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A Journey Into the Unconscious

J. Marlando


The first goal of this narrative is to give explanation to why we often fall in love only to discover later our love object is making us more miserable than joyful. We believe that before anyone can freely choose to create their marriages happy and lasting, they need to understand why their spouses are often less or so much different than they thought they were going to be. We accomplish this first, by taking a short journey into Jungian-ism to discover our own inner-other-gender qualities. Our intent is not to represent the entire Jungian theory but only to demonstrate how the theory works in marital relationships. We also intend to show how we can actually grow our marriages into being as happy, loving and lasting as we desire them to be.


What  a lot of people believe about dating and marrying is that we happen to meet someone we’re romantically attracted to, discover a few compatibilities, decide to commit to love and care for each other forever and ever. Most people, however, know that relationships are not at all this simple but the question is why not?

We are attracted to mates for all kinds of reasons but the most common is what is typically called animal attraction. There is something about the other that “terns us on.” Not only sexually but something much deeper than amorous magnetisms. So what is it that we see in the “perfect” stranger that gives us those “in” love feelings?

To answer this question, I will tell you the story of a young lady by the name of Denise.

Denise was born and raised in a middleclass neighborhood by hardworking a responsible parents. She had grown up to be a sweet, quiet girl that volunteered to teach Sunday school at her church; was a straight “A” student and never gave her parents any serious problems.  Then one day after high school graduations Denise’s mother was down stairs vacuuming when she heard a loud, disturbing noise that rumbled through the room. She quickly went to the door and looked out the screen. In the drive way was this young fellow on a motorcycle looking like a complete outcast in the quiet neighborhood. To Mom he was even scary looking with his long hair and tattooed arms. What in the world did he want?

The young man brazenly walked up the steps and onto the porch asking if Denise was home, he’d come to see her. Mom managed to smile and say that she was sorry but Denise was sick in bed. The young man nodded and left, Mom watched until the roaring machine turned a corner and drove out of site.

Actually Denise had been upstairs waking a shower. As soon as she walked down stairs her mother asked what was going on. Denise said that she had a date.

Mom then confessed what had happened while she was showering. Denise was immediately upset and told her mom that she was bias against long hair on boys and how wonderful Eddie was. She remained upset for the rest of the day and would have telephoned Eddie but he didn’t have a phone. (This particular story occurred before cell phones came onto the marketplace way back in the 1970s). Anyway, that night at the dinner table Denise’s father who had heard all that had happened that day told Denise that she was forbidden to see the “boy” anymore and all she was to think about was college in the fall.

Denise did not respond as expected. She pushed herself away from the table screaming and crying that she loved Eddie and ran upstairs.

Nothing dramatic happened over the next two weeks but then on a Sunday afternoon Eddie came roaring up on his motorcycle and stopped at the curb. Denise ran out of the house carrying a small suitcase, jumped behind Eddie and sped away with him. Mom and Dad were frantic but Denise had recently turned eighteen and they were helpless to make her mind.

No one that knew the family could believe that Denise would “take up” with such a boy. After all she was so reserve and fragile while he was brutish and tough looking. But then in a little over two weeks Denise came home. She was in tears, feeling guilt and shame telling her parents that Eddie had not been anything like she thought he was; he could be mean and crude. Her parents of course took her back with open arms and in the fall she flew off to go to college. During college she met a nice young man and they eventually married and have had a good life together. Incidentally, they are both teachers and now have three grown children of their own.

The question is what did a young woman like Denise fall so madly in love with a young man like Eddie; they had nothing in common and their values were far apart. Yet Denise felt a magnetism that she could not resist and did not want to resist at least until she discovered what Eddie was truly like. Once she realized Eddie was not as she had thought he was and that they were absolutely incompatible she finally had a change of heart but not before that. Before that she idolized him!

To understand what Denise saw in her rough and tumble boyfriend we have to turn to Carl Jung—Swiss psychoanalyst 1875-1961—and grasp his theory of the animus and anima.

The animus is the male component of the female psyche and the anima is the female component of the male psyche sometimes referred to as our shadow selves. For purposes here what we understand is, as Jung said, there is no such thing as a totally masculine man as all men have female qualities in their personalities hidden as they may be. There is no such thing as a totally feminine female either as females have male qualities in their personalities…hidden as they may be.

For purposes here (I will recommend books for anyone who wishes to delve deeper into the subjects) we need only understand that we human beings have an unconscious image that exists within us. For women it includes all the legendary myths of heroes—the devoted father who is protective and attentive…the ultimate lover who is strong but tender…the playmate who is both brother and friend. He is the knight in shining armor.

For men the unconscious female image is of a specific female—she is beautiful and sexual…the perfect and exotic lover…the caring and doting mother…the sister who is a trusted playmate and friend.

