There are variables that influence the degree of gender expression in humans. Intrauterine high levels of testosterone in female fetuses can make tomboys out of biological females and genetic mutations of chromosomes called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome create both male/female non-functional genitalia in one person. Of course no one has a monopoly on truth and there are many approaches. There are child rearing practices that influence gender identity. My focus here is on how the psyche produces contra-sexual identities through psychological identifications and unconscious mechanisms called autonomous complexes based on Animus/Anima archetypes and the how the Self orchestrates the whole process.
We approach Truth as an ideal ; both inner and outer truths preoccupy our goals and desires. Perception of what images we are motivated by, what emotions stir us and what thoughts ultimately come to consciousness requires reflection and an inner journey. Lets go on an inner journey now into the realms of the unconscious.
There are inner voices and images we are not consciously aware of in the not-conscious or unconscious fields. This field is not a ‘place’ in the literal sense but has an energy that is “extra-conscious whose contents are impersonal and collective” (Jung, C. G. Jung, Aion. Bollingen Series XX . 1978, p. 7). “It (The Collective Unconscious) forms an omnipresent, unchanging, and everywhere identical quality or substrate of the psyche”(Jung, Aion, p. 7). We are driven to behaviors by the particular nature of this field that conforms to law just as the instinct substrate that is common to all peoples.
From this figure we see in the lower part, the inner world, of the collective unconscious. It contains two words- Animus- Anima. The Anima expression in the psyche of both sexes is determined by your experience as a child with your caretaker or mother.
The boy experiences his original identity with the mother as a relation
of like to unlike, as a relation to a non-self, to an ‘other’, an opposite,
symbolized by all the obvious sexual differences… his self discovery
takes place in opposition to the primary relationship with the mother
and this effects greater isolation through its new emphasis on objectivity
and ego consciousness.”(Ulanov, Ibid.).
For the female, at stage one of Animus development, according to Ulanov, the
girl’s ego is totally enmeshed in identification with the mother. At
stage two, the patriarchal stage, the ego of the girl is confronted with
the male image which has numinous qualities and is alien to her. The
girl understands at this stage with her heart not her head, and sees the
father as a robber or penetrator who overpowers her sense of balance,
overwhelms her consciousness and transforms her personality and/or she can perceive her father as benevolent and kind figure but who is involved with objects of the world not so much with relationships as she is.
The different experiences of a mature man or woman with the contra-sexual unconscious complexes (anima and animus), is based on the original relationship
with the mother and the Self. Once the Animus/Anima have been integrated into our consciousness, as the male inside the female; and the female inside the male the process of individuation has begun. The Self orchestrates this process of integration , brings to completion the union of opposites within and one is poised for self-realization.
Thus, we carry within us contra-sexual uncionscious identities of the male inside the female (Animus) and the female inside the male (Anima). Animus and Anima “personify and possess contents that when withdrawn from projection, can be integrated into our conscious awareness. To this extent, both figures represent functions which filter the contents of the collective unconscious through to our conscious mind.”(Jung, Aion, p. 20). These contents are harmless as long as the tendencies of our conscious and unconscious do not diverge to greatly.
But in the Western world, we don’t generally recognize an unconscious so the tension that arises from these Animus/Anima functions create a splitting-off, independent or autonomous part of our personality. Your ego may not be aware of their qualities and as each forms a blind spot in your consciousness and they can induce you behave in a surprising manner. The contents of the Animus and Anima can be integrated and known to you personally, but their whole natures cannot be since they are archetypes which are much larger energy symbols containing the sum total of positive and negative valences of male and female psychology of the past and present based on mythology, the sum total of the content of civilizations, and the artistic projections on caves from the dawn of pre-history.
It is through withdrawing the projections of the contents of Animus and Anima that we dimly become aware that there are forces operating within us that are acting independently of our will and conscious intentions. If you have ever had a fight with the opposite sex in which you said and did things, made accusations that hurt the other deeply and were sorry for them later; then, you dealt with the Animus/Anima projections. We can obtain a glimpse of their operations when they show up in dreams, for example, as female figures (Anima) in males and male figures (Animus) in females.
