Two Halves make a Whole
In this 3rd dimension reality which is based on duality —yes/no, day/night, up/down, in/out, on/off, etc. there are two primary dynamic and creative aspects that are non-corporeal energetic and archetypal elements:
- Masculine & Feminine
- Purusha & Prakriti
- Yang & Yin
- Yehova & Shekinah, Shiva & Shakti (personifications as deities)
As cosmological & ideological aspects this primary pair:
- Form the foundation of this dualistic 3rd dimension
- Serve a purpose as dynamic forces that work together in co-creation
As the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol illustrates, both of these primary aspects work together to create and form a whole. This represents what happens “behind the scenes” of life where an unseen synergy of polar aspects come together in different capacities and contributions to form results that become manifest in material reality. This process is mysterious and unquantifiable by material standards and has long been perceived by abstract thinkers, mystics and spiritual adepts who can access and conceptualize the spiritual (non-corporeal) realm.
Each primary aspect has its unique characteristic that is independent of sex or gender and exists in both men and women as energy forces, psychological and archetypal components. A person having more or less of one of the primary aspects does not make them more “a man” or “a woman” as these are gender stereotypes and are effected by cultural mores and traditions. At their most basic level the two primary aspects work together to create life and affect circumstances with influential force or energy that colors and molds experience.
The following lists are representative of some characteristics for either aspect. Because people perceive through the lens of their human point of view the terms listed may have a personified feel to their quality and description:
|Positive force (+)|
To “Do” (directed action to achieve)
To Think (intellectual processes)
To Know (conclusions based on discernable information)
|Negative force (-)|
To “Be” (experiencing a condition or feeling)
To Feel (emotive processes)
To Intuit (conclusions based on information not readily available)
A frequent mistake is to conflate what are characteristics of the primary energetic aspects with human gender (cultural) definitions of what constitutes a “man” or “woman;” or to use these terms as synonymous with “male” or “female.” When considering topics of masculine or feminine it’s best to be clear on what is actually being discussed: biological sex, gender, archetype, or primary energy aspect and not conflate them.
The reader should know that either masculine or feminine traits listed above can be, and are, present in men or women. Women certainly “think” and men certainly “feel.” Also, these are not comprehensive lists; however further definitions of either masculine or feminine—while possible (and prevalent) tend to bear cultural layers that lend themselves to stereotyping. When going further in defining either aspect it’s best to be cognizant of cultural influences and acknowledge their “coloring” of the definition.
When considering an individual’s behavior as “masculine” or “feminine” there is seldom a purely one-sided trait being expressed. People take action (masculine) to achieve a desired experience or feeling (feminine). Positive (masculine) and negative (feminine) forces are often present in an experience that produces a circumstance or scenario.
Either men or women will utilize what they “know” (m.) combined with what they “feel” (f.) to make decisions. Without prejudice, a woman who is focused and determined and is exhibiting decisive actions may be said to “be in her masculine aspect” because she is action oriented and trying to achieve a goal. On the other hand, a man who is in touch with his emotions may be said to “be in his feminine aspect” because he is focused on his experience or feeling. Neither of these characterizations need be considered defamatory or demeaning and neither suggests weakness, fault or flaw. To do so, reveals the individual making that critique is being influenced by cultural stereotypes that dictate what a man or woman “should be” like.
People may be attracted to certain aspects of cultural definitions for “man” or “woman” and wear these like a badge of honor while others may fight “tooth-and-nail” to be independent of cultural stereotype. Where the conflict seems to erupt is when there is an attempt to impose one definition on another person as accurate/correct/appropriate or “more masculine/manly” or “more feminine/womanly” —attacking someone’s personal definition of their nature.
- Sex is biological, genetic, and denotes a person who has XX (female) or XY (male) chromosomes
- Man & Woman; male or female
At a most basic level, human beings have chromosomes that identify them as belonging to either sex. This identification is a biological distinction which manifests in differences of physical characteristics as well. A female body will typically have a womb and possess the biological capability that can produce offspring through a fertilization process that requires male sperm to penetrate a female egg. The male sex does not typically possess the same ability. Hormonal differences in the sexes produce different capabilities that further distinguish the sexes; for example: lactation, sperm, or ovum—egg cell production. Further typical differences produce physical tendencies such as: men tend to have more facial hair and women’s breasts tend to be more developed and contain lactation ducts for nursing babies; women tend to have more body fat and wider hips; men tend to have more muscle and tend to be larger than women.
- Sex identification
- Genders are cultural and traditional definitions of either sex.
- Personal-individual perception of “normal” desire, interest and expression of one’s sex.
- Both sexes and genders possess the energetic/psychological/archetypal aspects of “masculine” and “feminine” in various degrees and capacities.
Gender is defined from two perspectives: cultural and personal. Gender is biological sex identification that is heavily influenced by cultural and traditional mores, stereotypes, prejudices and/or biases. While cultures perpetuate a collective definition, it is the personal, subjective awareness and association that matters to the individual. This awareness is formed by an individual who consciously or unconsciously accepts the cultural definitions of gender—or specifically rejects them in favor of a self-determined definition.
