Food for the Soul: The Animus Diet

Animus Diet - Part Four II

Welcome to the concluding part of my Animus Diet, almost nine hundred nights later. Why nights and not days I hear you ask? Well for the simple reason that dreams have figured so largely on my journey. Why? Because I believe every dream that comes to us, comes in the service of health and wholeness. Be assured my inner man diet will not be ending, that’ll be lifelong I’m sure, nor will I stop adding reflections to my Animus notebook. No, this is more about being a writer and longing to get started on a new project. So I feel the need to draw a line under this one, even though I may follow up with further animus adventures in years to come!

I have offered but a few of what turned out to be deeply healing and transformative stories from these numinous nights, the most illuminating of which, I have shared with you in my four part series. By publishing these stories, I hope to make known a little of my journey and the subsequent insights I’ve gained to help others on their own animus journey.

Where It All Started

As you know my diet began back in January 2016 when I opened my wardrobe to explore the contents within. It was a place where me and my animus fought daily! That first weekend, it was a case of  “goodbye aging Barbie doll”  and  “hello emerging midlife woman!”  As I moved from clutter to clarity, inner shifts were made. To begin with, discarding my outer appearance seemed the right place to start this journey of love. For at 52 years of age I’d finally wanted to really see myself and who I was for the first time in my adult life. So, by using a Jungian lens, I began to attentively explore this midlife task through the eyes of the Divine Feminine, which brought my relationship with my body and my archetypal inner man into sharper and much needed focus.

After sorting through the wardrobe and letting stuff go, I decided I wanted even more of a physical change so opted to grow out my highlights and have my long hair cut into a shoulder length bob. In total it took another 18 months to grow out the dye completely and achieve a whole head of natural hair. A mix of brown, grey and white that would wave daily to me from my mirror, much like a colony of seals! Although several times during the growing-out process my ego erupted into panic and had me reaching for the phone to book in for a colour, but somehow I resisted and (im)patiently waited. Within weeks I noticed a growing confidence in myself as I stopped trying to satisfy society’s image of what feminine beauty should look like. Instead I learnt to love my emerging, authentic, feminine self. Me and the mirror, I’m happy to report, became curious friends whilst watching the emergence take place.

Next I turned my attention to my relationship with my body and in particular, the way in which I was exercising. For I had grown long tired of my animus’ aggressive and restrictive approach, forever shouting in my ear, “No, no, no! Swim faster, walk faster and never stop dieting!” I experimented and recorded it all, because I longed to build a more healthy and love-giving relationship with my body. One that would interrupt the animus from running my body-show and help me heal my father-wound by giving up all ideas of body-perfectionism. Instead of tuning in to his bullshit, I carefully listened to my body rather than pushing and punishing it in unhappy, competitive ways.

I felt I was moving closer to the next stage of my animus development which you can read about in Part One, alongside Jung’s theory on the developmental stages the animus goes through in a woman. By now I had clearly recognised my animus’ critical and bullying voice, which at times produced a devastating effect on my femininity, by obliterating all warmth, openness and receptivity. The cartoon character of Brutus became the animated avatar of my fat animus, with Olive Oyl representing my skinny feminine side. I kept a vigilant eye on them and tried to make sure things wouldn’t go belly-up in Brutus’ favour again! Little did I know, eighteen months later, things would move full circle in the opposite direction!

Nightly, in my dreams I watched and noted how my relationship with my animus was slowly beginning to transform. Meeting my mother, for the first time in years, in Part Two was deeply healing. Here I learnt the heart holds astonishing energy and presence, for my visit to her began a healing current that has touched everything in my life with forgiveness ever since. Rumi writes, “The wound is where the light gets in.” Spot on! A complete rereading of my poetry book followed my visit, and with my Jungian lens, the conflicts, battles and victories between ego, shadow and animus became clear to see. They literally jumped off the page! Appreciatively, my body love continued to grow.