Archetypes of the Animus/Anima become conscious when we study our dreams, inspirations, and insights. Dreaming of a woman by a male is part of his Anima and the drama they are involved in reveals the stage of development the man’s Anima is at the time of the dream. If Joe dreams of a seductress woman who gives him an erection, then his Anima is the most basic and immature level of Anima expression- the erotic attraction or physical level. A woman who dreams of a Bluebeard thief taking her possessions, has fear due to her Animus revealing an immature, alien, male experience.
Eventually we can have thoughts, emotions, desires, sensations and images from the Animus/Anima complex which stimulate our ego identity and actually change it. If we can realize that the touchy and irritable female part of us has come out in an argument with our female partner and it poisons our emotions a bit, we can be careful about calling our lovers names in the heat of a disagreement. But for the most part unless we study these processes of Animus/Anima projections through dream interpretation, they operate below the threshold of our awareness.
We should mention we have a changing ego-identity and events of the day and the archetypes of the Animus/Anima can affect us multiple ways without our being aware. Body identity, occupational identity, family role identity, partner identity, spiritual identity are all influenced by these independent functions of the unconscious contents of the Anima/ Animus.
“For both sexes, the Self as the center of the total psyche is experienced
in immediate identity with the body. Thus, it (the Self) takes on
characteristics of the exterior physical self.”(Ulanov, Ann, The Feminine.p. 242) as the Animus/Anima comtents are assimilated into our ego.
Mother, Father, Hero, Devil, Enchantress, Divine Holy Spirit are archetypes that are not consciously suppressed because they operate deep within the psyche without our knowledge. These archetypes are not contained in our personal unconscious which can be accessed through psychotherapy. Instead these archetypes are entrained to the Self archetype from the field of the collective unconscious! We are dimly aware of their operations except through dream dramas which are enacted while we sleep.
The Self is an archetype that symbolizes order and wholeness; it contains both positive and negative symbols and contents. For example, Great Mother/Terrible Mother both are contained in the Self. Which one is constellated at any given time, can be observed after a fearful or inspiring dream. For men, these Archetypes are contained in the Anima Complex and projected out onto women as Redemer, spirit guide,seductress, or witch, depending on the maturity of their development in the individual. Anima figures can motivate us males to great deeds depending on their level of creative inspiration and/or induce us to yearn for the opposite sex as a partner.
The Great Father/Devil are also contained in the Self archetype in the female psyche. Male images as the laborer, judge, teacher, monk, Prince Charming, prophet, magician, or rapist are observed by study of the emotionally significant dreams with the capacity to penetrate, separate, take charge, initiate, create, stand firm, etc. These motivate the female to act in the outside world with an identity which is compatible with her ego confidence and development. (Ulanov, Ann, The Feminine, Northwestern University Press, 1971, p. 42).
Without the study of unconscious processes through art, dreams, inspirations, and literature; we can miss opportunities to channel the contents of the Self for our personal development and psychological growth. And such refusal for introspection, can set the stage for the unconscious and autonomous contents of the Self to flood the ego with images, projections, possessions and psychic experiences that can challenge the current ego identity of the individual. This can be scary; it often occurs at ages 45-47 during mid- life crisis, but can occur anytime in the life cycle.
Obsessions and manic behavior can take hold and create a psychic imbalance creating paranoia, insomnia and possessive states such as ego inflation that appear unstable. But they are psychic storms , manifestations that the Self is working on creating order by compensating for the imbalance by creating an opposite and grounded image from the center of the psyche.
By studying our dreams, the manifestations of the Archetypes of Animus/Animus and with the faith that the the Self can compensate for psychic imbalance, we can become whole, mature human beings in the relationships with the opposite sex that result in fruitful and satisfying love relationships.