A male or female sexed person may identify more weightedly with what culture deems as traits of the other sex and feel “normal” with that association. These identifications include psychological and emotional manifestations that produce personality and behavioral trait differences of individuals. Generalizing what ‘a man’ or ‘a woman’ is, or should be, will invariably trigger exceptions and objections by individuals who feel differently and who feel oppressed or demeaned by the cultural stereotype.
Further confusion lies in the use of the same word for biological-genetic difference and the identification with individual sexual desire. Sexual desire is included in gender identification. Here we are talking about the act of sexual engagement (i.e. intercourse or other sexual activity) that is usually considered to be the physical act of sharing or expressing intimacy and/or love between partners—but can also be purely a physical enjoyment without a relationship component. A person, regardless of their sex, can have sexual desire for another person regardless of that person’s sex. Homosexual, lesbian, bi-sexual, or pan-sexual expression and desire are examples of these various identifications found in people of either biological sex. Sexual desire is primal to a person’s being and identity; and may feel unalterable and inherent regardless of cultural mores—although for some people, the object of their sexual desire may change over time.
Another area prone for confusion and conflation is with the psychological archetypes of Anima and Animus (identified by noted psychiatrist Carl Jung as contra-sexual aspects existing in the psyche of a man and a woman).
- Anima/Animus —an archetypal force having a unique characteristic and role.
After studying Jung’s theories about the Anima and Animus I’ve developed my own understanding of these primary archetypes (this is not an explanation of Jung’s theory):
- Anima/Animus represents the initiatory aspect of entelechy —the urge to evolve, develop, and reach for or strive towards a new potential.
- Anima/Animus is actually one force, not two, that has a different expression in a woman’s life and is differently expressed in a man’s life.
- Each Anima/Animus expression (manifesting in an individual’s psyche) is influenced by the collective—cultural, generational, and familial mores and traditions that the person is exposed to (especially during the first 15 – 20 years of their life).
The Anima/Animus exerts its influence during “initiatory” periods in a person’s life that prompt psychological and developmental growth, change, and transcendence and elicits new experience and awareness. As Jung points out, there seems to be a different manifestation of this for each sex that takes typical forms (of course there are exceptions, and variety exists). In either sex, the Anima/Animus will prompt them to make changes or initiate them into new awareness.
The archetype Anima/Animus itself, is primordial and I believe the primary and most powerful force in a person’s life. To me, it is the oldest archetype that was formed out of the collective unconscious and while archetypes bear distinctive characteristics that transcend time and cultures, their contemporaneous manifestation is also influenced by more recent generational, familial, and cultural mores and traditions. This may be considered to be a “modern” and personal filter overlaid onto the archetype’s timeless and transpersonal aspects. This personal filter often will affect the way in which, or the direction that an individual responds to Anima/Animus influences.
Anima is traditionally considered to be the “inner-female” of a man with Animus being the “inner-male” of a woman. This is also a consideration which is rife for misunderstanding and conflation with cultural gender stereotypes and confusion with primary energetic aspects mentioned previously in this article. It is difficult to separate what is laden with cultural baggage and discuss the basic function of psychological development.
While there are exceptions, it seems that the archetype of Anima/Animus appears to the individual in a personified form or identity that represents their contra-sexual (biological) self—whatever gender or sexual identification he/she may have. For example: a gay man’s Anima will still be in female form or identity and a lesbian woman’s Animus will still initiate new awareness as it does with a heterosexual woman. What’s important here is the function not the form.
In purpose and function, the Anima/Animus is independent of “feminine” and “masculine” energetic aspects listed previously, and may use traits of both to accomplish its end. The Anima/Animus archetype is a force of initiation that prompts evolutionary change regardless of the cultural wrappings that may accompany it. Adopting gender stereotypes onto Anima/Animus will invite generalizations that compound the discussion and create digressions instead of clarity.
Other archetypes with gender designations exist within the psyche; which are emblems that represent roles or domains of influence—such as Mother or Father. In addition, there are personal sub-archetypes or sub-personalities that also have gender designations. An individual will have a personal “mother” image that may be different from the transpersonal “Mother” archetype. Individual “sub-archetypes” or sub-personalities have an individual’s personal baggage attached to them that come from experiences, wounds, and imprints accumulated from childhood onward. These sub-archetypes can be flawed or damaged due to abuse, loss, or other overwhelming events that impact the psyche.
Ultimately, being a man or a woman is a subjective definition that may or may not reflect the culture’s stereotype. There is no “right” way to be a man or a woman; there is only conformity or non-conformity to cultural mores and traditions. On the other hand, the terms “masculine” and “feminine” can be used to make distinctions of the primary pair of energetic aspects that work together to create reality. This is useful for the sake of discussion and examination for greater clarity but shouldn’t be conflated with sex or gender descriptions or used to impose a standard of definition on what is “male” or “female.” Both men and women have feminine and masculine traits and are made up of a unique combination of both primary aspects that is expressed differently by each individual and in different circumstances.
Are you able to sense your inner masculine and feminine?
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