Animus Diet - Part Four 1

A Journey of Love

I spent the next six months studying the Tarot in-depth, writing poems for each of the major arcana cards, which greatly contributed to my own Fool’s Journey. By Part Three Olive had grown fuller in figure and she and Brutus enjoyed a wonderful hiatus at the Hanged Man. Although it took a number of sudden breaks, done to the very bone, before I realised something was wrong and a reversal was needed, as it was Olive who needed to slim down. My skinny animus had been put on mute and my dreams were shouting it back to me, big time! Thank you so much David Bowie for putting in a notable dream appearance, in which I learnt that miraculous transformations await all who wander in search of truth.

My poems, Dear Mother, Dear Father followed by This Woman was Different, The Healing Light of Ancestral Love, The Shepherd’s Daughter and The Midlife Correction  all followed. My writing was changing further, I was working with my animus in a different way. I felt truly liberated from my past. No longer denying my heritage, I worked deeply with my family’s ancestors to shine a bright light of healing love and forgiveness down my ancestral line. To live your own truth is not easy! This brings us up to speed and to my latest poem The Marriage of Word and Image which I’ll explore later on in this article. Naturally I feel it’s the words themselves I must delve into next on my animus diet.

During these numinous nights I finished my first novel, “The Bad Shepherd.” I had revised it countless times, worked fervently on each chapter, finding new ways to link and connect my characters and book themes. Yet, when I had finished writing, I knew I had to delete it and start again. Why? Because I had written a story of revenge, a story of hatred and negativity on a grand scale. It was a dark purging and confrontation and believe me, when shadow and animus come together to write, it’s not pretty! It’s was a dark story of madness, addiction and violence. I can only liken it to the necessary experience of drawing poison out of oneself. A life-giving task had to be done but what came out was deadly and toxic.

The Ashes of a Poet

The Way of the Dream

Weeks before I pressed delete, a dream confirmed this when I found myself at school in a classroom and my writing book is being returned. A female English teacher with a kind face takes me to one side and says in a quiet, caring voice, “You cannot write your story Deborah because it is too abusive and no one will want to read it.” I sit down disappointed because I thought it was good but agree with her it’s a bit full on! She smiles, and asks me if I understand. I look around, everyone in the class has their head down and is writing their story. I settle down to write a new story, it’s called, “The Shepherd’s Daughter.” I watch myself write the title in my book. I wake up.

Naturally, I didn’t follow the dream’s advice until two months later, when a second dream came which clearly told me where my energy was and where it needed to go. In the dream I’m taking a final exam, an unknown woman and I rush through our paper, hand it in to the old professor and go outside to relax. After a while I wander back into the hall and see everybody, head down with the paper. The old professor, who bore more than a passing resemblance to Jung himself, takes me to one side and offers my exam paper back, saying “You still have time to revise it.” Lots of relevant points come to mind, so I sit down, revise my work and write down the things I overlooked. One question asks, “Is the ladder in the right position?” I focus on this and give a fuller explanation. I finish my paper and hand it to the professor. I wake up.

This time I understood, I really did! My animus was offering me the opportunity to rewrite myself, let the lost parts of myself be found. For you cannot heal yourself unless you know where it hurts, I was done with being abused and abusing myself. You may ask “Why make such a huge decision based on two dreams?” To cut a long Jungian story short, when one wakes from receiving Divine Wisdom, there is a deep knowing that one’s soul has been summoned to follow the way of the dream. As for Jung putting in an appearance, well, I know for sure that my Jungian studies have, over these past ten years, slowly yet profoundly helped me revise my view of many challenging events in my life.

However, my ego went into complete meltdown, screaming like a harpy! Crying, sulking, stamping but it knew there was no other outcome than to recognise a higher authority than itself. The writing was on the wall! And so it’s gone, deleted from my hard drive entirely! I remember writing it in a blur over the course of nine months, 128K words to be precise. It’s the book that had to be written but will never be published. Writing with the Demon Lover, my negative animus, was much like drawing poison out, with much fear and darkness clawing at the script. My ego was beyond furious, yet there was a quiet knowing I had done the right thing. For many years ago I had lived through the liberation of my sexuality, now I was moving through the liberation of my heart.

