’t relax for hours. I sat with the decision all day, paralysed, unable to decide, until Olive declared her intention in my heart. She said she was going and kindly offered Brutus her hand so that they could visit together.

I know I am writing more about this one single event yet for me it totally encapsulates my whole diet. On the journey to the hospital whatever could go wrong seemed to, the roads were either blocked, or there were traffic lights on every corner yet we made it with more than two hours visiting time remaining. I had no script, nothing prepared. I had no idea of what I would say for I had not seen my mother for more than eighteen years. Eventually the labyrinth of rooms brought me to hers. She was sleeping when I entered, lightly snoring. I smiled at her white, grey hair and inwardly at my decision to grow mine out too. I wrapped my fingers around hers, a moment later she awoke and beamed, ‘Hello Deborah!’ and the years fell away. The time I spent with her was beyond beautiful. There were no accusations, no unkind words, just openness, receptivity and nurturance from both of us and given freely, and willingly to each other.

When necessary, feminine consciousness took the reins and reigned supreme, with her loving animus at hand if needed. I felt my Olive grow fuller in that moment beyond all possible hope. There is not enough space to write down what I’d like to say and share. We spoke of many things, past and present including my poetry book. She understands that I can never visit her at home, and accepts this. It was wonderful for her to meet my partner and to be able to tell her a little bit about our lives together. Leaving was painful yet necessary. It shook my heart. I told her I loved her, I hugged and kissed her, and quietly left. I realise my visit would not have been possible without one of my sisters letting me know what had happened and advising me when would be a good time to visit to avoid other, not so approachable, family members. Oh my goddess! How the feminine principle works in deep healing and mysterious ways.

As for any physical weight loss? Nil, nothing, zilch. I haven’t gained any weight either, although I do suspect that I have put weight on in the right place, the heart. In conclusion the whole animus diet experience has echoed even clearer to me the tension of the opposites within, as spirit and matter collide and integrate further on inner levels. I have learnt many, many things over recent weeks, most especially that heart energy holds astonishing presence. Life; a spiral staircase of ascents and descents, we never come back to the same step twice. As we slow down, walk further, we make those deeper healing connections. There is so much more to say and maybe one day I’ll put my animus diet notebooks into print. I’m sure there’s already another batch of poems cooking on the inside as we speak. It’s great to feel more of a balance between my masculine and feminine sides.

A huge nod to Carl Jung and Marion Woodman for teaching me so much more about feminine consciousness and helping my Olive to gain the fuller figure she has always hungered for, whilst trimming down my Brutus. This has created more harmony and balance between these inner archetypes, for hand-in-hand they’ve helped me to write these words. Much love, blessed be, Deborah.

olive and brutus happy3

Copyright © Deborah Gregory
Image(s) Credit: Google Images

18 thoughts on “The Animus Diet – Part Two

  1. Wow, what a wonderfully inspiring and original follow up article Deborah. First of all it made me chuckle seeing the cartoons of Olive Oyl and Brutus in the roles of anima and animus – I will never be able to look at that cartoon again without thinking of the characters in those terms!!

    I seem to be fairly lucky where my physical weight is concerned and tend to get away with the odd naughty snack…but an overactive animus does tend to weigh me down!! A few months ago I had a spate of animus focussed dreams where, when looking at them from the Jungian interpretation viewpoint, it became obvious that my animus was way too active and my feminine aspect was struggling to survive. I too love being active by cycling, walking, gardening and generally getting out in nature but I also know I can push myself too hard.

    So, with the upturn of the seasons, I have consciously gone out there walking, cycling and gardening but at a much slower, steady pace, giving my animus the opportunity to take in and connect to the energies of the natural life around me – I find tree energy in particular wonderful for just enabling me to stop and nurture my feminine side whilst feeding my positive animus.

    I’ve also taken this approach to a creative project I’m working on and have found myself feeling far less stressed and able to work more steadily. The bonus is that since I’ve taken on this new way of approaching things there hasn’t been a word from a negative animus in my dreams – so I think it’s working!!

