The very first dream I ever wrote down featured a vitally important message about my ego’s relationship with my masculine side. I offer this deeply personal dream as a gift to every woman who has struggled to integrate her animus.
Dream #1A: The Rejected Suitor. I am in a dark hotel lobby. My friend Andrea has just married and is spending her honeymoon here. Her new husband, dark and fiercely good-looking, keeps grabbing me as I drink from a water fountain. I’m very attracted to him, but at the same time, afraid. Andrea is afraid I will take him from her. Suddenly he pulls me away through a night so dark I cannot see a thing. I want him to kiss me but do not want to betray Andrea. He begins kissing me by the edge of a road. A bus driven by middle-aged hag with long dark hair pulls up. She wears a flimsy transparent robe through which I see her flabby body. She is leering at me as she fondles her left breast. I am afraid of her. Andrea’s husband says, “Come on, you know you want it. This is love.” I say, “If this is love, I’ll have none of it,” and run away.
Because of this deeply disturbing dream in the middle of my life I started asking myself some serious questions: Why do I feel so incomplete and unfulfilled? What attractive and compelling force in me does the husband represent? Why am I so afraid of him? How can I keep from ending up like the hag?
At the time of this dream I had long been ignoring my dissatisfaction about my work and was still pursuing a tenure-earning position at the university where I taught. The dream said I was running way from some very attractive, unknown potential in myself (the husband). The groom represented my animus, the things I associate with masculinity, including the clarity of mind to know my true passions, the confidence to pursue them, and the self-discipline to hone and manifest them in meaningful work that best suits my personality. The dream said my ego was afraid to betray my familiar goals (Andrea, a successful woman I knew in waking life), and equally afraid to begin a relationship with unknown new ones (the groom). Worse, it suggested that running away from my animus could lead to a joyless life of conformity to collective standards (a bus driver takes everyone to the same place at the same time) like my sad and bitter shadow (the sinister hag).
Women’s dreams about men depict their relationship to the masculine principle in their inner and outer lives. Dreams of being in a group of diverse men suggest an animus (unconscious image of masculinity) that is not clearly differentiated. Dreams of abusive, hostile, arrogant, opinionated, distant, crippled, or unfeeling men reflect our experience of, and attitudes toward, males. The characteristics of the men in our dreams also highlight aspects of our own masculine side. This is equally true of dreams about men we like and admire. In fact, for a woman, pleasant dreams of having sex with very attractive men are usually metaphors for the healthy development of a positive relationship with our animus, and the qualities we associate with these men represent positive qualities we are developing.
The animus is a potent force in a woman’s life and our dreams tell the truth about him. He can be adversary, intruder, or demon lover; hero, prince, or beloved. We can run away from him or we can befriend him, and our choice can make all the difference.