Okay, that’s it, I’m putting my fat animus on a post-holiday diet! For too long now he’s been aggressively stuffing me full of sugar and fat and making me feel, well, quite ill, if not tired most of the time. As a student of Jung I simply have to try out this lower inner-man diet. So back to the book shelves I go, to pull out Marion Woodsman’s impressive books that help me study “Feminine Consciousness” in more depth and try to figure out how to curb my invisible partner’s hunger.
In physical terms I don’t have much weight to lose, somewhere around 4.5 kg (10 lb) in order to fit into my jeans more comfortably. I’ve decided, as I usually eat reasonably healthily, that I’m not going to change my diet too much, instead, I’m going to change the way I interact with my “internal man.” Psychologically, however, I know I need to create more of a balance by way of plumping up my skinny feminine self and slimming down my overweight masculine side. When I came across the humorous sketch above, it perfectly illustrated for me how I felt my animus was taking up too much room “on the inside.”
This article will be the first part and I hope to follow up with part two in eight weeks’ time, to let you know a) if I’ve lost any weight and b) how those eight weeks have gone. If there are any Jungian loving folk out there who would also would like to trial this diet with me, do shout out. For the record, I first started this diet four weeks ago and will be trialling the diet for approximately 12 weeks in total during which time I will keep a journal.
Who Is the Animus?
Okay, let’s start with the animus – who is this internal figure that can hold such an influence over a woman? According to Jung, the animus is an “inner masculine” figure for women (men’s inner feminine figure is known as the anima) who works in both positive and negative ways. Sometimes a woman can be ruled by her animus and the way in which we recognise this is largely because she holds little feeling, or nurturance for herself or others. She’s often a bossy, opinionated and narrow-minded type of woman, for whom intellect and logic, and the company of men prove far more agreeable.
On the other hand, the animus’ has positive aspects for a woman too which include courage, confidence, analytical thought, strength, vitality, decisiveness, and a focussed desire to achieve. When he dominates a woman he is seen negatively as aggressive, ruthless, argumentative and robotic. He likes to be in control or in charge, however, that does not mean all female bosses are animus-possessed women. There are many women who have leadership skills that are based on feminine values of openness, receptivity and nurturance. To give you more of an idea of the difference I’ll turn to Jung who remarked that, “A woman possessed by the animus is always in danger of losing her femininity.” [Anima and Animus, CW 7, par. 337.]
Returning to the subject of food, I notice my animus often eats hurriedly. Wolfing his meals down, he eats a lot of foodstuff, never quite knowing when he’s full. Actually he’s always hungry, like the wolf, or so the song goes. Frequently he convinces me that I’m hungry when I’m really not, often confusing my spiritual hunger for physical hunger. Now, as you’ve probably guessed, my animus is a bit inclined to be on the heavy side, one who longs for control and to eat plenty of sweet, sugary things all day. You, however, may have a different kind of animus altogether, one who insists you don’t eat more than an apple a day. I’ll talk more about him and a ‘bikini’ moment I had later.
In essence, what needs to happen is that the animus ought to be working in harmony with the feminine consciousness, not against it. He needs to gain knowledge of how to support her by feeding her up (and not just himself!) and to co-operatively care for my body’s well-being. In doing so, I believe a holistic, health-giving relationship with the body will be introduced. One of kindness, healing and love, in which I can interrupt the animus from running my body-show and allow myself to tend to my father-wound.
Rescuing the Feminine
What I needed to kick this project off, I realised, was a well thought out distraction. So on the first weekend I devised a plan to get him out of the way and sent my animus off for a boys-own weekend. That way I could get on with the important task of rediscovering and reclaiming my own feminine body. After all, she’s mine! Once I knew he had left the building I took a long scented bath, soaked until I shrivelled. He hates that, me wasting time, any time. Afterwards I indulged myself with nurturing products and enjoyed turning my skin into silk. The secret in getting in touch with your feminine side, I discovered, was not what you used on your body, but how you used it. This realisation took me to the next step, my wardrobe.
Hmm, he loves heels, she loves Birkenstock’s. We’re talking opposites. My wardrobe, like many other women’s I guess, is a place in which we often fight with our animus. I started by gathering a large collection of clothes and shoes which I had last worn in my forties and laid them out on the bed. One by one I kept, threw away or put aside for the charity shops things that no longer fit, were too young-looking or items that the animus in particular valued. Thank goodness he was away, I laughed, as I packed up three large bags of clothes.
I’d been planning that one for ages, ever since he cringed at me wearing a bikini, “Oh no don’t do that!” he yelled. “You’re too old, too fat, and too ugly!” Well, ain’t he something I thought?! After I closed the wardrobe doors I decided to symbolically clean and polish its three mirrors. For now I wanted to see myself clearly, as the woman I am, not the “one apple a day person” he wants me to be, and to learn how to be happy with the way I look with every part of my body, not how I was being judged by him.
Since mid-life my changing body was becoming more womanly and my animus hated it. “Starve, don’t feed it!” he would shout at me daily. Relentlessly he would yell, “Strict diet, exercise, exercise, exercise until all those curves and softness have disappeared. Turn it into muscle!” The daily, sometimes hourly fight with him was relentless because on the one hand he wanted to reduce my womanly size 14 body to an impossible size 10. On the other he would be force feeding me chocolate biscuits before I even realised what was happening. He was trying every way he could think of to control and manipulate me.
