Creating Riveting Romances In Fiction - The Anima-Animus Archetype
Creating Riveting Romances In Fiction - The Anima-AnimusArchetype (Part 1)Psychological research shows a mere three things are crucial to human happiness, and one of themis love.*Gods and goddesses of love, passion, fertility, and even marital fidelity appear in the earliest historicwritings, and many of the stories that have endured best feature male and female heroes passionatelove affairs. Famous examples include Chrétien de Troyes tale of Queen Gueneveres love affair withLancelot (c. 1170); Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet (1597); and Charles Perraults Sleeping Beauty(1697).This basic human need for romantic, sexual, and marital connections is reflected in Carl Jungsanima/animus archetype. In essence, Jung believed there is a psychological construct in males (theanima) that creates a strong draw to the feminine as its embodied in real women, and a matchingconstruct in females (the animus) that draws them to men. One of the best visual metaphors for theconcept is the yin-yang; each of the contrasting halves, one of which refers (in part) to the female andthe other to the male, is embedded with a disc of the opposite sexs color.Losing and Finding Ones "Other Half""Chemistry," as we now call it, has long been thought of as the need for and recognition of your "otherhalf," and as Jung saw it, this recognition was prompted by the anima or animus. Platos Symposium,written in 360 BC, provides an explanation for how the need initially developed."The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The primeval man was round, hisback and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces,looking opposite. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, andhe could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all,like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast... [Thesexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man (made of 2 maleparts), woman (made of 2 female parts), and the union of the two (one male and one female part).But the primeval humans] made an attack upon the gods [and Zeus said]: "Methinks I have a planwhich will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cutthem in two. [Apollo] gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which inour language is called the belly, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel)."After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwingtheir arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. Each of uswhen separated is always looking for his other half.And when one meets with his other half, the actualhalf of himself, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would notbe out of the others sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass theirwhole lives together. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole,and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love."
What all of this means is that, just like in real life, your characters should be attracted to their loveinterests for a reason. The potential love interests traits and behavior must resonate with your herobecause they somehow make him or her more whole.Many writers create love interests that reflect their own ideas of the "perfect" man or woman; thedanger is that sometimes were actually creating love interests for ourselves rather than for ourcharacters. We may assume that everyone would be attracted to the same things we are, and thatlittle explanation is needed to justify why our heroes and heroines would fall for each other. But if yourhero or heroine is so universally appealing, 1) Why hasnt s/he been snatched up yet and 2) Why hass/he fallen for this love interest? If the answer to 1 is that s/hes been waiting for the "right one" tocome along, 2 is even more important. Also remember that in real life, the people were most drawn toarent always the ones who are best for us--sometimes were so focused on a bad choice that wedont even see Mr. Or Ms. Soulmate when s/he wanders by. Scarlett OHaras obsession with Ashleyis doomed to failure because he can never be what she needs.And of course, sometimes the people were most drawn to wont have us, because while they couldmeet our needs, we dont or cant meet theirs. In the film Gladiator, Commodus is drawn to his sisterLucilla because she represents the purity and kindness he lacks, but he is too flawed for her to trulylove in return, even as a brother.The Anima, the Animus, and the DoubleBecause Jung didnt address gay and lesbian relationships in the way that the Plato did, theanima/animus archetype is difficult to apply to gay/lesbian relationships. Some modern theoristsargue that an archetype they call the Double is responsible for committed same-sex partnerships.The Double draws us into all relationships with individuals of the same sex, which can range fromplatonic friendships to love relationships. In other words, the Double helps us find our best same-sexfriends as well as love our brothers and fathers (if were male) and our sisters and mothers (if werefemale). Meanwhile, the anima (for men) and the animus (for women) help us find our opposite-sexmates. For those people who were metaphorically cut apart from a same-sex other half, the Doubletakes over this responsibility as well.Three Influences on the Anima/AnimusBoth the anima and animus are influenced by three things: biology, sociocultural environment, andpersonal experience.BiologyReams of paper have been used to argue which sex is superior to the other, but researchdemonstrates that men and women are actually equal in terms of their psychological and cognitive(thinking, intelligence) skills--except for one thing. Men significantly outperform women on spatialability ( i.e. They conceptualize distance, speed, spin, direction, and area better than women, which isbelieved to have developed because men needed to be able to hit exactly what they aimed at whenthey threw spears at prey).