    Hahaha!! – this has just reminded me of a friend who came to me in agony having done a new fitness workout at the gym. When I asked her which one she said it was called the Insanity Workout. How about that for an animus fuelled exercise programme that will only hurt the body – I did tell her I think the clue is in the name!! I did have a thought on the lack of weight loss – maybe it’s because you have brought your body into balance through your new way of being and your body is happy just as it is.

    Finally Deborah, it was a brave but so wonderful thing that you did in breaking through those barriers and visiting your mum in hospital. It must have been so healing being able to tell her those things that were important to you and to make sure that she knows what you really feel. All too often estrangement can result in “Chinese whisper” type communications – here you’ve had the chance to tell her in your own words – how nurturing that was to your soul.

    Thank you for sharing so much of your journey here – it is so confirming and truly inspiring.

    1. That’s so generous of you Sophia to leave such a truly wonderful comment, thank you so much! I agree, Olive and Brutus make great characters that represent what happens to many animus possessed women. Hmm, cartoon characters yet pure animation! … which Susan has helped me to explore even further by halving the word and noticing the two words ‘anima’ – ‘mating’ within. I love word-play, and exploring the roots of words!

      Through my Jungian lens, I’ve found that dreams are always the best way to watch the animus, see what he’s up to, and see what type of animus we’re presently working alongside. I agree, unless you’re an athlete, or sport’s person, it’s the animus during one’s regular exercise, who pushes us to coerce the body to perform beyond its natural capacity … often resulting in much injury and pain.

      Your friend’s ‘Insanity’ workout, sounds like another version of Claire’s ‘Body Attack’ classes, I call it body hatred! I think you’re right, my lack of weight loss after 12 weeks of regular, albeit slow, and steady vs mad, manic exercise could be because my body is at its right weight … those 10 lbs that I put on in the last two years, seem as though they’re here to stay and I’m more comfortable about them today.

      It’s wonderful to hear that you haven’t heard a bad word from your negative animus since you’ve changed your approach to creative work. Thank you for your kind-hearted words re: visiting my mother. ‘Chinese Whispers’ yes, for sure! No chance of that though, as I made a second, follow up visit a couple of days ago, which presented my mother and I another opportunity for even deeper healing to take place. Warm greetings, Deborah.

      1. I love the idea of the cartoon being an anima mating – great play on words. Its wonderful to hear that you visited your mum again to build on that first visit – there must be much healing going on.

        Deborah, I forgot to say that I didn’t receive an email notification of your post for this or the Dear Poet poem. The only way around this I think is to re-subscribe which I have done and hopefully that will rectify the problem for your next post.

        1. Ha-ha! You could’ve knocked me down with a feather when I realised I had actually chosen an ‘animation’ (a cartoon) to illustrate the anima and animus … seriously, you couldn’t make it up! Pure animation! Then the whole cartoon itself takes me to Leonardo’s awe-inspiring ‘cartoon’ … wonderful synchronicity!

          Re: Subscriptions … Thank you for letting me know about this Sophia, much appreciated. It’s funny another friend said they hadn’t received any notifications. Hmm, last month my WordPress ‘Reader’ stopped working for around two weeks, maybe that was part of a WP ‘glitch’ that happened. Warm greetings, Deborah.

  2. Welcome to the society of women who enjoy gray hair. I started with a mix, too. At first, my gray threads were highlights. And slowly the whole head went silver.

    Where do I begin? First, this is creative and inspiring with a wonderful touch of humor. You are daring and versatile, my friend. I love Olive Oyl with curves and Brutus as a gentleman.

    This slowing down to feminine time seems essential to me, but I get confused and think I have more important things to do. Even strength training, which I’ve begun as part of the plan to curb the size of Negative Mother (see how you inspire me?) is best with a measured rhythmic pace. No shoving, forcing, or fast moves, but working with body in a balanced harmonious way. And I make sure to spend time in nature every day, feeding myself with early spring.