The Animus Diet
As I see it, this diet is going to be a win-win situation and a great way, I thought, to do both the inner and outer work. Initially seeing past the fat animus is hard work, and if you’re struggling to understand maybe it’s because you can’t really see the animus in you. Maybe he doesn’t like you trying new things, instead he prefers to rely heavily on logic, or control. At his most horrible, he can be violent, restrictive and heavy handed with your body. The task of any woman is to get to know her animus by questioning her ideas, opinions and by being aware of how she responds to situations. For me, with the awareness I’ve managed to develop, I realise that my Self often has to work as a referee between me and my animus, as he’s the one who always wants the last word.
After the weekend, come Monday morning he’s back in my bed, sharp as a razor as he whispers in my ear that I’ve been missing out and it’s time to get back to my usual feasting. Neither is he happy at all with the empty coat hangers and shoe boxes in the wardrobe. I know I will need to continue strengthening the feminine within to silence his influence. “A woman needs to be more receptive, intuitive and feeling,” I keep telling myself. And as a woman and poet I need to be eating words, not sugar. Although it’s not entirely about my body, it’s certainly all about my relationship with my inner archetype. For caught in the grip of the animus a woman can feel cut off from the sweetness of life.
I know deep down he loves me. We do have moments when I catch him looking at me and I hear him telling me how beautiful I am. It’s enjoyable. We merge then, when we’re working together. I finish his sentences, I laugh with him, and we laugh and create together. I love those times. What’s he like? What makes him happy? Let’s be friends I offer, because I want him to stop looking at me as though I’m not good enough. I am. Sometimes I listen to his mad, raving rants and they shock me. In his positive light he’s a function that connects a woman with her deepest self and personhood and creativity, her work, her word, her ideas, herself.
Jung described four stages of animus development in a woman. The first stage is the manifestation of physical power, so in dreams and life he appears as an athlete champion, muscle man or thug. The fictional jungle hero Tarzan is a great model. In the second stage the animus exhibits initiative and the capacity for planned action, showing up as a romantic poet, war hero, and hunter. The poet Percy Shelley and writer Ernest Hemmingway are two such examples. In the third stage, the animus is the “word,” often personified in dreams as a professor, politician or priest. Lloyd George, the great political orator illustrates this stage well. In the fourth and final stage, the animus becomes the incarnation of spiritual meaning, embodying guidance and wisdom. Jung felt that Hermes, the messenger of the gods represented this stage. Some women get stuck at certain stages however, fortunately for us we can overcome this by balancing our animus with our feminine side through our own creativity.
Journey of Love
Openness to the feminine is crucial for women. The whole mythology surrounding the mysterious Black Madonna, emphasises the earthiness of women that has been mostly lost in today’s society. With this in mind during the last month I have endeavoured to reclaim my feminine body through walking, having body treatments, enjoying art at local exhibitions, using my creativity (positive animus) to write new poetry, forgetting perfection. Listening to music, working more with the Tarot, cooking healthy meals. In particular I have felt guided and influenced by the beautiful, earthy Queen of Pentacles to connect more with nature. I have approached exercise in a more feminine way, swimming and cycling regularly whilst tuning in to my body and listening to it rather than working it to exhaustion or punishing it.
These are some of the ways I have started to reclaim and plump up my feminine side, however, there are many more ways that could help us learn to love ourselves and our bodies exactly as they are. These include learning how to “mother” ourselves by allowing others to help us rather than stubbornly going it alone. We can develop earthier natures by exploring and connecting more with Nature, Mythology, or perhaps joining a women’s group where the great wise crone energy awaits each woman.
So here I am in week 4 of my Animus Diet, fully immersed in creative processes to transform my relationship with him and slim him down. In my notebooks I have kept a record of what he says and thinks. How he names the places where I’m fat, not good enough or hopeless and how they aren’t even true. He knows I’ve turned down the volume on his deafening screams and insidious whispers. I am clearing my image of him from the inside, hopefully transforming him into the kind of inner masculine figure I’m interested in being in a relationship with. I ask myself, if I could see him as a healed man, how would he look?
Presently I see my animus fluctuating between the starry-eyed poet and the articulate politician (stages two and three) and both sit within as inner enemy and friend. I like to imagine them sitting on each shoulder, whispering or shouting. I listen to both sides of my animus, then decide what’s true for myself. Hearing their voices is helpful and I love getting acquainted with them. I’ve created a wonderful collage of both of them, and using active imagination dialogue with them regularly. I listen then and write down what they say, hoping to be led to psychological fulfillment, spiritual growth and comfortable jeans. Diets don’t work, this is true, however, I believe balancing my inner-man with my feminine side is going to be something entirely different.
A journey of love, with no calorie counting involved!
Three months later, here’s what happened next: The Animus Diet – Part Two
Eighteen months later, here’s what happened next: The Animus Diet – Part Three
Nine hundred nights later, here’s the final part: Food for the Soul: The Animus Diet
Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2016
Image 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