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.
NB: If you’ve enjoyed my Animus Diet and would like to read more, here’s what happened next: http://theliberatedsheep.com/animus-diet-part-three/
Copyright © Deborah Gregory
Image(s) Credit: Google Images
© Deborah Gregory 2021. This essay forms part of a much longer series which includes my four part Animus Diet, Divine Hermaphrodite and In the Name of Sophia essays and poems which are presently being gathered to create a new book later this year – Jungian Archives