feminine and masculine in the intrapsychic dimension
INFORMATIVE NOTE: The present paper has been presented as conference related to the activities of the Italian
Institute of Culture, Sydney, Australia, 11th February 1999. Moreover, it has been published in I Quaderni dell'Istituto
Italiano di Cultura di Sydney, I, 1999, pp. 75-84.
Published in www.anthropos-web.it 2007.
Published in www.anthropos1987.org 2009.
FEMININE AND MASCULINE
IN THE INTRAPSYCHIC DIMENSION
FEMININE AND MASCULINE: TWO DIFFERENT PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES
Man... Woman... Male... Female... Mysterious entities? How compatible are they? These
are questions human beings have always tried to give an answer...
...appealing to science and literature, to philosophy and religion, to refined learned
knowledge and unrefined everyday knowledge.
As a starting point, we have the organic substance, that is, the biological feminine and
the biological masculine. From this point of view, there are, relatively, a few problems: it is
about two “things” decidedly different and detached (even though they join up in the process
of fecundation and reproduction... and it is here that the reunification springs, springs up!). It
is a fact, in any case, that, biologically speaking - and therefore in anatomical and physiological
terms as well -, females are very much different from males, and that obviously works both
As soon as we move from the matter to the spirit, from the natural sciences to the
human-social sciences, and we enter into the psychological universe, things start getting all
mixed up... they are not so different from one another any more... Indeed, it is true that there
are two principles, two criteria, but the psyche’s magmaticity gives way to big movements and
even overlappings... or confusions... where, in any case, the “volatility” of the spirit pushes
towards a continuous interaction. Thanks to this continuous interaction, just like two electrical
polarities, like two gravitational bodies, the two “charges” and the two “planets” turn to each
other... both in the material and the desires-dreams reality.
History and culture have produced and stratified a series of indications, definitions, or
even just suggestions, which are unraveled along the double path of meanings. Everyday
symbols, but also ancient symbols - articulated as imaginative unconscious archetypes - have
traced a clear-enough line of demarcation.
Therefore: myths and legends, phantasies and dreams... but scientifically proved
facts also. Besides... myths, legends, phantasies, dreams are facts also: indeed, they are the
psyche’s products (and motors)...
This distribution between feminine and masculine gives way to a two-column page,
with some characteristics on the left and some others on the right. It is true that such qualities
are general qualities, not forced, and therefore to be valued as broad indications, and that it is
also possible - in concrete everyday life - that anyone (independently of their biological sex)
can “take possession of” such qualities. Nevertheless, these are (symbolically-historicallyculturally speaking) valid qualities: such as “abstract concepts” and “ideal types”.
Let us read and compare these characteristics. Please, let us take a look at the figure
on the different feminine and masculine psychological qualities.
ELENA: Woman has a stronger predisposition to the Unconscious... towards what is in the
LUCIANO: ...man to the Conscious... towards what is on the surface.
ELENA: Woman is the right part of the brain... right cerebral hemisphere...
LUCIANO: ...man, the left part of the brain... left cerebral hemisphere.
ELENA: The feminine psyche is more strongly turned towards the soul than that of man’s...
LUCIANO: ... the masculine psyche is turned towards the mind.
ELENA: Woman is emotion...
LUCIANO: ...man is thought.
ELENA: Woman perceives...
LUCIANO: ...man reasons.
ELENA: Woman feels...
LUCIANO: ...man knows.
ELENA: Woman dreams and creates...
LUCIANO: ...man carries out and organizes.
ELENA: Chaos is feminine...
LUCIANO: ...Cosmos is masculine.
ELENA: Woman is an artist...
LUCIANO: ...man is a scientist.
ELENA: Woman is synthesis...
LUCIANO: ...man is analysis.
ELENA: According to their respective bodies, their respective sexual genitals, woman is
internal... introvert... invisible....
LUCIANO: ...man is external... extrovert... visible.
ELENA: Woman is centripetal...
LUCIANO: ...man is centrifugal.
ELENA: Woman is Yin...
LUCIANO: ...man is Yang.
ELENA: Woman is Negativity...
LUCIANO: ...man is Positivity.
ELENA: Feminine is Down... Low...
LUCIANO: ...masculine is Up... High.
ELENA: Woman is earth... concretely sanguineous...
LUCIANO: ...man is sky... abstractedly cerebral.
ELENA: Woman is night...
LUCIANO: ...man is day.
ELENA: Woman is obscurely closed...
