I've been thinking more lately about Jung's notion of the anima and what it's like to be a man. To reiterate, in Jung's conception, the anima is a feminine (or perhaps just "female") image in the male unconscious that takes the part or perhaps even "is" the soul. The anima appears in various female guises, and my understanding is that the guise she adopts changes with one's psychic growth. The first and most potent of these guises is the guise of the maiden - the intoxicatingly lovely young woman.
I have had a number of dreams that I can only describe as visits from my anima. There's a young woman in them, and I am deeply and profoundly drawn to her - there is a feeling in these dreams that I can only describe as pure love and completion. She is the missing part of me, and I am the missing part of her. It doesn't matter - nor do I remember - exactly what happens in these dreams. All that matters are her and me and that we have found one another.
As I've said in a previous post, one of my main reasons for painting is the foolish one of my quest after my anima, my soul. What I really want to "capture" in my paintings is that lost part of me. I find in painting that I do catch something, but the most poignant harvest for me is simply the knowledge that I will never catch her this way. Sometimes I feel like I am catching glimpses: "there she is, that's her!" And then the glimpse fades, and I am left shaking my head, resting in the restless mystery of my lostness and aloneness. "No, that wasn't her - that wasn't her at all."
We silly, poor men can get lost in these quests. The mistake we make is in ever thinking that our animae can ever be found out there in the world. There really are beautiful women to look at, but they are just people, not that spiritual part of us that we long for. We can look at the beautiful women, but our job is to take back that beauty and see it as part of ourselves that somehow we have projected out. Let the woman be herself; let me be me.
In painting a lovely young woman like Angela, I come to see her for the person that she is, not the person I project onto her, which is exactly right. Painting helps me to do this work; but I know that where it will leave me is where I need to be, in a state of holy longing.
It's hard being a man.