My Inner Masculine (aka My Animus) is Taking a Break

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW

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Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

In Whitman’s Song of Myself the great poet beautifully conveys the complexity of our shared humanity and the depth of our spiritual communion with the Universe. Similarly, the concept of Self is interpreted by father of depth psychology Carl Jung as consisting of the personal and the trans- personal, ego-consciousness and unconsciousness. Like Whitman, Jung concurs, “I am large, I contain multitudes.

Comprising these multitudes are Archetypes. Emanating from our shared collective unconscious archetypes comprise intrinsic components of the Self. They are universal innate themes and images that influence our values and our behavior. One of an infinite array of archetypes is the animus.

Animus is a Latin word that means “the rational soul; life; the mental powers, intelligence.” Carl Jung referred to the animus as the unconscious male dimension in the female psyche. This masculine imprint, derived from an introject of ones father, in its positive form provides grounded order, stamina, ambition, vitality and sharp intellect.

The psychological construct of a woman being supported by a strong inner masculine (animus) is indeed abstract. Yet this paradigm works for me. After years of shadow work and the dismantling of a male introject steeped in narcissism and misogyny, I am now fortunately familiar with the life-affirming needs of a healthy animus. My animus no longer wounds my feminine spirit. As long as I accommodate his need to exercise the mind, to exercise (!), to take action and fearlessly assert ideas, to revel in autonomy, wanderlust and ambitions, internal accord is maintained.

Yet as of late this vital part of my personality is asleep.

I know this because I feel listless and out of balance. Analytical rationality is eclipsed by what I see as an irrational world. It’s too daunting to muster up the energy to craft coherent arguments about pretty much anything. Reluctantly I might assert the unpopular view, but I cringe at the backlash of cancel culture. There is a dearth of dialogue. Dialogue I can at least engage with. It’s the aggressive righteous posturing that makes me recede into insulation.

Five days a week I’m strapped to my computer providing trauma therapy sessions, that for thirty years I rendered in-person. Somehow I experience the replacement of face to face human contact with pixelated engagement as more depleting. The exhaustion from empathic overload coupled with an underutilization of my ‘inner guy’ has ignited hibernation.

Occasionally my animus emerges from his slumber. His presence ignited thoughts about visiting Nashville in July and going back to Montreal in October. This makes me feel alive. My animus thrives on wanderlust. Likewise, when a few weeks back I was asked to participate in a documentary about the opiate epidemic I felt my initiative return. My logical mind took hold. It was stimulating to boldly assert my ideas and assessments. I was given a platform by filmmakers who put faith in my perspectives. This awakened a dormant energy, that in the aftermath prompted me to book a long weekend in nature and even craft a dissident article about Big Pharma.

It was nice while it lasted.

I’ve returned to the lethargy of nesting and taking cover. Exercising with a mask on is out of the question. These days, so is riding the MTA. I used to study kung-fu and self defense. Strong supportive male martial artists helped me to access my inner warrior. Now I fear getting on the train to trek into Manhattan. Maybe it was that man who was stabbed to death down the block from my former office in Times Square, or the shooting that occurred right outside the building that deters me. Tragically junkies are nodding out in full view on the street. It’s a war zone. The animus principle of protection is clashing with very real dangers. I suppose a semi-vegetative state is preferable to getting killed. So is spending a fortune on Uber.

Within the confines of my home I can express my vulnerability with my husband Octavio and to some degree, in appropriate ways with my clients. It is there I feel safe. It is there that my inner masculine is inspired to emerge through playfulness and humor. When Octavio plays the sax or guitar I feel enlivened, but I am the audience, not the performer. Eros needs logos to generate creative expression and right now that function is sluggish.

The conditions that stimulate my animus are compromised by a dystopian landscape. Consequently I am challenged to discern how to channel energy so that internal harmony ensues. After all, what we carry in our psyches expresses itself in the world. Thankfully I am no longer psychologically hounded by core traumatic wounds of objectification that set me up to be a magnet for smarmy narcissistic men. The dynamic with my animus is different now. It is a manageable, loving collaboration. Somehow we will work this out.

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Heeding the words of Jung, “we should talk to our anima or animus …so you listen to the inner mentor, you develop your inner ear; or you write automatically and a word is formed by your hand, or your mouth speaks that which you have not thought.” (Cornwall Seminar)

Indeed, dialogue must ensue. If societal, parental, and cultural conditioning demeans the feminine (which it often does) animus energy may be either inhibited and weak or a destructive dominant force. Depending on the rules of engagement, or lack thereof with the animus, dialogue can be fruitful or fraught with strife.

I am grateful to be able to reap the harvest of dialoguing. What results is illuminating. Trusting his sensible wisdom and knowing he respects my intuitive emotional nature allows us to bring to consciousness the need for a shared sense of entitlement. I am reminded by my inner Guy that like many empathic women I can get wrapped up in the needs and feelings of others to my detriment. My feeling faculties need containment and perspective. Emotional reactions to others struggles or projections are not always warranted. My need to feel inspired and to not feel afraid to communicate ideas that aren’t popular requires a thicker skin.

Correspondingly I need my animus to resist the urge to withdraw when he’s not stimulated. By design the animus is ideally meant to empower my feminine nature. His strength and support is crucial to my persevering through difficulties. Likewise he needs my compassionate understanding. It’s not easy to show up and logically brave difficulties while taking the high road. He’s exhausted. We both are. Honoring this sacred bond known as the Hieros Gamos, we agree to do better.

In warm embrace we joke maybe it’s time for him to revisit the Stoics and for me to find a juicy novel to lose myself in. We solemnly acknowledge that bucket list of goals seeking realization; the coaching certification, Octavio’s Canadian sponsorship, the move to Montreal, subletting an office space to revisit in-person sessions. It will get done. With relief we also remind each other of the R and R awaiting us in new, unexplored and also previously visited cherished parts of the world. Together we affirm, we will carry on and face life with the emotional grace and decisive assertion embodied in our union. That is, until further need for resuscitation challenges us to converse again.

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As a survivor (and thriver) of complex trauma and a seasoned therapist specializing in treating complex trauma, narcissistic abuse syndrome and addictions, I am intent on creating content that affords informative insight, hope and healing from psychological disorders. I aim for my creative content to assist readers with tapping into the resiliency of the human condition while recognizing the countless challenges of being human.

New York City, NY
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