Notes Psychology

The Shadow, and The Anima

The Shadow

True, whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.

Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, C.G. Jung 

The confrontation with the shadow is the first test of courage in the path towards individuation. This confrontation is frightening to most people – recognizing the most unpleasant things about yourself is disconcerting. It is easier for you to project your shadow onto the rest of the world, conceiving of yourself as a truly good person, while reserving the qualities of wretchedness, aggression, hatred, and greed to other people.

Jung tells us to acknowledge our dark side, to confront our shadow – he does not believe that the ‘rational’ approach to dealing with your shadow works – that is, to deny its existence.

The shadow is a living part of the personality and therefore wants to live with it in some form. It cannot be argued out of existence or rationalized into harmlessness. This problem is exceedingly difficult, because it not only challenges the whole man, but reminds him at the same time of his helplessness and ineffectuality. Strong natures—or should one rather call them weak?—do not like to be reminded of this, but prefer to think of themselves as heroes who are beyond good and evil.

Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, C.G. Jung 

As proof of the existence of the shadow, people constantly do things they don’t want to do. Jung gives us the example of war. Everyone in the world wants peace and prosperity, and yet, the nations of the world are fighting an aggressive arms race. There is a disconnect between conscious intention and reality. A professor may preach the noble virtues of the Greeks to their children and their peers but will happily engage in deception in reality. This is because the psyche isn’t a coherent entity that you have full control of. It is not a homogeneous unit, but a boiling pot of contradictory impulses and inhibitions.

The shadow can take possession of the individual, the same way the anima can. These are what Jung calls “inferior functions.” Once possessed by the shadow, the individual behaves in ways that are not congruent with his conscious desires. He stands in his own light and falls into his own traps. He makes bad impressions on others when he gets the chance, and luck always seems to be against him, because he lives short of his potential. The best that he attains does not suit him. And if he has nothing to trouble him, he will manufacture something that will,  and then convince himself that he has done something useful.


The anima is a factor of the utmost importance in the psychology of a man wherever emotions and affects are at work. She intensifies, exaggerates, falsifies, and mythologizes all emotional relations with his work and with other people of both sexes. The resultant fantasies and entanglements are all her doing. When the anima is strongly constellated, she softens the man’s character and makes him touchy, irritable, moody, jealous, vain, and unadjusted. He is then in a state of “discontent” and spreads discontent all around him.

– Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, C.G. Jung 

The anima is the feminine personality in men, while the animus is the masculine personality in women. For heterosexual men nearing the middle of life, around the age of 35, the loss of the anima can be undertaken without injury to the psyche. In this stage, what is important is for a man to be a man. This is when the individual must free himself from the anima fascination of his mother.

But after the middle of life, the permanent loss of the anima restricts vitality, flexibility, and human kindness. This results in premature rigidity, fanatical one-sidedness, stereotypy, or even irresponsibility.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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