Wednesday, September 19, 2007

He’s In You

One of the fascinating principles I learned in my studies of Jungian psychology was Carl Jung’s theories of the animus/anima. It would take several chapters to explain in full, but the gist is that every person’s psyche contains a subconscious “other,” an autonomous personality that constitutes all your “missing parts” effect, the opposites to which you are attracted. Much of romantic love is based on this principle. Jung taught that when people encounter a personality with enough similarities to this animus (if you’re female) or anima (for males), we project the qualities of our animus/anima on that person. We are thus tricked into having feelings like “he’s the only one for me,” “I can’t live without her,” “he completes me.”

Between my Jungian studies and personal experience, I came to understand that my animus is truly not me, operates outside my will, and is pretty much a self-contained, autonomous being. I hesitate to say “being,” since that suggests I’m saying I’m possessed by another soul, but in some respects it boils down to that. Over the years, the fact that he’s “in me,” not somewhere outside of me, has saved my hide and sanity numerous times.

Anyone who has been incurably in love with someone very bad for them, or anyone who has had a desperate crush on an unattainable figure such as a celebrity, knows that infatuation can be a nightmare. It’s been very comforting to me in such times to step back and remember that the irresistible person I see is just the projection of the perfect-for-me animus, and not actually that real individual. For example, were I really to believe Les Stroud is the guy I imagine him to be, I’d have to get divorced and move to Canada and persuade his wife to leave him. But I know that however admirable he is, the man is just a human being with flaws and foibles and he is not in reality some sort of “dream man.”

You really have to be careful when the animus “gloms on” to some real life person, and it takes practice. There are still times I struggle with not giving in to what seems like irresistible allure. But there are other times when something happens to drive home just how the animus works, and how he truly is in me rather than outside. My dream last night was one such occasion.

In my dream I had had a longstanding, deeply devoted affection for some celebrity I had never met, and I had occasion to actually finally go to his home and meet with him. I’m not even sure if the guy in my dream was supposed to be anyone in particular; I believe his house was in Ontario which would suggest Mr. Stroud, but the similarity ends there. I can’t clearly recall what he looked like, but I certainly remember how it made me feel to be with him, talking to him and touching him and seeing him face to face. It was sheer bliss to put it mildly.

Interestingly, I had sent a number of emails to this man over a period of time, emails he did not elect to answer, but which he had certainly read intently. As we talked, I could see that at first he was unsure where I was coming from, if I were possibly crazy or some kind of threat. But as we spent time together he came around to seeing I was actually someone whose affection he could return. Observing this process taking place was no small thrill either, believe me.

This guy in person was everything I had believed him to be: he was perfect. Being in his presence made me happier than life ever manages to do. In short, he was my animus guy.

Did I get these feelings, this joy and contentment, from a real life man? Did the emotions depend upon some external source? No...this was my dream, my brain, my imagination only that was the source of Mr. Wonderful. That said, he was not a puppet, a fantasy man I could make walk and talk and do what I wished. He had his own will, and had to overcome his skepticism about me little by little. He was autonomous, and as I like to say, me-but-not-me.

Thinking about him now is an interesting exercise. The thought of him makes me happy even when awake, even knowing he “was just a dream.” I think I feel that way because he is so much my heart’s desire, and so thoroughly mine. I know I will run into him again in other dreams, in other imaginings, sometimes glimpsing him in a movie actor or TV personality, or a character I write for one of my books, or even a man on the street. He is never far away.

I’ve learned over the years that I have a particularly acute perception of this animus guy, and not everyone does. But I find often enough that other people have had similar experiences to mine that I continue to believe Jung was right.

So next time you really want somebody badly, so badly you feel you might go crazy, think about it: perhaps he’s actually in you.

(If this really strikes a chord with you--and you haven’t decided I’m just nuts--see also my book Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life).

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