    Did you know that Leonardo cartoon of the Virgin and St. Anne was Marion Woodman’s favorite. I have a large copy of it framed at the top of the stairs–the part of our house Vic called “The Women’s Quarters.” Along with me, theree was Mother Mary, photos of Indian temple elephants getting their make-up done, my Grandmother’s bedroom set, my other Grandmother’s crocheted pieces on the wall, and a photo of Marion Woodman on the altar with Anandamayi Ma, an Indian saint/sage who died in the 1980s. Marian loved to go to London to visit museums and theaters with her husband and said she never went without paying homage to that divine feminine image.

    I love how the muse comes in the daytime and the animus goes through a transformation in the dark. Then there is your most amazing visit with your mother. I’m so glad that could happen, Deborah. I hope this begins a healing current that will touch everything in your life with forgiveness.

    I bow with you to Carl and Marion, and to Brutus and Olive Oyl. I look forward to more Animus Diet adventures. Cutting the animus down to size stirs things up. It seems diminishing Negative Mother’s girth does the same.

    Love and gratitude, Elaine

    1. Dear Elaine, Your generosity, kindness and compassion astound me! Thank you so much dear friend for your wonderful, inspiring feedback on the second part of my Animus Diet article. Oh my goddess I just love the sound of the ‘Animus Diet Adventures!’ More food for thought alongside your other wonderful comment on the other blog of … ‘Deborah and the Animus Diet. Ha-ha! It has such a wonderful biblical ring to it, especially when I think about my namesake and her warring adventures with the animus, en masse!

      Aww! Thank you most kindly for your warm welcome into entering the ‘women’s grey circle.’ Now with only two inches of regrowth, I do feel like a complete novice member … nevertheless, please know I’m a really keen one though! Really looking forward to growing out the bleach, and seeing what it looks like beneath years of colour. I’m planning on having it cut shorter at the start of June, perfect time for summer!

      Curbing the size of the Negative Mother, that’s such a positive way of looking at strength training. The idea of calling up more ‘warrior strength’ encourages me greatly. I really enjoyed your other article, always wonderful to find out more. You’ve inspired me to look into this for myself, because despite regular exercise, walking, swimming and cycling, I have so little muscle definition and shape.

      Many years ago when I first saw the Leonardo’s cartoon I fell to my knees in the middle of the National Gallery. I was in awe! I’ve never encountered anything like it before or since. I can’t actually explain it but when I read Marion’s experience I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe another person experienced the drawing in a similar way. Just thinking about St. Anne’s dark eyes fills me sends shivers through me! I’m thrilled to know that you have a copy too and to hear all about your ‘women’s quarters.’

      I haven’t mentioned it here yet I’m sure you’re aware that same ‘healing current’ also arose a couple of weeks ago, when after a drenching from the Great Mother, I was taken to another deep smile and heartfelt hello.

      This time has been vital for me, and I whole-heartedly agree, cutting the animus down to size stirs things up. I had no idea how it would all turn out and have learnt so many things, most of all that when we focus on something with all our heart, mind and spirit … we can literally move mountains!

      More animus adventures to come … I think I’d like to do a follow up in six months’ time, which would make the diet length nine months in total, a whole gestation! Love and blessings, Deborah.

  3. Dear Deborah,

    There’s so much wisdom in this piece, so much that satisfies and inspires. Of all that impresses me, the thing I admire most is that you clarified your goals, set your intention, and then committed yourself to your daily, if not hourly ‘practice.’ And not a practice that some outer authority set for you, but a truly unique and original one fitted perfectly to the needs of your soul.

    To my mind, this is the positive animus at his very best: no bullying, criticizing, aggression, excuses or deception; just simple, honest, step-by-step keeping to your practice of staying mindful of the roles that anima and animus were playing in your life without attaching yourself unduly to any particular outcome. And you kept a written record of it all so that you would always have a reminder of what you’ve been learning. Brava!