In that moment of pressing delete, I believe I shattered my animus possession by bringing forth the feminine and saying to her, “I love you,” while slapping my negative animus round the face at the same time. In doing so I noticed what was really me and what was not. To begin with on this diet I had cut my animus down to size, then I had to learn how to build him up. In doing so, all things were stirred up, above and below, for the animus can be a jealous lover. While writing the book, I was a woman locked in her animus, possessed with a cold, opinionated, rash, brutal determination that changed my character. For he had the power to keep me stuck in an old story until the poison was fully released. I wonder if anyone else has written and deleted a whole book? Many I’m sure. Words to be kept only between me and my soul. What an incredible journey of love we’ve been on together! Just imagine what your life would be like if your deepest wound was healed and it turned into your greatest gift. Okay back to the words …

Animus Diet - Part Four, The Marriage of Word and Image

The Marriage of Word and Image

The tools of my trade, those twenty six symbols that convey my secret thoughts to you the reader. After reading Leonard Shlain’s book, “The Goddess Versus the Alphabet,” in recent months and having an amazing Easter dream where a voice (the Goddess) tells me “the alphabet will be your lodestar,” I felt compelled to explore my love of words more. In one long sitting I penned The Marriage of Word and Image which explores the themes of my animus, ego and shadow. Shlain posits his theory that around the same time that people learnt to read (the creation of the alphabet) it brought about the demise of the Goddess worshipping societies. The price for women was high! So as a poet, who was born with a deep love of words, I felt I had to investigate further. Explore why I would love his  letters so much and how my animus was working in relation to my feminine aspect with them. Curiouser and curiouser I became, with my long poem being the result.

With regards to the physical weight aspect of my animus diet, the ten pounds are still remaining. I’ve gained no weight and lost no weight for two and a half years, although I’ve achieved fitness in a far more healthy way! I feel I’ve also gained lightness in the right place, by liberating my heart through kind and gentle ways. Above all, I’ve learnt to listen to my heart, feed my soul, and slow myself down. Please know that the rich comments and support I’ve received from you whilst “dieting” have been awe-inspiring, filled with beauty, grace and reverence. Thank you so much dear poets and dreamers, your love, light and laughter have been the greatest of blessings during this time. My ankle is fully recovered and I’m still attending regular “weigh-ins” with the animus to check that all’s in balance within. In almost nine hundred nights I’m seeing the world differently, as those inner and outer shifts with my animus continue to take place.

I would like to acknowledge that without Carl Jung, Marion Woodman and many other great Jungian writers, including my friends, Elaine Mansfield, Jean Raffa and Susan Scott, all of whom I admire greatly, this Animus Diet would never have been possible! The Tarot played a big role in helping me to explore my masculine and feminine qualities, in search of creating inner balance and discovering ways to access those inner weighing scales. And in those days when my animus starts acting up, I look into the mirror and see that a midlife correction has taken place, with aging wisdom, smile lines and grey hair reflecting back to me and I say to him, “this sir is your new reality!”

Finally, as we approach Beltane, the great wedding of the Goddess and the God, I’ve hand fasted with my animus, tying the knot in a figure of eight. By binding our hands together and subsequently untying them, we remain together of our own free will. In this season of maturing life and deep found love, with both our hands unbound, my next book, “The Shepherd’s Daughter” awaits. All being well, I shall be working beside my midlife, metamorphosing animus and anima, otherwise known as Brutus and Olive Oyl. Wish me luck! “I’m strong to the finish, I love word and image … I’m Deborah who wed her (inner) man!” In sisterhood and in soul, Deborah.

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018
Image Credit: Google Images
(Tarot & Scrabble photos are mine)

Postscript: Here at Beltane, I sense a deep longing to wander in the natural world once more, to dance in the beauty and splendour of Summer. I am returning to novel writing for the next few months so will be scribbling away in the background, in-between, pulling on my walking boots and taking myself out, into the beauty of Gaia’s ancient woodlands and wild soul meadows. Bright Beltane blessings to all, Deborah.

© 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

20 thoughts on “Food for the Soul: The Animus Diet

  1. Thanks for your deep sharing.
    Many years ago I coined this invocation:

    make me true
    magnify my heart’s intent
    make the two one
    by love’s event

    1. A warm welcome to my poetry and Jungian thought website Ashen. Thank you so much for your kind-hearted words on my Animus Diet and sharing your beautiful invocation. Blessings always, Deborah.