LUCIANO: ...man is clearly open.
ELENA: Woman is Darkness...
LUCIANO: ...man is Light.
ELENA: Woman is moon...
LUCIANO: ...man is sun.
ELENA: Woman is Orient... a symbol of the Ancient and Primitive...
LUCIANO: ...man is Occident... a symbol of the Future and the Evolved.
ELENA: Woman is impulsive...
LUCIANO: ...man, on the other hand, is reflective.
ELENA: Woman is warm emotion...
LUCIANO: ...man is cold thinking.
ELENA: Feminine is passion...
LUCIANO: ...masculine is control.
ELENA: Woman is sensibility...
LUCIANO: ...man is strength.
As you can see from the comparison between the graphic symbols, there are some
things in common between man and woman, but many things are not.
Indeed, the circle belongs to both the feminine and the masculine, in such way the
nucleus is common to both, it is identical. But the periphery changes: in the woman the
graphic sign highlights the substantially internal and centripetal movement, it is a conservative
movement, it is a movement that takes root in dark and deep knots/crossings (that cross is
not a coincidence: it represents the painful menstrual blood, which is related to suffering and
martyrdom as well as to generativity and transcendency). On the other hand, in the man the
arrow (phallic, sharp and predatory) projects energy through an opening, aimed towards the
outside, upwards, as in a constructive movement. Statics and dynamics become a concrete
reality in two symbols which are certainly similar, but at the same time divergent.
The double list, we have just gone through, enumerates the differences between man
and woman. But let us ask ourselves a question: Until what point can these differences be
reckoned? And where the two sexes, the two genders, are similar from the psychological point
of view? What is one missing that the other one longs for? What is man missing that he can
envy from woman?
In the primitive cultures, no more in our modern one because some rituals are lost,
the lack of technological and scientific instruments allows to pick really up the human psyche
coming naturally and easily out (therefore we are able to point out the human beings and
realize the feeling of their heart, just because they have naive behaviour).
We can see, for instance, during a parturition, what a man does while his wife is
bringing into the world her child. Her man gets something like a “couvade”, as anthropologists
say. He simulates to be pregnant and then to give birth.
Therefore he neglects his work duties or his male activities (as hunting), he shuts
himself in a hut, lies down on a mat for a few hours or days, doing exactly what his woman is
doing. Feigning (but also “living” labour pains), he writhes, he groans in pain, he calls for help,
almost miming perfectly the labour and the parturition time.
This man, imitating his woman during the parturition, is really sending an important
message to himself, to his woman, and to all his people, and this message, in plain words, is “
I am, male, close to my woman during this very important moment, and I envy some of her
qualities absolutely lacking in myself”.
What are these qualities? Are those of procreation and bringing into the world a new
life. Therefore this means a deep psychological message: the masculine realizes to be strongly
limited, being aware that, instead, the feminine gender gives life.
Therefore, all that belongs to the feminine, is envied by the masculine, above all in
her main quality concerning the procreation.
A further masculine technique, trying to imitate the feminine ability in procreation, is
the penis sub-lancing ritual: the reproductive organ is wounded by the man himself, so that
making it bleed like the reproductive feminine organ (vagina-uterus), it psychologically gives to
the man the equal almightiness feeling that physiologically belongs to the woman.
The male imitates/envies the womanliness, because giving life is the supreme act of
the life itself, the highest act through which creativity expresses itself.
The procreation power is overall feminine and it is a very important power because it
means the denial of death’s anguish: generating a son (and it’s just the feminine to do it!)
allows to win the Death, allows to enter the Immortality.
It is probably for this reason that the “Feminine Code” seems absolutely gifted with
attraction more than the “Masculine Code”. Actually, when the more “internal”, more private
and more intrapsychic qualities come into play, the gravitation force of the Female/Mother
manifests itself, and its generative-seductive-erotic power appears almighty.
It is perhaps for this deep archetype that the number of the transexuals/transgenders
that want to be women is higher than the ones who want to be men? And this even if the
modern civilization is basically “man oriented”… or perhaps it seems so but it is not this, as the
deeper elements push always and in any case towards the femininity…
The male wish, quite always unconscious, to be able to create, to procreate, to give
birth, always existed even if it assumed forms and looks very different from the fisiologicalsexual reproduction. It is perhaps for this reason that men acted so much (to surpass women?)
and they distinguished themselves in the field of the sciences, the arts, then they created
alternative and useful things, but starting from this elementary bio-psychological factor. The
male scientifical-technological productivity is maybe a reactive consequence of the female
original superior fisiological-affective productivity.
