by Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD
Both the anima and animus are influenced by three things: biology, sociocultural environment, and personal experience.
Reams of paper have been used to argue which sex is superior to the other, but research demonstrates 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 spatial ability ( i.e. they conceptualize distance, speed, spin, direction, and area better than women, which is believed to have developed because men needed to be able to hit exactly what they aimed at when they threw spears at prey).
From an evolutionary perspective, the differences men and women do have developed because they faced different adaptive problems. The principle of natural selection says that any genetically-influenced characteristic or behavior that contributes to the survival of oneself and one's offspring will eventually become more common in the general population.
For example, imagine all of the dangers our ancestors faced: predators, disease, famine, and long cold winters, just to name a few. Now let's pretend that there are four types of men in this ancient world: men who are fast, men who are strong, men who are smart, and men who have none of these characteristics. 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 with none of these characteristics probably don't 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 and furs. Men who then took these food and furs to their wives and children were more likely to have families that survived cold winters, thereby insuring that the man's genetic material stayed in the gene pool. Men who had two or more of the above characteristics (fast, smart, or strong) were more likely to become renowned warriors who led tribes and were therefore able not only to protect, feed, and warm their families, but who also received additional resources and protection from the warriors who served under them.
Now think about the women in this same tribe. The women were often unable to hunt or fight off predators alone, so they needed men to protect them and bring them resources to aid survival. (Imagine a woman who's 8 months pregnant chasing down a deer or fighting off a cougar and you'll see what I mean—feminism works much better in a world that equalizes physical differences.) If these women were attracted to men who had neither strength nor speed nor intelligence, they were more likely to be left unprotected and without food and warmth; therefore, they and their children were more likely to die prematurely. Likewise, women who were uninterested in caring for their offspring were likely to lose those children, thereby removing their own genetic material from the gene pool. (With our modern perspective, we tend to want to imagine these women and children getting assistance from the rest of the tribe, but when food was so scarce survival was in question, each family would have had to put its own needs first.)
Because men's hunting and fighting ability was so important, men convert energy to muscle more easily than women, experience faster healing of wounds and bruises, have fewer nerve endings in their 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 they could never be absolutely sure that the children their partners carried were theirs, jealousy made them protect their wives from other men's sexual access. Because only young, healthy women can have babies, men who were attracted to these kinds of women were more likely to pass on their genetic material than men who were attracted infertile diseased women!
The most memorable, most compelling fictional romances are those that rely on archetypes. George Lucas relied on Joseph Campbell's explanations of Jungian archetypes when creating the original Star Wars trilogy.
Women convert energy into stored fat, which is necessary to carry healthy offspring (women who are very 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 also have a stronger resistance to infection, have more acute senses of vision, hearing, smell, and taste so 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 figure out which men were truthful about being committed (this is actually why women analyze their relationships to death and men don't). They also have stronger verbal skills, which helped them get along in the community with other women, and better verbalize the need for help or medicinal remedies. Women also tend to be attracted to strong, masculine men who are of high status and have 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 decades before David Buss' extensive research into this kind of evolutionary psychology. What that means is that 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 the archetypes are psychological echoes of different parts of human nature, many of which are influenced by biology. The persona (putting on a "face" others will like) is underlain by a social instinct that led our ancestors to develop "packs" to fight off predators; the shadow is underlain by aggressive and often sexual instincts; and the anima and animus are psychic manifestations of biological attraction and mating instincts.
coloring book images from www.homeschooling.about.com
To be fair, many of their images are better balanced; I chose ones that illustrated my point.
Different cultures value different things. Growing up, we're indoctrinated into our culture by learning that, for example, N is for Nurse (who's female), D is for Doctor (who's male), and T is for teacher (who's female). And just try finding an advertisement that has a little boy using a toy vacuum or a little girl in a room with footballs on her sheets.
Some people argue that gender is a social construction—that is, the greatest differences between men and women exist because we act like they're there. Myths, fairy tales, religion, art, and all of the other cultural images to which we're exposed help us build our understanding of what is male and what is female.
For example, Cinderella, the Virgin Mary, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, and Angelina 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 what it means to be masculine.
Both 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. As we grow, each of us forms a kind of blueprint of how the world works. We incorporate things like our parents' 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 our male caregivers and what it means to be feminine (information stored in the anima) through the feminine qualities embodied by our female caregivers.