Updated: Apr 11
by Katarina Spaic
Anima/Animus and the Bridge Between the Ego and the Unconscious
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” ~Emily Brontë
The Anima/Animus Archetype is one of the most confusing to conceptualize for me. An extremely simple version of the apparent purpose of this archetype is that it represents a part of ourselves that serves as a guide to the unconscious at various intervals in our lives. Along the same lines, Murray Stein calls them “bridges to the unconscious”. The reason there are two names for this archetype is because Carl Jung associated the Anima character to be the internalized feminine aspect in a male-associated person; while the Animus character is the internalized masculine aspect in a feminine-associated person. This is where this archetype gets tricky. Just like any other archetype, we often encounter them via our projection of that character on to another person. Hence, often our romantic relationships serve as a construct for this connection between our Ego and our projected Anima/Animus onto another person. Yet it doesn’t have to be confined to the development of a romantic spark. Ego and Anima/us interweaving can occur within a benign, stimulating conversation with another person, or within deep-felt connections between a dream character. In fact, where the magic really occurs is when the feeling aspect is cast away and the Ego and Anima/us engage in a dialogue, which Jung called “Auseinandersetzung” and which is portrayed in the movie Inception.
Ariadne is our Anima character in the film; the architect employed by Cobb (the Ego). It is very clear that her character is the only one that ever questions the relationship between Cobb (the Ego) and Mal (the Shadow). Ariadne (the Anima) instantly realizes the uncontrolled connection between Ego and Shadow, and she tries again and again to bring it into awareness for the Ego. In other words, she is the necessary bridge that Cobb (Ego) needs to allow him to truly recognize and embrace the dark, unconscious aspects of Mal (Shadow). In this story, there is no apparent attraction between Cobb and Ariadne in the societal sense of romantic infatuation. However, I would say they are very connected on a deeper level than the other characters in the movie. Ariadne is the only one who ventures into Cobb’s private dream uninvited. She is the only one who feels the need to pry into Cobb’s relationship with his late wife, and is the only one who dares to explain to him the reality of his situation.
It is very natural to the Anima character that in the movie, Cobb and Ariadne go separate ways after Cobb confronts Mal in the unconscious. According to Jung, we encounter this Anima/us archetype in many stages of our lives, but she/he is not constantly in our awareness. Incessant dialogue with the Anima/us archetype seems to imply that we are continually aware of being immersed in our unconscious. This would be unbearable for anyone to endure, and therefore we live our lives in a cyclical fluctuation between separation and association to this character.
In my mind, the scene that had the most striking resemblance to the Anima-Ego connection was the scene when Ariadne (Anima) has the idea that they can still save the mission by dropping into one more layer of the dream, into “limbo”. There, they will be able to recover Robert (Puer/Child archetype) and at the same time Ariadne knows that Mal (the Shadow) will be there waiting for them as well. The Anima once again is serving as a bridge, a guide, to connect the Ego with the unconscious, which encompasses both the space of “limbo” and the ever-lurking Shadow. To parallel this scene with our own lives, the connection between our consciousness and the Anima archetype can have the same effect. Therefore, whenever we have an opportunity to open a dialogue with our personal Anima, we simultaneously have an opportunity to delve into the depths of our own unconscious world.
This is simply an individual’s interpretation of a great film. My viewpoints have been formulated from several books on Jungian psychology, as well as an interpretation given by Dr. Lahab Al-Samarrrai, a clinical psychotherapist. It is quite possible and even expected that not everyone will agree on the interpretations. It is merely one mind putting things together and rearranging them in a way that makes sense to me. Enjoy!
Al-Samarrrai, L. (2020). Screen Analysis Inception. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Na4UkwrH9-c
Stein, M. (1998). Jungs map of the soul: an introduction. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
Thomas, E. & Nolan, C. (Producers), & Nolan, C. (Director). (2010). Inception. [Motion Picture], United States: Warner Bros. Pictures.
Young-Eisendrath, P., & Dawson, T. (2008). The Cambridge companion to Jung. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.