  2. The image is spectacular. I laugh (in the sweetest of ways) at your first paragraph, knowing that, at least for me, the animus always has new tricks up his sleeve.

    And then the second paragraph and knowing the animus and shadow had joined forces–and you ritually burned the child of their union. I’m blown away by the specificity of that dream with the teacher. You didn’t have to work hard with obscure symbolism. Here. Do this! It’s clear. And you waited, because that’s the ego’s job to put it off. And your insistent Feminine Self tried again, this time bringing in your teacher Jung. Wow! Divine Intervention in Dreams after purging the Demon Lover. It brings me to tears–that you had so much abuse in your life and that you were able to liberate yourself and change paths. It gives me hope for my not nearly so dramatic Animus Diet.

    No wonder your ego had a meltdown. She’d invested so much in those dark words. I have never had to delete so much, but I know the Demon Lover. I’m grateful to Marion Woodman for helping me see him. Then the paragraph where you mention Marion. (I’m reading her last chapter in The Pregnant Virgin again as we study Kali in our mythology class. I recalled that Marion’s inner work began with a Kali initiation in India–after her ego was bashed to bits.)

    I’m deeply honored to be mentioned in your post. what would we do without these soul sisters? You’ve had a huge influence on me–along with teaching me more than I ever knew about Tarot, sharing your beautiful poems, and supporting my writing with ideas and heart. And your Blessed Beltane postscript–hand in hand with the Inner Marriage. Today I walked in the forest with my younger son (the musician). We looked for wildflowers and found many. Nature celebrating the new birth. I’ll likely post some photos on my FB page this week, so ask your wife to share them with you. You’re an amazing woman, Deborah. You give me faith in myself. I know you’ll keep writing. Don’t stay away too long, but then I have your book of poetry so will get to the end and begin over again, waiting for what comes next.

    1. Dear Elaine, Thank you so much for your totally amazing response to the final part of my Animus Diet. Your loving kindness and compassion fill my heart with joy! Even at first glance I knew the incredible (header) image was the one to use, and noted several other Jungian loving folk had used it for their own animus articles. Ha-Ha! Too true! Re: What new tricks the animus has hidden up his life-long (and possibly beyond!) sleeves.

      “Burning the child of their union” Wow, in such few words and so succinctly you’ve described exactly what happened! Thank you for gifting me the words to describe my experience of letting go of the book and reminding me that the ego’s job is to ignore this advice. Oh my goddess! Yes, when the (dream) teacher (and Jung himself!) gave my story back and told me it cannot be published … seldom am I told in such a clear way. “Work hard with obscure symbolism …” that did make me chuckle because it’s deeply true.

      Oh my Goddess! I’ve never (ever!) had an experience like it before, where I got to use my southern paw (I’m a left handed poet!) to completely knock out the ego in one fail swoop. For drawing out the Demon Lover’s poison was an incredible experience, one of shared imprisonment and liberation all at the same time! I sat with the tension of the opposites for nine full months and daily drew that poison out of my mind, body and heart.

      Without you my soul sisters, I would be lost more often, wandering alone, holding just the tiniest spark of hope. Appreciatively, this is not so, for with your loving souls and spirits walking beside me in life … I can feel myself reach up to my fullest height, widen to my fullest breadth, and watch in wonder as hope turns into a bright flame … and I hold up my torch (and heart) higher, to see further into the pregnant darkness, and for that I weep my dear friend, for that I weep, with the deepest gratitude and love. In soul, Deborah.

  3. Hi Deborah, I’ve read several articles on the Animus and your 4 part series helped break things down for this laywoman. Great work. It seems that becoming conscious is a very important aspect of integration. Btw, I’m halfway through the Goddess book.

    1. Thank you so much Mariquita for your wonderful comment! To be sure, becoming more conscious is the whole focus of working with the animus (and anima), with logic and intuition reaching a much more equal(ish) balance with each other … all the while, as we further integrate our spirit and soul.