Indeed, we can’t forget that the first divinity has absolutely been a feminine divinity:
the Great Mother, the great Goddess, the Great Mother Earth, procreating, bearing fruit to
nourish her own sons, venerated and respected by all people. Perhaps it’s not casual that the
original feminine divinity has been displaced by masculine divinities...
Now, reciprocally, we can ask what women can envy in men.
What women admire/envy in men probably is strength, such as external strength,
therefore the capacity to handling objects, producing goods, making practical things. Indeed,
looking at the human history, man has always been the one who has carried out the external
role out of the family, so working soil, hunting, waging war. Instead, woman has always carried
out the internal roles, of course more psychological roles: procreating/raising/educating
children, managing the emotional and affective atmosphere of the family. This is a different
kind of “strength”, not muscular, non exterior, but interior strength, the strength of feelings,
the strength called sensibility.
In conclusion, the Feminine Pole and the Masculine Pole are two abstract entities,
concretely rooted in everyday reality, along hundreds of ways, along hundreds of streams often
confused, sometimes normal and sometimes abnormal, sometimes healthy and sometimes
pathological (it is very difficult to understand where the borders are located!), where
neverthless sexuality gets the upper hand in “mixing up again the cards” in many areas:
heterosexuality, homosexuality, cross-dressing, transexuality/transgenderism, etc.
THE INTRAPSYCHIC WORLD AND THE UNCONSCIOUS: THE PHANTASMATIC COUPLES
Woman and man, female and male! These “principles”, these “codes”, these “types”
should they take root in the psyche, they move in a certain way.
If there is anything psychoanalysis has discovered, it is the simultaneous presence of
conscious and unconscious. That is, that not only the visible part of the psyche exists, but also
the invisible; what is more, they are sometimes in conflict, and some other times in synergy.
Therefore, conscious and unconscious behave between the two of them as masculine
and feminine, according to the Jungian model of the “coniunctio oppositorum”. In other
words, opposite poles attract each other (and tend to complement themselves), both in the
material and in the spirit. This way, a deep character joint becomes fundamental data for the
couple’s constitution, survival and growth.
The psyche is composed of “external word” and “internal world”, that is “objective
reality” and “subjective reality”. Said in other words, the psychological universe embraces
both “reality” and “subjectivity” of which the individual is some times conscious and some other
unconscious, since there is both surface and profundity.
Under the light of these premises, the psychic masculine and feminine interact at
different levels and circles.
The figure of the two real individuals describes the separation between man and
woman: the two graphic symbols are detached, and this way, individually well-distinguished.
The figure of the couple composed of two real individuals shows the encounter between
the two entities. The two graphic symbols intersect each other. Nevertheless, we are still in
the circle of the external world.
The figure of the two real individuals and the two phantasies introduce us into the live
part of the argument. Then, the unconscious shows up. It appears under the form of an
“internal presence” of opposite sign. The design, though, refers to two individuals not yet
composing a couple, since they are separated. Although, there is already a peculiar “internal
couple”. It is here that the Jungian contribution takes place when talking about the male
Animus present in the feminine and the feminine Anima present in the masculine.
In the following figure we have a couple formed by two real individuals and two
phantasies. The graphic symbols are no longer simple, but complex. They finally start
intersecting each other in an important way.
This way, they get to the most intimate fusion: that one between external and
internal couple, where the intimate contact between the two “internal hidden parts” is noticed.
Animus and Anima are “under the surface of the water”, but they exist and work, and inter-act
alluring each other. It is exactly here - where objective and subjective elements closely mix
up, as well as conscious and unconscious aspects do too - that the “bridge” that will join the
two banks of the river can be built up; banks that are very much diverse and distant, but
connected by comprehension and love...
The speech about the feminine and the masculine leads inevitably to speaking about the
couple. Everybody knows how difficult it is to make a couple. Both of us, maybe, know how
hard it is a little bit better than any other, both because of personal and professional reasons.
Being a “couple in work and in life” and as if it were little, a “couple of psychologists”, may
place the speakers in the privileged situation of observing and understanding the “couple
But what is a couple? The best and most probable definition is the following: a psychic
and sexual relationship that implies the intimate living between two adult people.