    This is a truly inspiring example of the very best kind of inner work. Did it honor and embolden your anima? Absolutely. Did it gentle your animus and channel his skills and energies in a way that is healing and empowering to you? Absolutely. No wonder you were given the dream of becoming the lover/beloved of a poet. If it were my dream I’d see it as a reward for and affirmation of the beautiful work of art I’m creating out of my own life. Wow.

    And your beautiful writing….like Susan, I love it very much indeed.

    Your decision to visit your mother moved me deeply, brought me to tears. I’m astonished at the courage and wisdom and presence of mind it took to make that choice and follow through.

    And, of course, I loved your choice to let your hair grow out to its natural colors. I’ve never regretted making that decision in my late thirties, and see it as a choice to stop trying to satisfy society’s image of feminine beauty and learn to love my feminine self as I really am instead. Of course, that doesn’t stop my anima and me from wanting to be slender and attractive! I guess it’s just a matter of priorities. We’d rather use the time, money, and energy this saves on my family, writing, and other creative, soul-satisfying pursuits.

    With love, admiration, and gratitude for your inspiring example,

    Jeanie

    1. Dear Jeanie, I’m struggling to say it all! My heart, well my heart, is bursting with joy! My soul, well she’s a’ singing! Oh dear lady how you have thrown my soul up high today with your beautiful words, and wonderful praise. I’m reading in the happiest of tears. Thank you so much for all your tremendous support, your rich inspiration and your incredible feedback on this, my Animus Diet article!

      Please know that your heartening words mean so much to me. It’s been an incredible twelve weeks. Initially I had no idea whatsoever how I would go about this project. When feeling lost, I returned my focus only to the masculine/feminine balance and held firm to that one idea alone. My notebooks were godsends for scribbling down ideas, planning events, and diarising my thoughts and reflections.

      I could write another article here for each and every one of your sentences gave my heart reasons to smile and cheer. Please know Jeanie that your wonderful words are constant, healing magic not just for me but for many other people! You’re my inspiration and spurs! You give so much to others in your loving validation. I’m eternally grateful for you. Love and blessings, Deborah.

  4. Wow, Deborah! Amazing post that reads as smooth as silk! What a journey/progress on this Animus diet! And the meeting with your mother! It brought tears to my eyes, my dear! I have often wondered if you were ever in contact with your mother or father, so this post answered that query. I’m so glad you had the opportunity, will, courage and peace of heart to meet her. It sounds like such a healing encounter! Gosh, I’m proud of you and what you have achieved. I sound like a mother now also 😉 I love your line: “I have put weight on the right place, the heart” 🙂 Your writing is as amazing as your poetry! Love & heart-felt blessings, Sam 🙂

    1. It’s simply wonderful to see you here Sam! Thank you so much for your beautiful gift of kind-hearted words dear friend. Although I’m still happily whirling from visiting my mother a few days ago, I truly believe the healing for both of us will continue to flow deep into our hearts for all eternity. Writing about the weight of the heart is at the top of my poetry notebook!

      I had no idea how this Animus diet was going to turn out, but right now as I type I couldn’t be happier that I’ve put myself on it. What makes your words so special is knowing that you’ve followed my inner/outer journeying from teenage years to mid-life through my book and blog, and that you appreciate the journeys I’ve made. Love and blessings, Deborah. 🙂 🙂

  5. I believe you have a book here Deborah, an important one. Again, this is high-impact writing. Brutus and Olive make a great team. I held my breath while reading about you meeting your mother, and wept to read you “have put weight on in the right place, the heart.” You’re the most honest writer I’ve read for many a year. All the best, Liz.

    1. Thank you so much Liz for your wonderful reply, truly appreciated. I agree, Brutus and Olive make a really great team because I guess as opposites they have so much to learn, and therefore to integrate with the other. Aha! The weight of the heart, perhaps this will be my next poem. Bright spring wishes, Deborah.