      Now we are all post Jungians many believe (as I do) we have both anima and animus witihn … otherwise known (well, for me) as Olive & Brutus! In truth, the Animus Diet has been the greatest Jungian journey of love in my life. Thank you for your visit and a warm welcome to my blog. Bright Beltane blessings, Deborah.

  4. Deborah, publishing this now is the perfect way for you to mark the festival of Beltain – a time to celebrate the “fertility and rampant potency of the life-force” as author Glennie Kindred so succinctly describes it. The balancing of your relationship with your animus and the bond you have formed is peaking at a time when unions of all kinds physically, spiritually and in nature are celebrated – how amazing is that?!!

    How the universe works in so many mystical ways – and there is even more synchronicity in that you have also timed your publication of the latest instalment to coincide with a pink full moon in Scorpio. The pink moon marks a powerful time of rebirth and renewal and a culmination of all of your intentions made since the new moon two weeks ago. So this really is a very auspicious time to post your latest update.

    As for part four, well…this is really a wonderful piece of writing – looking back over your amazing journey with the animus and the tarot through this latest instalment brings home your dedication to learning and change. Seeing the comments made by others shows how well liked and respected you are for your Jungian perspectives and your poetry – especially in this case with the animus. For me what makes your work so enjoyable to follow is that it is so beautifully written, poetic yet very understandable too to a layperson like me!!

    May the next stage of your journey be blessed by the union of your Brutus and Olive Oyl as you embark on new adventures…and thank you again for sharing your Jungian learning in such an open, honest and poetic way! Warmest blessings, Sophia

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your truly wonderful review! Your soulful reflections and deep humanity shine through your words, I’m deep humbled. Yes, the timing couldn’t be any better! When a “handfasting” dream came this past week, I felt nudged and guided to write the final part of my “Animus Diet” this weekend rather than wait till next month. I love Glennie Kindred and have a handful of her small books, however, I’ve never visited her website before so thank you for the link. Even better, how exciting it is to discover she’s presently writing a new book about the wisdom of trees! I can’t wait to read it!

      Wow! I didn’t know anything about there being a “pink full moon” this weekend … it’s only upon reading your comment that I know anything! Is there someone you follow online who has written about this astral event? You see I’m even more intrigued with the timing now as more and more synchronistic alignments are taking place! I hope in later years to study astrology, when life becomes slower and I’m writing more and working less.

      For the past two and a half years, my readers comments and generous gifts of words have been such a rich abundance of learning, support and inspiration! Sophia, you’ve have been an amazing companion on my journey, and for that I thank you deeply! Tears fall as I type for your beautiful words of grace and reverence. I’m hardly Shakespeare but I love words, poetry in particular … it’s my first love, it got there before music … so while my teenage friends would go on about pop stars I would be turning to the poets, and many a bard or three to feed my soul. Warm and wild blessings, Deborah, (Brutus & Olive!)

        1. Here’s more synchronicity, my astrological sign is Scorpio! Hmm, no wonder the life force feels so powerful this weekend! That’s a great read, thank you! I love this question from the article, “What has to die in order to achieve unconditional love? The short answer I’m guessing is “fear” for as I ponder this and feel my animus’ hand in mine, I do feel less afraid. In many ways my Jungian studies have peeled back many layers, and all being well, under the bright healing light of this pink full moon, a few more will too. In soul, Deborah.

  5. Once gain you leave my animus speechless!! High impact writing and sensational finish. Indeed you married your man and the result is beautiful and very unique. Deborah, your Animus Diet leaves me breathless. I have never loved a Jungian series more in my entire life. In book form this would be a soul making book, in the best sense this word can evoke. All the best, Anna.

    1. Wow! Thank you so much Anna for your great review and high praise! One thing that comes from not depending on writing for a living is the freedom to tell the truth. That and having a goddess-loving, poetic INFP nature! If you’re interested here’s some more Jungian animus articles:

      An Animus book? It’s in the pipeline, though down the pipeline! Hopefully these ideas will continue to percolate in the world so others can benefit from more inner/outer balance. Appreciatively the “diet” idea is catching on! My deepest gratitude to you for being such a wonderful, generous and thoughtful companion on my animus journey! Blessings always, Deborah.

