Self as the feminine principle

J Anal Psychol. 1997 Jul;42(3):425-52; discussion 453-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-5922.1997.00425.x.


In analytical psychology, ego is associated with consciousness and the masculine principle. Although the feminine principle generally characterizes the unconscious, it was not assigned a psychic structure equivalent to the ego. This paper proposes a model of the psyche where self and ego are the major modes of psychic experience. The self as the 'being' mode represents the feminine principle and functions according to primary process; the ego represents 'doing', the masculine principle and secondary process. Feminine and masculine principles are considered to be of equal significance in both men and women and are not limited to gender. Jung's concept of the self is related to the Hindu metaphysical concepts of Atman and Brahman, whose source was the older Aryan nature-oriented, pagan religion. The prominence of self in analytical psychology and its predominantly 'feminine' symbolism can be understood as Jung's reaction to the psychoanalytic emphasis on ego and to Freud's 'patriarchal' orientation. In Kabbalah, a similar development took place when the feminine principle of the Shekinah emerged in a central, redemptive role, as a mythic compensation to the overtly patriarchal Judaic religion. In the proposed model of the psyche neither ego nor self represents the psychic totality. The interplay of both psychic modes/principles constitutes the psyche and the individuation process.

MeSH terms

  • Ego*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Jungian Theory*
  • Male
  • Psychosexual Development
  • Religion and Sex
  • Symbolism