The difficulty of “being together” derives from the fact that the couple woman-man
includes in itself other couples. We all know that each one of us has a sort of an intrapsychic
inheritance, the components of the other sex/gender: therefore, women have in their
unconscious a male component defined as “Animus”, while men have in their unconscious a
feminine component defined as “Anima”. The consequence is, that even before making up a
couple in the real sense with the other partner, each one of us makes up a couple with this
intrapsychic component, let us repeat: mostly at an unconscious level, inside ...
“Inside”, is a very important word. In consequence of which, the real couples exist (a
physical man and a physical woman) who are obviously different and well-defined; where the
feminine and the masculine are visible and diverse since they are inside two separated bodies,
anatomically different. The phantasmatic couples also exist inside each individual, mostly
unconscious and therefore not easily visible, and consequently not easily distinguishable.
In other words, from the deep psychological point of view (that is, intrapsychic and
unconscious), the couple is already present inside the individual. Inside the “biological female”
it is already present the “female-(male)” psychic couple; inside the “biological male” it is
already present the “male-(female)” psychic couple. See the figure on the monad and the
dyad as “internal objects”.
If we remember a famous myth from Ancient Greece: The Myth of the Androgynous that is, he who is simultaneously Andros, male, and Giné, female - we will find in ancient
mythology what the present psychoanalytical science has discovered, or better re-discovered.
“Androgynous” is - symbolically and psychologically - he who is born carrying inside
(therefore, from the beginning) simultaneously female and male characteristics.
Following, as this myth says, there is a division into two parts: that is, that out of this
single being that has inside two sexes, or better, the two gender identities, the two different
sexes/genders are born, and these (as of that moment) must continuously try to make up this
original unity. Consequently, the male and the female are born as separate entities that strive
to regain that totality lost. They do so through communication, courtship, sexual intercourse,
fecundation, and in any other way that could possibly lead to that fusion, integration, reintegration.
This way, even before making up a concrete couple with our own partner, it is
extremely important to re-establish this relationship with our own selves, with our male or
female hidden counterpart.
As an example it can be given that of a woman who is looking for her own internal
realization by the means of a psychoanalytical therapy. Such a dream underlines very well the
relationship between conscious and unconscious at the meeting point for feminine and
masculine, between Animus and Anima.
The dreaming woman walks down a foggy street at night, in a rather confusing
situation... (this confusion represents her therapeutical road), until she finds herself in front of
a wide, calm lake with transparent water... All of a sudden, out of the middle of this lake, she
sees sort of a flower coming out, a flower she describes as a lily whose petals open up... and it
seems like the dream becomes true. Out of this flower, a figure is born (which is that of the
dreamer’s), and she sees herself as if she was looking at herself in a mirror, and in that mirror
she sees her own male self, that is, the man-woman facing each other.
This oneiric material demonstrates the need there is for each one of us (male or female)
to re-establish said couple relationship with oneself, even before deciding to make up a couple
with the partner. In other words, it is necessary to realize the individual Self before getting
together with the Other.
THE OPTIMAL MEETING AND FUSION
Up to now, we have described and explained the double feminine-masculine polarity
from a double point of view: a general one (culture) and a specific one (psychoanalysis). In
the light of what we have stated about the symbols and the profound unconscious dynamics of
the psyche, what can be said about the effective and the efficient way of “being a couple”?,
keeping in mind, of course, the “devarication”, as in an open pair of scissors, that there is
between man and woman.
It is necessary to learn how to make the “real” people meet (here it is meant as:
objective reality + subjective reality), by making the two bodies (the most visible part) and the
two souls (the most invisible part) meet. The couple is built from a whole by which each
individual “plays” himself/herself both a physical and a psychic part, that is, a superficial and a
The most important thing, though, is succeeding in making the two phantasmatic
people meet: making Animus and Anima meet, that is what really matters. In order to do so,
it is necessary to be more and more conscious of the dark side that there is in each one of us...
...without neglecting, in any way, concrete facts related to the lives of two people who
live together: therefore, learning how to communicate, making use of words and emotions,
making use of verbal and non-verbal language.
It is a “must” to learn about “what I am like” and “what the other is like”, verifying at all
times compatibility between each other. It is necessary to become aware of “one’s own needs”
and of “the other’s own needs” as well, learning how to harmonize desires, times, resources,
By the way, talking about the “time factor”, let us take a look at the diagram showing
the course of sexual pleasure. Right from the first look we take at it, two different courses
come up, two different kinds of pleasure.
The sexual organs are different not only
anatomically, but also physiologically, and even more so psychologically speaking. Sexual
pleasure in the female individual is tendentially different from that in the male individual: it is
during the relationship, during the concrete erotic-sexual intercourse that convergence is
found... “Harmonizing that which is different”, that is the minimal slogan in sexology...
