The Animas in their summer dresses

Channel No 5Hexagram 1The Anima is a Jungian word for the archetype of the woman a man most longs for.  In actuality, the Anima is best understood as both the feminine soul of a man, and as the ideal which drives the pursuit of the “soul mate.”  It is more than just sexual desire that provokes men to look at women, it is also an unconscious searching for that elusive spark that will complete the Jerry Maguire in the everyman.

Of course, since women are sexually responsive to being utterly and singularly desired, there is a natural conflict between men looking at every woman, and women wanting to be the one and only woman that all men look at.  Given that children benefit from harmonious relationships between their parents (even if those parents no longer are together), a deeper understanding of the Anima might help us be better parents.  (Note, the female counterpart to this is the Animus, to be addressed in another blog, for now it needs just two words:  George Clooney).

For a nice illustration of the Anima and its capacity to make trouble, the following excerpt from a short story by Irwin Shaw, “The Girls in their Summer Dresses,” will do nicely:

“Why do you hurt me?” Frances asked. “What’re you doing?”

 Michael sighed and closed his eyes and rubbed them gently with his fingertips. “I love the way women look. One of the things I like best about New York is the battalions of women. When I first came to New York from Ohio that was the first thing I noticed, the million wonderful women, all over the city. I walked around with my heart in my throat.”

 “A kid,” Frances said. “That’s a kid’s feeling.”

 “Guess again,” Michael said. “Guess again. I’m older now, I’m a man getting near middle age, putting on a little fat and I still love to walk along Fifth Avenue at three o’clock on the east side of the street between Fiftieth and Fifty-seventh streets, they’re all out then, making believe they’re shopping, in their furs and their crazy hats, everything all concentrated from all over the world into eight blocks, the best furs, the best clothes, the handsomest women, out to spend money and feeling good about it, looking coldly at you, making believe they’re not looking at you as you go past.”

 The Japanese waiter put the two drinks down, smiling with great happiness.

 “Everything is all right?” he asked.

 “Everything is wonderful,” Michael said.

 “If it’s just a couple of fur coats,” Frances said, “and forty-five-dollar hats . . .”

 “It’s not the fur coats. Or the hats. That’s just the scenery for that particular kind of woman. Understand,” he said, “you don’t have to listen to this.”

 “I want to listen.”

 “I like the girls in the offices. Neat, with their eyeglasses, smart, chipper, knowing what everything is about, taking care of themselves all the time.” He kept his eye on the people going slowly past outside the window. “I like the girls on Forty-fourth Street at lunchtime, the actresses, all dressed up on nothing a week, talking to the good-looking boys, wearing themselves out being young and vivacious outside Sardi’s, waiting for producers to look at them. I like the salesgirls in Macy’s, paying attention to you first because you’re a man, leaving lady customers waiting, flirting with you over socks and books and phonograph needles. I got all this stuff accumulated in me because I’ve been thinking about it for ten years and now you’ve asked for it and here it is.”

 “Go ahead,” Frances said.

 “When I think of New York City, I think of all the girls, the Jewish girls, the Italian girls, the Irish, Polack, Chinese, German, Negro, Spanish, Russian girls, all on parade in the city. I don’t know whether it’s something special with me or whether every man in the city walks around with the same feeling inside him, but I feel as though I’m at a picnic in this city. I like to sit near the women in the theaters, the famous beauties who’ve taken six hours to get ready and look it. And the young girls at the football games, with the red cheeks, and when the warm weather comes, the girls in their summer dresses . . .” He finished his drink. “That’s the story. You asked for it, remember. I can’t help but look at them. I can’t help but want them.”

 “You want them,” Frances repeated without expression. “You said that.”

 “Right,” Michael said, being cruel now and not caring, because she had made him expose himself. “You brought this subject up for discussion, we will discuss it fully.”

 Frances finished her drink and swallowed two or three times extra. “You say you love me?”

 “I love you, but I also want them. Okay.”

 “I’m pretty, too,” Frances said. “As pretty as any of them.”

 “You’re beautiful,” Michael said, meaning it…

(to read the whole story check out

A few things to keep in mind when contemplating the Anima:  while every man has an Anima, most men do not realize this.  Therefore they go chasing and seeking and dreaming and spending and sneaking around in a futile bid to find something that was, and still is, to be found only within their own selves.  The ideal partner for a man would be his best living approximation of his Anima, but only if he were conscious of this.  Instead, many men try to get the rain in Spain to stay mainly on the plain, only to have their ingenue bloom and then leave their ass because he is such a control freak.

Or else a man may chase after girl after girl (I say “girl” because individuated women don’t tend to go for the Pueri, the never grown-up boy-men) and to quote a famous seducer of women, must eventually learn that “the f-ing you get is not worth the f-ing that you get.”

Thus an individual love relationship always has at least four “people” in it:  the man, the woman (or two men, or two women) and then an Anima and an Animus (or a couple of Animas, as with a lesbian couple).  The main point is that it serves us to recognize that the elusive and ephemeral ideal that we may chase after, and look for in every passing figure, is truly to be found within us.

Our Anima/Animus is our perfect mate in that he/she is a shape-shifter (so to be never boring or overly familiar) and yet they are also eternally familiar (so as to never seem strange or alien to us, much less critical or rejecting of us); he/she is our perfect partner–physically, sexually, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  In fact, life is best for us when our Anima/Animus is consciously loved and acknowledged, then they will guide us to those flesh and blood humans they most approve of.  They are not jealous, quite the contrary, they are always looking for the ideal person with whom to have a threesome.  And they are not stupid, and will help you be loyal and realize that you have quite possibly found your perfect soul-mate in the very one you are with right now.  It may not be them that you have the real problem with… it might be with your Anima/Animus.  And if not being in a relationship is the only way that you can get into a serious and intimate relationship with your true soul (and psychological mate), then that may explain something of your difficulty in healing your self-esteem and trusting that you truly are beautiful and lovable.  Don’t take it from me, ask your Anima or your Animus.

So, if your partner dreams of some movie star, or you catch them looking at some hottie on the street, try not to take offense, but rather take mental notes on the shape of their Anima/Animus.  For if you can handle the fact of the Anima/Animus in your lover, you will be able to transcend jealousy and be their partner in crime, falling into better harmony with their Anima/Animus while simultaneously honoring your own.

This may seem a little complicated, but love is rather complicated.  So, let’s honor our Animas and Animus today, in honor of more complete feelings of love and understanding within us, of greater and more compassionate pleasure between us, and toward greater tranquility and calm for all the collective children amidst us.

Namaste, Bruce


3 Responses to “The Animas in their summer dresses”

  1. Missing Miss April « Privilegeofparenting’s Blog Says:

    […] of multiple Miss Aprils once and eternally swirling about the City of Big Shoulders, presaging the Animas in their summer dresses, and I think about how lonely I was then in […]

  2. Molly@Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce Says:

    Very interesting article Bruce. I responded to your comment on my site. But I am wondering…does/can our Animus change over time? I find myself responding to a very different kind of man now that I am in my forties.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      I would say yes; our anima/animus is a shape-shifter that reflects the aspects that we are still drawn to where we are now, and less the aspects that we have already integrated in our past. For example, men are drawn to the wounded bird until they recognize and heal their own wounds; likewise women may be drawn to Peter Pan man-boys until they individuate into womanhood and then prefer men to match them.

      The key thing is differentiating the anima/animus (as our own soul-self) from the real others we love and relate with so that we don’t just project and interact with ourselves, obscuring the real others who we love.

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