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The Anima and Animus

As we saw earlier, the anima and animus are the contrasexual archetypes within men and women respectively. Just as there is a biological imperative behind sexual attraction, Jung maintained that there was also a related psychological imperative. Jung said of man and the anima, "..the whole nature of man presupposes woman, both physically and spiritually. His system is tuned to woman from the start" (Stevens, 1999). And woman is tuned to man in much the same way3. But the roles of the anima and animus go beyond blind sexual instinct as it is popularly perceived. The meaning of man to woman, and of woman to man relate closely to every aspect of the psyche and to every stage of its development.

According to Jungian psychology, the anima and animus, when they appear in dreams and fantasies are personifications of the relationship of an individual with his or her unconscious. In other words, a man will experience his unconscious as feminine, and a woman will experience hers as masculine. The anima often appears as a witch or as a magical woman with knowledge of deep and unfathomable realms, i.e. the unconscious mind, or as a guide such as Beatrice in Dante's Paradiso (Jung, 1964). The anima also appears as a lover or companion, reflecting in dreams a successful relationship with the unconscious. She may sometimes appear as a princess to be rescued, as in many fairy tales and games. Guarded by a beast symbolising some attitude of the psyche that prevents a good relationship with the anima or with women, she must be saved by a hero strong enough to stand up to such a creature and not be devoured.

The anima also has a negative or shadow aspect. She may appear as a femme fatale, like the mythical sirens luring men to their doom with their magical songs, or as a dangerous witch, symbolising both a negative attitude towards the anima and the unconscious, and the danger of encountering the unconscious without strength and discrimination. The anima is also tied up with all the qualities and attitudes that a man regards as feminine and by working with the anima, he can integrate and understand such valuable qualities.

The animus, the male image within a woman, often appears as an attractive heroic figure, sometimes as a wise spiritual guide. Just as the anima relates to feminine qualities in a man, the animus relates to perceived masculine qualities within a woman, such as heroic courage and rationality. By working with the animus, a woman can integrate these positive qualities into her personality. The animus also has a negative aspect and can appear as a rogue or criminal. Sometimes he appears as a beast, reflecting a wild, untamed and unintegrated animus, or a negative attitude towards masculinity and her relation to it. A woman dreaming of such a beast may be fearful at first, but as she works with the animus, he will be transformed into more attractive human forms. The story of Beauty and the Beast is a reflection of this process (Jung, 1964).

As I described earlier, the anima and animus can be projected on to real men and women, sometimes causing all kinds of dangerous obsessions and misunderstandings. By subconsciously tying up their anima or animus with a person of the opposite sex, an individual effectively identifies them with his own unconscious and requires their presence and their compliance to engage with it. This is not to say that anima and animus projection is entirely negative, it can be a tool of personal growth when recognised, and when the real man or woman behind the projection is accepted and understood.

The anima often appears in games as a woman to be rescued by the player, sometimes as a companion. There are few games depicting the relationship between a woman and her animus. But some games, such as the Final Fantasy series do a good job by giving the player a large number of male and female characters to control. To a male player a female character can symbolise his anima, such as Rinoa from FFVIII; Squall could symbolise the animus of a female player. Squaresoft make this work by depicting their relationship from both perspectives. Gamers might choose games with themes that reflect their own relationship with their anima or animus, and designers might create characters and stories that reflect theirs.

The Self

Jung referred to the self as the "archetype of archetypes" (Stevens, 1999). It represents the totality of the psyche, both consciousness and unconsciousness and all that they contain. To Jungian psychology, the self is the innermost nucleus of the psyche. It is often symbolised in dreams, fantasies and mythology as a circle, mandala or square; as a quaternity, such as the "four corners of the universe" the four directions or a circle divided into four. It may appear personified as a wise old man to a male dreamer, or as a wise old woman to a female, or perhaps as a great king or queen. Sometimes it appears as a divine or magical child. Generally in myths, the self is symbolised by the "cosmic man" or woman, representing the totality of the individual. In games it is sometimes represented by the most powerful principle in the game's world. In RPG's it may be symbolised by the four elements, a magical jewel in the centre of the world or the tree of life. In other games it may be represented by such things as the space-time continuum, the fundamental genetic code, a nation state or by anything that symbolises the greatest power in a game.

The self is also symbolised by the helpful animals that often turn up in fairy tales to advise and assist the hero. Many of these animals appear in games, such as Link's owl companion in Zelda 64, or the moogles in the Final Fantasy games. These creatures, unpredictable, often indestructible, but somehow vulnerable, possess a natural wisdom that defies any enemy and lifts them from the mundane world. They are often represented as servants of a great power, depicting the early appearance of the self as it guides the struggling hero towards his destiny.

The self is also an archetype of healing and unity, and will often arise in the dreams and fantasies of people struggling with inner conflicts. The drawings of children who are in the midst of divorce or family difficulties often contain circular motifs, symbolising the attempt of the self to bring some unity and healing to a child's fragmenting inner world (Stevens, 1999). This healing and unifying aspect of the self can turn up in games, with the almost universal representation of force fields and energy shields as circular or spherical zones of light.

But the self also has a shadow side; as the most powerful force in the Jungian psyche, the shadow of the self is often symbolised by an ultimate evil. Taken together these two aspects reflects the great polarities of consciousness and unconsciousness, light and darkness.

These four archetypes are the main forces within the unconscious and are often projected on to objects in the outside world, including games. As one can see from the examples given, many games already contain symbols of these archetypes, either through social convention and repetition or through the imagination of the designer, who might spontaneously produce such symbols in a fantasy. But developers cannot simply put an archetypal image in a game and claim that they are being "Jungian". We need to understand how the archetypes relate to the individual and to his psychological development, and why he has one fantasy rather than another.

The Archetypes and the Individual

  The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious
  The Anima and Animus
  The Archetypes and the Individual

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The Series
  The Primacy of the Imagination
  Approaching the Imagination
  The Game as Quest
  Integrating the Imagination