In some cultures, tradition is such that every February 29th the woman may propose marriage. I'm not personally planning to take advantage of that window, but it has set me thinking about the whole subject of marriage, union, and the balance of male and female, anima and animus, in our society, workplaces and our own internal lives. Not a typical leadership topic, I grant you, but one which may be important for maximising our potential, both individually and collectively.
Carl Jung wrote extensively about our masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) traits, the archetypes of the unconscious mind. Regardless of our gender, we have both. The more conscious we are of them, the more we can ‘wed’ them within ourselves, the more access we have to our skills, talents and gifts.
From our stories to our structures, we can see how our organisations reflect society’s developed animus. Traits that are honoured are those which come from a place of strength and are associated with values of initiative, courage and rational deduction. They echo a deep belief in the value of one’s own life.
Our feminine side, our anima traits seem to be more hidden in organisational life and society. But they are there. These are the traits with a strong emphasis on the outward expression of feeling, of connection and sensitivity to events which impact on people’s inner lives. These echo a deep belief in the value of the life of others.
What does it mean to support and value people in environments more familiar with challenge and structure?
How may we access our feminine traits as men or women working in a male-dominated world, to bring more balance within ourselves and within society?
Here we can turn to archetypes in myth, legend and storytelling, which flag up universal human traits, experiences and patterns of development. Archetypes never go out of fashion, because they express universal truths which, on some fundamental level, we can all recognise in ourselves.
It's far from being a traditional organisational tool, but we can draw inspiration from Tarot cards. During the Renaissance, Tarot card archetypical images were used for meditation; to help raise one's consciousness and to connect with one’s true essence. We can still use them today to reflect on anima figures and consider what qualities they have, which we can reclaim for ourselves, as men and women.
For example, the ‘Empress’ image, can remind ourselves of our life giving qualities, the value of our body and our senses, and our bond with nature. This can help us manage our stress and wellbeing, as the more we are in tune with our own body, the more resourceful we become. The ‘High Priestess’ who is a connection with the mysterious inner world can help us reflect on what is within our control and what we have to let go of in our lives. She also reminds us of the power of accessing and using our intuition for quick and clear decision making. The ‘Temperance’ angel may prompt us to explore the function of feelings, what it means for emotional intelligence and working in harmony, cooperation and collaboration. And the ‘Moon’ figure can inspire us to be comfortable in whatever phase we are in, and to operate in a VUCA world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
It may be a bit of a leap, but if we attend to our inner union of anima and animus, perhaps we can become more integrated and balanced, and help create a more balanced sustainable society.
Sharman-Burke J and Greene, L (1986), The Mythic Tarot, Random House.
Special thanks to Cathy and Si , and Ray for their guidance.
photos: via picks4world.com and own respectively