From an evolutionary perspective, the differences men and women do have developed because theyfaced different adaptive problems. The principle of natural selection says that any genetically-influenced characteristic or behavior that contributes to the survival of oneself and ones offspring willeventually become more common in the general population.For example, imagine all of the dangers our ancestors faced: predators, disease, famine, and longcold winters, just to name a few. Now lets pretend that there are four types of men in this ancientworld: men who are fast, men who are strong, men who are smart, and men who have none of thesecharacteristics. When faced with a natural predator like a bear, the fast men may be able to outrun it,the strong men may be able to fight it off, the smart men may be able to outwit it, and the men withnone of these characteristics probably dont have a prayer.Since the men who are fast, smart, or strong live longer, they have more years to produce offspring;they also are better able to hunt down and kill deer, buffalo, and other animals that provide food andfurs. Men who then took these food and furs to their wives and children were more likely to havefamilies that survived cold winters, thereby insuring that the mans genetic material stayed in the genepool. Men who had two or more of the above characteristics (fast, smart, or strong) were more likelyto become renowned warriors who led tribes and were therefore able not only to protect, feed, andwarm their families, but who also received additional resources and protection from the warriors whoserved under them.Now think about the women in this same tribe. The women were often unable to hunt or fight offpredators alone, so they needed men to protect them and bring them resources to aid survival.(Imagine a woman whos 8 months pregnant chasing down a deer or fighting off a cougar and youllsee what I mean--feminism works much better in a world that equalizes physical differences.) If thesewomen were attracted to men who had neither strength nor speed nor intelligence, they were morelikely to be left unprotected and without food and warmth; therefore, they and their children were morelikely to die prematurely. Likewise, women who were uninterested in caring for their offspring werelikely to lose those children, thereby removing their own genetic material from the gene pool. (Withour modern perspective, we tend to want to imagine these women and children getting assistancefrom the rest of the tribe, but when food was so scarce survival was in question, each family wouldhave had to put its own needs first.)Because mens hunting and fighting ability was so important, men convert energy to muscle moreeasily than women, experience faster healing of wounds and bruises, have fewer nerve endings intheir skin (which makes their bodies less sensitive to touch and pain), and have excellent spatial skills(ability to think in three dimensions) that helped them shoot arrows and throw spears. Since theycould never be absolutely sure that the children their partners carried were theirs, jealousy madethem protect their wives from other mens sexual access. Because only young, healthy women canhave babies, men who were attracted to these kinds of women were more likely to pass on theirgenetic material than men who were attracted infertile diseased women!Women convert energy into stored fat, which is necessary to carry healthy offspring (women who arevery thin often lose the ability to have children; some scientists believe that industrialized nations
have higher infertility rates because women strive to keep their body fat and weight so low). They alsohave a stronger resistance to infection, have more acute senses of vision, hearing, smell, and tasteso they can take better care of their children and find dangers like rotten food.Women are better at reading body language and emotional expressions, which helped them figureout which men were truthful about being committed (this is actually why women analyze theirrelationships to death and men dont). They also have stronger verbal skills, which helped them getalong in the community with other women, and better verbalize the need for help or medicinalremedies. Women also tend to be attracted to strong, masculine men who are of high status andhave plenty of resources. This is why young, attractive women often end up with rich older men.These differences have been encoded into our genes at the physical level, but Jung lived decadesbefore David Buss extensive research into this kind of evolutionary psychology. What that means isthat Jung probably would have believed the idealized "masculine" or "feminine" was imprinted on the"psychic DNA" of the collective unconscious rather than the literal, physical DNA of our bodies.Rather than seeing that as negation of the anima/animus archetype, we have to remember that thearchetypes are psychological echoes of different parts of human nature, many of which are influencedby biology. The persona (putting on a "face" others will like) is underlain by a social instinct that ledour ancestors to develop "packs" to fight off predators; the shadow is underlain by aggressive andoften sexual instincts; and the anima and animus are psychic manifestations of biological attractionand mating instincts.Sociocultural EnvironmentDifferent cultures value different things. Growing up, were indoctrinated into our culture by learningthat, for example, N is for Nurse (whos female), D is for Doctor (whos male), and T is for teacher(whos female). And just try finding an advertisement that has a little boy using a toy vacuum or a littlegirl in a room with footballs on her sheets.Some people argue that gender is a social construction--that is, the greatest differences betweenmen and women exist because we act like theyre there. Myths, fairy tales, religion, art, and all of theother cultural images to which were exposed help us build our understanding of what is male andwhat is female.For example, Cinderella, the Virgin Mary, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, andAngelina Jolie all teach us different things about what it means to be feminine. Likewise, King Arthur,James Dean, Steve McQueen, Al Pacino, and Adam Sandler all teach us different things about whatit means to be masculine.Individual ExperienceBoth anima and animus are affected by the relationships we saw between our primary caregivers(traditionally the mother and father), and the interactions we have with the same and opposite sex. Aswe grow, each of us forms a kind of blueprint of how the world works. We incorporate things like ourparents relationships and values, and their beliefs about relationships and sex.These caregivers serve as doorways to the masculine and feminine in the collective unconscious. We
come to understand what it means to be masculine (information contained in the animus) through ourmale caregivers and what it means to be feminine (information stored in the anima) through thefeminine qualities embodied by our female caregivers.Notes* The other two are a/ satisfying work and b/ personality, most notably the qualities of high self-esteem, extraversion, and optimism.----TEASER for ANIMA/ANIMUS PART II: When we write, we often focus on watching our charactersfall in love without thinking about what happens after the "happily ever after." Given the 50% divorcerate in the United States, a lot of us like to leave our characters in a blissful state and pretend theyllnever face the struggles we do in our real-life partnerships. But research shows that there are a fewvery specific behaviors that will make or break a marriage; by focusing on these things alone,researchers can predict whether a marriage will last with 96% accuracy!RN to BSN Ohio University