With the above in mind let’s return to Denise and her story: What she saw in Eddie was not Eddie but rather a projection of her own animus. That is, he became everything that she imagined herself being had she been born a male. While he did not ride in on a big, white horse to save the day, his motorcycle became a metaphor for the legend; Denise imagined him as being the living person in real life that her shadow self was in psyche life.

The problem is that the female animus or male anima aren’t real people, they are mere images, symbols if you will. Men will see a woman that best represents his anima (his inner-soul) and often fall immediately in love. After marriage he might discover that the woman he’s married is nothing like he projected her to be and so the relationship falls into jeopardy and probably fails.

As a quick aside, it is interesting that a great many arguments and resentment that grow between lots of married couples is what husband does not like about wife is that she conflicts with his inner-femininity or wives who resent husbands who conflict with their own inner-masculinity.

In fact, some women with strong animus attachments may take over much of the male role in the household.  And, in fact, some wives are apt to belittle their husband’s for not being “real men” because they simply do not live up to their animus ideals. 


As a quick aside, it is interesting that a great many arguments and resentment that grow between lots of married couples is what husband does not like about wife is that she conflicts with his inner-femininity or wives who resent husbands who conflict with their own inner-masculinity.

In fact, some women with strong animus attachments may take over much of the male role in the household.  And, in fact, some wives are apt to belittle their husband’s for not being “real men” because they simply do not live up to their animus ideals. 


Couples who are fortunate enough to find one another actually fulfilling—or come close to actually fulfilling—their anima and animus images can have an ideal, lasting relationship. But there are no guarantees that this will be so either. For one thing, people who marry their inner-images of the other gender, can marry, as Jung says, their own worst weakness. For example, a man’s anima might be extremely feminine, a “queen-like” personality that demands attentions and subservience. The man himself might recent the self-centeredness and indulgences his wife demands and discover that what he most dislikes about her, is what he secretly most dislikes about himself.  Most commonly such relationships end in bitterness.

This, by the way, is why so many couples fight so much and so easily find faults in one another. When wife demonstrates weaknesses, fear, faults and frailties that the husband loathes, it can be because the husband’s inner-femininity, his anima, has those same weaknesses, fears, faults and frailties. She is, if you will, mirroring his inner-soul.


This can be true in reverse as well. When a wife constantly badgers a man for what he does or…doesn’t do, she is probably expressing anger at her animus’ inadequacies; her inner-personality!

 Not everyone stumbles upon their anima or animus images of course so people also marry for all other kinds of reason: They simply like a person or grow to like a person enough to interpret those intense feelings into as being love. We’ll talk about relationships that are not necessarily anima or animus projections next.


Lots of people become romantically attracted with little attraction to one’s own inner-femininity or masculinity—couples can simply be responding to libido impulses or decide that the person they’re with seems to be the wisest choice for marriage. Some young people might marry to get away from dominant parents or only because they are anxious to have a family of their own. People marry because they do not wish to be alone or they’re afraid they might never meet anyone else who they’ll be compatible with…or will want them. Some people, as Johnny Cash would have said, get married in a fever while others simply want to settle down and build a future with a particular other. Sometimes people will marry almost as a fluke; a sudden impulse and a trip to Las Vegas. Well, after all, we human beings are most commonly desirous of pair-bonding. For one thing, we are all mostly raised to be!

No matter why we marry the odds are that we will discover differences and difficulties living with our mates. For one thing, we’re different genders and different individuals with personal and social values that we draw from different life experiences. For another, most married couples end up with money struggles if not money problems. And, nearly everyone takes money problems to bed and breakfast with them. Then there are the little things—one never turns a light out when they leave the room…the other never picks up after him or herself…one wants the pet pooch on the couch and the other doesn’t. There are a thousand and one petty annoyances that husbands and wives encounter as they attempt to adjust their lives to living as a culture of two. And, what if we projected our animus or anima onto our spouses or not before marriage, our inner-other-gender personalities are constantly at work. Perhaps husband throws a tantrum, screams throws things—his unconscious femininity is revealing itself…Perhaps wife begins making judgment values and becomes aggressively demanding—her unconscious masculinity is being exposed. As a result of all this “getting along” often feels to be impossible.

So what we basically have when it comes to a husband and wife are four personalities in operation: The wife’s persona self and her male unconscious—the husband’s persona self and his female unconscious. Is it any wonder then that getting along is a challenge even for the most suited of committed couples? And, if you add the responsibility of children, of the ordinary ups and downs and turnaround of daily living much less any unexpected tragedies or illnesses, marriage becomes a much bigger challenge than merely learning how to get along; there is also the challenge of coping with life together.