        1. Ha-ha! I love scrabble, no surprises there! Couldn’t resist setting up my board for an “Animus Diet” themed photo-shoot … in order to ‘marry word & image.’

  6. I feel like I’ve been given such a gift Deborah, being led here today to this post, and such a rich review of your amazing journey. There is so much to explore here and so much you’ve harvested – this is very bountiful invitation to move through this in slow time, delving and savoring. I’ll be camping here, and in your archives for a while. 🙂

    1. A warm welcome to my poetry and Jungian thought website! Thank you so much Deborah for your wonderful comment on my Animus Diet. In total I’ve written four parts and within this post I’ve included links to take you back two and a half years as my “diet” began. Susan’s wonderful nudge and kindness have introduced us to each other and for that I’m thankful. Enjoy your stay, wild camping can be exhilarating! Blessings always, Deborah.

  7. I’ve just read your beautiful update and congratulate you on your magnificent work: both verbal and soulful. Well, it’s all soulful!! How kind of you to include me as one of your mentor/friends.’ I’m deeply honored. You’re a rare soul, infinitely loved and lovable, and indomitable too! Your resilience is astonishing, your self-honesty, commitment, and perseverance, inspiring.

    Nine is a huge number for me as well. I’d tried to make the total words in the titles of my last three books 9, but haven’t succeeded yet. It seems the universe knew my work wasn’t finished. I think I can do it with this fourth one, however. I’m sure going to try. And along those lines, I may have some good news soon….I’ll let you know.

    Warm blessings to you, and congratulations on the smashing success of your animus diet. It’s been a joy to read and ponder and learn from.

    Warmest blessings from across the pond,


    1. What a gift to my heart and soul your friendship and kindness is! Thank you so much Jeanie for your beautiful comment. Tears flow, and my heart burns with joy! It’s been a two and a half year Jungian journey of love and you’ve accompanied me every step of the way. Your treasured replies have nurtured and nourished, providing rich food for the soul!

      I hope by sharing my journey through my poems, writings and Jungian studies that I can help others on their journey to believe as Elaine tells me, in second and third chances in life. And no matter that the odds are stacked against it, healing is possible! Jung and the Jungians have shone a bright on me and now it is my turn to turn it back out to the world.

      Hmm, my first poetry book was eight, “A Liberated Sheep in a Post Shepherd World” … the journey far from over! I feel gently nudged to look more into the number nine! I’m so happy you’re writing, and cannot wait to see your new work. I see you there in the Great Mother’s kitchen, stirring into the melting pot, all you need. Warm and wild blessings, Deborah.

  8. It’s 6.30 on the dot as I have just finished reading this extraordinary prose Deborah thank you so much. I say 6.30 (which adds up to nine) because at this very moment my latest blog post has gone up in which I add your link on Animus Diet Part 3, and it was just before I finished reading that I saw you have included me in your friends. I am deeply honoured more than you can know. Your generous sharing of yourself in your writings has struck a deep chord with me, as has your support in mine. And, synchronicity must ALWAYS be acknowledged – Deborah Weber in her latest A-Z post writes about The Fool inter alia ..

    May your Beltane celebrations and hand fasting in the figure 8 continue with Olive Oyl and Brutus finding each other – and thank you again for all who you are. Blessings to you dear friend, Susan

    1. Thank you so much Susan for your generous, heartfelt words and for including my animus link in your latest post. I’m wiping the tears away as I type for such is the joy (and relief!) I feel in this moment. You’ve been the finest of companions on my rich animus journey. Your support and encouragement have helped me many times when I felt stuck, fed up and suspended! It was a moment of pure revelation to me when you unpacked the word “animation” and “a-ni-mate” so early on my journey … which made so much sense as to why I choose the cartoons to illustrate what was going on within.

      OMG! (Oh my Goddess!) Yes to synchronicity! I do know that the number nine is magical and represents the end (phew!) of a long cycle, and so it is today. My nine hundred nights weren’t up officially up until June but a recent “handfasting” dream with my fine animus has led me to sit down and write the final part this weekend, in pure synchronicity as we approach Beltane. For sure, I’ll check out Deborah’s Tarot post! Warm and wild blessings, Deborah

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