Venus: Anima Projection & the False Feminine

from victoria Secret anima false feminine

I have this superpower with certain men where I can feel the type of woman they want me to be and then I become her. They want a silly, wild hippie-chic, I can be her. How about a witchy, melancholic artist? I can be her too. A sweet, kind mothering type, I’m really good at that one. How about the artsy, film type? I was a film publicist and can talk your ear off about Indie flicks... I’ve learned I can be any of these types of women at any time, because all of them are me. In my case this complexity has been awfully confusing to men, on one hand, I am a kind, gentle spirit…and with others a very sensual, feisty witch. Who I am at any given moment depends on the person I am around as different men evoke different women out of me. 

{Please note the dynamics of this projection I refer mostly to are within heteronormative relationships as this is where I have experience, I cannot speak to the complexities otherwise.}

This splitting of one woman into many women is what Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding refers to as “all women to all men.” She describes the way in which each part of a woman is called out depending upon whom she is contact with. Like a “many-sided crystal which turns automatically without any volition on her part under the influences of changes in her environment” this process happens so naturally I don’t even know I’m doing it most of the time. 

In essence, I become a projection or fantasy to them where I prefer the familiarity of becoming someone they want me to be rather than the difficulty of having to orient to myself. The ease with which I can rest into a fantasy that isn’t my own and play the part is the basis for makes me what Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding refers to as an “anima figure.” She points out that for whatever reason certain women have “a peculiar aptitude for reflecting the man’s anima.” 

In Jungian terms the anima (for men) or animus (for women) is the part of our soul we often project outward.  Author Gareth Hill describes it as “archetypes representing the inherited expectation of experience of people of the opposite sex.” (Think of the dot in the yin and yang symbol.) According to Jung and Hill, this image is an accumulated experience of people and throughout development, though most often very closely linked the opposite gender parent. Apparently, Freud was definitely onto something here and also explains why we are so attracted to people who remind us physically or otherwise of our parents.

The benefit of this has been me realizing that if a man isn't interested in me more than likely it is that I don't reflect enough of his anima for him to be pulled to me. Somehow making rejection less painful...

Astrologically, it has been said Venus in man’s chart represents his idealized version of the feminine, though I tend to think it is much more complex than that. Venus represents our sensuality, creativity, and desire for partnership and relating. It is a magnet and attractor for what we want and the types of people we want it from. Our style of relating often is influenced by Venus' placement.  I tend to think women with a lot of Venus or Neptune, as the classic puella without the strong need to individuate, could be more likely to play the anima role.  {For example, I have Venus in relationship to my rising, Sun, and Moon constellating quite a dynamic around Venus and me wanting to please others.}

Harding describes three types of main anima figures:
1.    Flower-maiden/Puella
2.    Femme fatal/Witch
3.    Crone/Wisdom/Sophia

Hill on the other hand, has four levels of otherness corresponding to the four parts of the feminine part of the psyche and the archetypes for each:
4.    Physical: Eve
5.    Romantic infatuation: Helen of Troy, Venus, lover
6.    Inspirational: Muse
7.    Wisdom/spirituality: Sophia

Looking at the lists of above gives a picture of noticing which archetypes a woman is more identified with and how she may participate in projections, as well as what roles a man is often most attracted to and projecting outward. What all the anima-figures for Hill and Harding have in common is an element of naivety and unconsciousness. All of them carry a certain force that pulls men to them or as Harding describes, it is the “primitive, feminine element which catches the projection of the man’s anima in actual life.”  The stronger that force, the more the woman may be prone to becoming a man’s anima figure. This projection in many ways is the basis for attraction to a woman from a male perspective as she becomes the “personalified version of a part of his soul that might otherwise be unknown to him.” In this way it feels like the other half of him and therefore by coming into relationship with her, he can come more fully into relationship with himself. 

 More importantly though, is the way out of being someone’s fantasy and instead becoming real and with it genuine relating.  In my case, I often keep enough distance to maintain the illusion or don’t feel prepared to give up the advantages being an anima image. In addition, playing the anima role means to “act, think, and feel” only as feminine being and that also means I have a clear way to project my own animus onto men and not owning my anger or other unladylike qualities. 

While the "false feminine" certainly has its benefits, the downfall is living only as an anima, a personal ego remains unconscious and a woman continues to exist only as an entity without an image of herself that is only her own. To me this is the ultimate difference in the individuation process or Hero’s Journey between men and women. The extra step of untangling ourselves from patriarchial structural identity to become our own egoic self separate from men and the projections we unconsciously participate in.

Harding describes an anima woman’s three phases of psychological development and femininity that I have paraphrased and added my  own thoughts to below:
1. Naïve/Unconscious – Naturally existing as feminine creature, the attention directed, without conscious knowledge to the effects she produces on men. Doesn’t occur to objectify herself consciously or judge by external standard, only happens naturally. She lives what she feels and is also unaware of male anima projections onto her. She is driven by the external drives desires of her value being based upon her beauty to others. This to me is the epitome of the false feminine and shadow elements of Venus.

2. Sophisticated/ego-centric - An ego awakens and awareness that she can get what she wants from men using feminine prowess. The archetype of the “Gold-digger” in her most shadow expression.  Aware of how playing the role can get what she wants from men.  She plays the game, realizes the more indifferent she seems to men, the more they like her. Develops almost a coldness and inaccessibility to her, more available for projection. Even if she doesn’t want his attention, uses it for her benefit. This phase also can be more a “wise wife” energy not so much personal drive but for the good of her husband and marriage. With skillful management can keep him unaware of the dynamics at play. Maintaining still a sense of projection and distance. Most dating books tend to play up this phase of development with aloofness that seems self-contained but is a part of playing a game. 

3. Conscious – Desire beyond her personal success and happiness, use this power for good. She sees it as a divine gift to channel and requires a clear awareness of this instinct in her as well as the part she plays in relationship to men. This is the major step towards individuation- using this primal instinct towards a non-personal goal. To me this is bigger than the divine feminine, as it entails more of a unity consciousness while also individuated...the alchemy of the lover archetype. (Notice this section is smaller as I am writing an entirely different post about this Lover for the World archetype.) 

How do we as women separate out our own spirit from that of the men we love and who love us? As Marie Von Franz points out, the more a man someone has integrated his anima the less he needs it fulfilled by an outer partner. This completeness has less need of a soul image and therefore a potential greater capacity for true intimacy and love.

It is about being true to ourselves and living authentically. Ask the men who love us to notice their own inner woman, does he have a relationship with her?  Or is he craving a relationship with us because he is unwilling to spend more time with her. It is a lot of energy to hold someone else's projections, the pedestal of love cannot withhold them. Men need their own inner muses and access to their own darkness and emotionality. 

Like the recent Saturn-Neptune square (and the woman with Venus in relationship to Neptune and Saturn), I am reminded we need both fantasy and reality for love to flourish. It is on one level a romantic, out of this world exploration and on the other a down-to-earth, somewhat dull day-to-day experience. That being said, part of romantic love does include fantasy and projections which almost seem necessary to some extent. I believe there is a middle path between keeping the romance alive and also honoring the other’s imperfect humanity. To me, it is understanding complexity and women (and men) being their most authentic selves. Understanding that the false feminine can be enticing but it can also be lonely without intimacy and being fully seen. That and, being all things to all men is awfully exhausting. I hope someday to be many things to one man. A man who appreciates my complexity and also has a relationship with his own anima so that I don’t have to be as much of her and I can instead live into my own feminine power without the hold of the false feminine.