A major trouble-maker for most married couples is that wife and husband both want the other to see and respond to the world as they do; they want their mates to most simply see things their way. And, once again, the anima and animus comes into play: Her maleness demands objectivity and frugality while his femaleness desires extravagance and playfulness. As a result wife is apt to screech at husband, grow up and husband is apt to screech back, loosen up with neither understanding why the other is as he or she is. Certainly, they are not much like the person they thought they married.

When we remember that when we marry a person we are seeing them in the light of our own projections far more than seeing them as whom and what they really are. First of all, no matter how feminine a man is in his psyche life or how masculine a woman is in hers, neither can ever know what it is like to actually be the other gender in real life. This applies to homosexuals as well as heterosexuals—none of us can know what it is like to experience being the other gender beyond the animus or anima, both of which are mere images based on inner-myth and metaphor and not anything of real, flesh and bone existence. And so another problem arises:  husbands and wives are, in a term, blinded to one another’s realities except through projection and reflection. When, for example, wife says something abstract like, you know, we haven’t done anything fun for a while, husband may readily agree but the meaning of the term “fun” will generally be worlds apart—she may be thinking of dinner out, having friends over or going to the beach and laying out in the sun while he may be thinking Vegas, having sex or taking a vacation. The male experience is simply different than the female experience and when it comes to living ordinary life, both the anima and animus are abandoned almost altogether and a woman’s femaleness and a man’s maleness takes over the entire personalities—as a result husbands and wives will often complain we just don’t seem to have anything in common anymore.

The reason couples believe that they have so much in common is most basically because they project so much of themselves on the other during the courting season of their togetherness and, in addition to this, both, when desiring a serious relationship, compromise all the time to create compatibility. This is a major part of the human wooing ritual. An example I often use is that when he says I love to fish and she responds I love eating fish they both agree that they have so much in common. Referring to this same scenario, after marriage when wife doesn’t want to go camping and fishing, hates to clean fish and can’t stand baiting a hook, husband feels betrayed and lied to. But I thought you loved to fish, He whines. This example is mere metaphor for a thousand other differences that arise between husbands and wives over their lifetime of togetherness.

The problem is that when we are wooing we are hearing mostly what we want to hear and, if we are with someone we truly desire to marry, we shed conflicting ideas, thoughts and concepts and leave them by the wayside immediately. In our times, one of the most important quests of courtship is proving compatibility. This compatibility will also be established by each person projecting their own other gender qualities onto the other. (In case of very young men being in the relationship, some will be totally freed from their anima-selves as their total self-images will be conscious of presenting the total male image. As Jung suggests this type of young man may not reconnect with his anima until he’s around thirty-five and the need to prove himself as “all man” diminishes in his ableness hto accept his feminine qualities). No matter how far removed he is from his anima, however, she is still at work in his personality even if his persona is that of a social man of steel. Indeed, as Jung tells us, “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. Nevertheless, the anxious girlfriend who is impressed by her seemingly all manly man will have projected her animus onto him and thus given him all those wonderful qualities that she believe all “real men” possess such as deep caring, protectiveness, devotion, honor and all the rest that mythically belongs to all romantic knights and heroic men of old.

After marriage when her he-man fails to live up to her animus projections and ends up to be ever as human as she, she can often feel betrayed and lied to, screaming out I thought I knew you but all she may really be experiencing is a rude awakening that her husband is not everything that she projected him to be. There are exceptions but by and large most married people—men and women—go through what is traditionally called a period of adjustment that begins shortly after the honeymooning is over. What had happened in ordinary terms is that before marriage couples invariably dwell on each other’s virtues and successes and after marriage this reverses and couples tend to dwell on each other’s faults and failures. And so, before marriage the typical observation is gosh, I just feel like I’ve known you all my life but after marriage that observation most often changes to I feel like I’m living with a stranger.

The question is how do committed couples grow their marriages into loving, lasting and happy relationships? We’ll attempt to answer this question but first, for clarities sake, let’s take a step back and talk about how our anima and animus selves work in positive ways too. The reader will hopefully remember the story of Denise who projected her anima onto the ruffian only to discover that he was much of what he presented—a young man who was self-centered, uncaring and demanding. Certainly a poor match for any woman but especially one like Denise who in real life was sweet, gentle and loving.

In regard to the following our shadow-selves into matrimony, however, can and does often work. In fact, we have all heard the whispers about the gorgeous, sophisticated and sparkling women who has married the timid, quiet, Mr. Peepers-type-man. Gosh, someone says what in the world did she ever see in that guy?

What she saw was a reflection of her own animus; her shadow self beneath the surface of the glamor that others see. This man is unassuming, kind, gentle, devoted to his work and to her everything that she would be had she been born a male. Perhaps he fulfills her father image who was both attentive and protective of her…of perhaps was never around much at all? Whatever, her Mr. Peepers fills the male image that makes her feel whole in life and gives her absolute acceptance of her own femaleness. We can only guess that her husband is fulfilled by her beautiful presence in his life as this couple (surprisingly to outsiders) live happily and content ever after.