But that is not enough... It is necessary to learn how to melt together areas always
deeper between them: sexuality (which is a behavioral fact), communication (which is a
relational fact), affectivity (which is an emotional fact), character (which is an intrapsychical
fact). Consequently, the due complication of finding, in the inside of the character: sexuality,
now understood not as “surface” but as “profundity”, that is to say, as unconscious phantasies.
This way, all of this should be kept into consideration when choosing a partner...
The two types, the two principles, the two criteria, the two poles... let them be called
any way you want, they are always two, and basically very much different from each other.
No matter how different personalities or methods may be, it is necessary to walk down
the road in the same direction, it is necessary to do the same basic things, it is a requirement
that the same goals be shared. “Col-laboration” is a must, it is necessary to work together.
Let us take a look at the figure showing how to work out - making use of intelligence,
communication and agreement - the conflict between the individuals’ interests, by way of the
development of an efficient and healthy collaboration. We can see that even donkeys can work
The collaboration-cooperation is considered a paradigm for human beings as much as it
is for donkeys. In the first place, the action taken by the two individuals is individualcontradictory-conflictive. Then, it becomes dual- reflective-interrogative-communicative.
Feminine or masculine?... feminine and masculine?... Opposition or composition?...
The best instrument lies in the reciprocal compatibility, in the character embedding, in
the profound conjunction.
Well, it is true that sometimes the distance/separation is big, but it is also big the
push towards proximity/ fusion/union.
What solutions can be given to the problem of having differences? First of all,
communication must be activated. Second of all, make the conflict productive, learning how to
overcome its negativity, the suffering/restlessness that it involves. Finally, learn how to think
positively, even when facing problems, because it is only this way that a solution can be found.
That’s true! But, don’t the differences continue to be a heavy burden?
Of course they do, but still we can underline a basic rule: the optimal couple is that
composed of a woman and a man who are very much different from the character and
personality point of view, who at the same time, though, are able to close the gap thanks to a
strong and efficient communication.
Human beings are not monads separated from one another. The push towards the
dyad, towards the re-union, the re-constitution of the original unity, is strong, very strong.
As we were able to see in the first figure, the different aspects that characterize
Femininity and Masculinity are very many and very different between them. All of this, is
present in the concrete individual unconscious, as well as in the collective unconscious.
Everything is a merit, and everything is a defect. Everything is Good and everything is Bad.
What is right and fair can be found in the equilibrium, in the correct meeting point between
Man and Woman, between Feminine and Masculine: and that can be individualized one at a
time, case by case, couple by couple. In any case, Wisdom is found in the Whole, in the
Harmony established between the Parts.
Let us take a look at the figure showing how to melt the feminine code with the
masculine code, different from each other but alluring each other.
The “interpenetration of opposites” is tendentially a natural fact. It is a matter of
helping the Yin to find the Yang and vice versa, and this way, the Tao symbol helps us all:
indeed in it we can find Animus and Anima again. Inside the circle divided into two equal
halves, the black part (Yin) contains a white point (Animus), while the white part (Yang)
contains a black point (Anima)... Light is present in the Shadow, and the Shadow is in the
Symmetrical and rotating, the Tao reassures within the Total Synergy, the Dynamic
Movement it releases. The graphic symbols of Man, Woman and Psyche converge into it. The
Ancient and the Modern come together (meet again): Psychoanalysis confirms today what
Taoism had log ago established.
The task of bringing together the Feminine and the Masculine is not easy at all, but do
not let your heart faint: let it be known that the Collective Unconscious works hiddenly on a
solution... The “Other Half of Heaven” is, after all, reachable...
In conclusion, it can be said that “the couple woman-man, gathers in itself other
couples”. Couples composed of psychological characteristics that split up along the double side
of femininity and masculinity. This is about the specifications listed for the first figure. It is
here, in this long (and maybe endless?) inventory of different qualities that the concrete
possibility is placed - the possibility for man and woman - of... of what?... of facing?... of
keeping up their heads?... of fighting?... of hating or loving?... of dis-unite or re-unite?...
Meeting again, loving each other again, making up a couple again...
It means putting together the two bodies and the two souls, recovering the original
It means reaching the whole by melting up the parts.
It means carrying out the conjunction-integration of the opposites, that the more
different they are, the stronger they attract each other.
It is “difference” what creates energy... Vive la différence!