  6. Honestly Deborah that was AMAZING!!!
    I read the first part all over again so have been reading for quite a while. I’ve read all the comments again. I knew we were getting close to week 12 mark and was hoping you’d write this next part this week. I’ve been following, not all the time but I thought about it quite a lot and have been definitely eating more.
    But, and here’s the thing, when I got to the part about you visiting your mom, it broke my heart! I’m guessing there’ll be new poems from that visit alone.
    What you did was unbelievably brave. I can’t put it into words really…..
    You went to say goodbye it gave you the opportunity for much more. When I was reading I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe the words in front of my eyes.
    I was happy for you, it brought me to tears. Like Susan, my heart was with you all the way.
    Brutus and Olive are perfect aren’t they, the cartoons are a great way to define your animus and anima figures. The names are perfect too….do you know what the name Olive means? For Brutus I think “brutal” is obvious and that fit’s.
    I did laugh at myself when you wrote about “how loving the body is best” because when I thought of myself at last night’s Body Attack class and how tough it was on my body, actual pain for everyone in my gym class..seems wrong actually.
    There’s so much here Deborah, like I’ve said before it’s a win-win for every woman!!!
    Lol!! You haven’t lost a pound?!! Well so far I’ve gained five..
    Without a bowl of horrible cabbage soup in sight!!

    1. Claire, you’re always so generous! Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring thoughts with me. Firstly, I’m so pleased to hear you’ve gained five pounds in weight and that you’re eating more. I appreciate how challenging that may have been for you. I believe if we can keep in mind on this diet that we are seeking to ‘balance out our masculine and feminine sides’ we stand more chance of succeeding … hmm, I think that’s why (for now at least) the word ‘diet’ actually supports us here because the whole world recognises the word diet and its implication.

      ‘Body Attack’ yes, well that sums it up perfectly doesn’t it! The body is under attack and being physically assaulted … yet by oneself! In the supermarket in January I remember noticing many of those intense, boot camp style workout DVDs for getting fit fast, and thinking then of the absolute hatred that must be felt by many for the body itself. Please don’t get me wrong I love taking regular exercise too, especially swimming, but hopefully I’m learning taking that exercise at a slower, more relaxing, ‘loving my body’ pace.

      I’m deeply touched by your kind-hearted words about the time I visited my mother. Language fails us all so miserably in these moments. I don’t know if this will sound strange or not but knowing you’re a poet too helps me to say this … I heard a poem being spoken in my head as I sat with her. New work, for later. Yes, I did receive much more than the goodbye I hoped for, still struggling to put it all into words right now. I’ve just taken a quick look online at the name Olive, which means ‘Peace’ and ‘Victory’ I will definitely look more into the roots of this word later. Blessings, Deborah.

      1. I’ve dropped Body Attack, seems nuts when I thought about it..
        Doh! “Olive branch” don’t know why I didn’t see that!!
        Obvious really…I’m but a poetic fool!!!

  7. Thank you Deborah for this very beautiful post. I was with you, my heart was with you every inch of the way because of the way that you wrote this. I love all your writing very much indeed.

    The combination of Olive & Brutus were moments of Grace – at least that was the sense I had –

    I too have been wondering about my hair and whether to let the grey grow out … not only for the reasons you say – and with which I agree – but also because of the chemicals that are used and and then are washed down the drain – and all that that means.

    Thank you for sharing this very powerful post.

    1. Thank you so much Susan for your truly wonderful comment and continuous support of my Jungian writing. I only started blogging my Jungian thoughts last year and had no idea how they would be received by others. I only knew the areas that interested me and hoped that others may be interested or curious to read alongside.

      I wrote this in one sitting a couple of days ago, a few days after visiting my mother. Whilst searching for an image on google I suddenly came across Brutus and Olive, it was a real light-bulb moment and since reading your ‘Animat-ing’ thoughts on Jean’s blog yesterday I have now made an even deeper connection.

      Re: Hair, yes, ditching the chemicals, or bleach in my case, were definitely a part of my decision making too. My current regrowth is just over three months, am planning to have my first big cut mid-June! Blessings, Deborah.

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