This is true of some men as well. For example, we will sometimes see some handsome, charming, well-built man married to a stumpy, plump and not a very attractive wife causing those whispers again—what in the world does he see in a woman like that when he could have anyone he wanted?

The truth is that he has everything he wants in her; while he may be gifted with charm and good looks, his wife may be the reflection of his shadow self, his anima who is fun, loving and unassuming; the manifestation of mother, sister, friend and lover in the world outside himself gives him wholeness as a male human being. It is the same scenario of the beautiful woman with her Mr. Peepers as this couple too ends up in a lasting, loving, content and happy relationship.

While every married couple will have their ups and downs, not every marriage is filled with arguments and disagreements. There are marriages that, in a term, work! That is, they fulfill the marriage myth of having the fairy tale. And so, at this juncture we will confront the question that asks: how the heck do couples grow their marriages to be as happy, lasting, content and loving as they would have them be?


The problem is that the female animus or male anima aren’t real people, they are mere images, symbols if you will. Men will see a woman that best represents his anima (his inner-soul) and often fall immediately in love. After marriage he might discover that the woman he’s married is nothing like he projected her to be and so the relationship falls into jeopardy and probably fails.

First of all, it is essential to consciously release the goal of wanting your mate to mirror you. Your mate can NEVER be you on any level of consciousness because, like you, he or she is the result of his or her entire life experiences. And so, for one thing, the child of his or her past remains influential in the depths of his or her mindscape. That child forever wants his or her own way and so it is vital to realize when you (the adult) is responding and when you (the child) is responding. And, you can know this by simply choosing to think before you act.

The child within is probably the biggest cause of unhappiness in marriage that any other single reason for upset and discontentment. The child after all wants what he or she wants when he or she wants it. This does not only refer to material things but to psychological and emotional things to—I feel like playing today, play with me…I feel like being alone today, leave me alone…I just hate our lives, I just never get what I want…I’m unhappy today and so I hate you…and you, the reader, can think of many other examples of the inner-child’s behavior being demonstrated by the adult…hollering and screaming when things do go right or one doesn’t get his or her way…crying (bawling) in order to get one’s way…pouting and so forth. These are all responses connected to the child within and that child can play havoc on married life.

It is this essential to be consciously aware of your own motives—if you’re not happy, for example, this is NOT your mate’s responsibility. It is yours. And this takes me to the words of Rainer Maria Rilke that I so often repeat:

                                    If your everyday life seems poor to you,

                                    do not accuse it; accuse yourself, tell yourself

                                    you are not poet enough to summon up its

                                    riches, since for the creator there is no poverty

                                    or poor or unimportant place.

If you feel or believe that your mate is not giving enough to the relationship, you will never inspire him or her to give more by complaining or by name calling or by belittling. It you want your husband or wife to be, we’ll say, more attentive, more caring, more responsible, more loving or more giving, do not even think about changing him or her.  You’ve probably already tried that and it hasn’t worked. You can only make positive changes in your marriage by changing…you!

It is up to you to be MORE attentive, more caring, more responsible, more loving and giving because your actions will eventually be symbolized in the unconscious of your mate and he will, in most instances, begin to consciously wanting to mirror your conscientiousness. You, however, must be absolutely consistent in your intent and actions—for one thing if your motives are only to create changes in your mate, you will fail and so you must find it in yourself to becoming the changes that you require or desire.

If you wonder why all this is important, the simple answer is given us by David Viscott found in, “Psychology and Personal Growth.” He tells us that:

                                     A relationship should be a place where two

                                    people share the experience of helping each

                                    become more than they were when their

                                    relationship started.

Our work as committed mates extend paying the bills, keeping in food, clothing and shelter, putting oil in the car and keeping the front yard manicured. Our job also includes helping and assisting our mates to live their own life to the fullest. As *Karl Menninger says:

                                     It is part of the function of marriage for the

                                    partners to supply to each other that amount

                                    of support and encouragement which is

                                    necessary to assuage the wounds and frustrations

                                    encountered in the daily lives of each.

If we only do this much your marriage will not only unfold happier, more loving, content and lasting than you perhaps ever thought that it could or…would, but those qualities will, at the same time, appease your shadows selves—the anima and animus—and give them comfort. Indeed, when you consciously only do this much, you are growing your marriage to be all that you would have it be.

 *Love Against Hate*Karl Menninger*A Harvest Book




















May 7, 2012 3:59pm
We are all imperfect and therefore it is important to accept your mate's imperfections (unless they are abusive - then run). Good article.
May 7, 2012 5:51pm
Thanks Introspective--always nice to hear something nice.
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