For Jung, the archetypes are complexes in the form of "symbolic images" residing in the collective unconscious. (The "collective unconscious" is Jung's formal term for intersubjective, primordial, ancestral elements of the personal unconsciousness common throughout all times and cultures). The archetypes are like ruling complexes, the nuclei around which the more personal and subjective complexes gather and derive their power.
Archetypes help us "put a face" on the complexes. For Jung, there were four main archetypes which manifest themselves in different forms. These are: the Shadow, the Anima, the Animus, and the Self. Each archetype is a complex in the form of a symbol which dictates individual behavior on an unconscious level.
The Shadow archetype is the symbolic image of the dark side of the unconscious. In popular literature it is seen in the "Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde" story. Shadow represents a sort of "alter ego," e.g., the Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader symbolism. Shadow contains the repressed, wild, untamed-even destructive-elements of the psyche. In dreams the Shadow often appears as a dark, frightening figure which seeks to harm us.
The Anima is the symbolic representation of the feminine aspects within the male psyche. A lot could be said about the Anima, but its importance lies in the fact that awareness and understanding of a man's Anima greatly enhances his ability to relate in a healthy way with women. The Anima, Jung hypothesized, was more or less an aggregate of a man's internalized ideas of his mother.
For Jung, the Anima symbols were expressed in four ancient myths familiar to all. The first is the Eve symbol. Eve represents the aspects of the Anima that are "dangerously desirous" for the man. Most men have had the experience of being infatuated with "the girl you don't bring home to momma." This is the girl of the man's fantasy, but who possesses foolish qualities that will bring him to ruin. (Another mythic representation of the Eve archetype is the Delilah figure).
The second image is symbolized by Helen of Troy. She is more virtuous than Eve-she possesses skill, ability, and intelligence-but is still somehow flawed (perhaps because she possesses "too much" masculinity) and so id not seen as fully virtuous. This is akin to the "successful businesswoman" that a man would bring home to momma, but who is not really the most compatible for him, nor possessing of the same level of erotic desire.
The third is symbolized by the Marian icon. Mary represents the purely virtuous female to whom no sinful qualities can be attributed-but who in some sense cannot truly be possessed. This can manifest itself in the woman on whom the man has an "eternal crush," one who is so perfect that she seems completely unattainable. She is the image of the perfect nurturer, caregiver, and lover, the "Ms. Right" the man never seems to find.
Finally, the fourth is Sophia (the Greek word for wisdom). Sophia represents a balance between the virtuous and vicious aspects inherent in all people, whether male or female. This is the image of the feminine that is realistic instead of idealistic, stereotypical, or misogynistic. Because Sophia is realistic, she is in some sense the Everywoman. All women are Sophias; therefore, all women are elevated (or lowered, in the case of Mary) to a position of equality with the man.
Interestingly, the movie The Lord of the Rings portrays some of these Anima archetypes. Lady Arwen, the Elven princess, symbolizes a kind of Marian figure. She is the ideal object of Aragorn's desire, but he knows in his heart that he cannot fully possess her nor is deserving of her. In addition, she appears to be one who is completely pure in motive and conduct, even to the point of sacrificing her own immortality for him.
Eowyn, King Theoden's niece, is viewed as a kind of Helen of Troy character. She is capable with a sword and has courage and inner strength. However, her masculinity threatens the members of her clan and so she is not seen by her community as being eligible to participate in battle. (However, later in the story she is "promoted" to a Sophia character, after demonstrating unwavering valor in war, by being granted heir of Theoden's throne upon his death).
Galadriel, Queen of Lothlorien, also mirrors a kind of Sophia archetype. She has powers of clairvoyance and great wisdom, but still has enough weakness to be tempted by the ring of evil. She never means men any harm, is strikingly desirable, is always helpful, but still has imperfections.
Jung also says that the male Anima is the emotional, intuitive, artistic, sensitive, empathic, nurturing, and vulnerable side of him-the qualities he most wishes to repress due to socio-cultural stereotypes. (The male Persona, on the other hand, is the personality the man presents to the outward world. The less in touch a man is with his Anima, the more his Persona resembles the stereotypical Animus.)
"In broad terms, the entire process of Anima development in a male is about having the male subject open up to emotionality and in that way a broader spirituality by creating a new conscious paradigm that includes intuitive processes, creativity and imagination, and psychic sensitivity towards himself and others" (excerpted article on Jungian psychology taken from Wikipedia.com).
As a man becomes a more integrated psyche (i.e., as more of his Anima is made conscious,displaces his Persona, and integrates with his Ego) he gains a fuller appreciation and a more realistic attitude towards the opposite sex. He is in a much better position to have a successful love relationship because he now knows that the unconscious stereotypes that have guided him in his judgments of women are false and that all women possess both good and bad qualities-just as he himself does.
Conversely, the Animus is the symbolic image in the female psyche of masculine attributes and potentials. As with the male Anima, a greater understanding and integration of the female Animus with consciousness leads women to healthier relationships with men. Like the Anima, the female Animus is an aggregate of the woman's internalized ideas of her father, and springs from the nature of that relationship. Examples of the Animus include 'The Hunk," "The Hero," "The Jock," "The Nerd," "The Nutty Professor," the "Knight in Shining Armor," "John Wayne," etc.
Finally, the archetype of the Self is the symbol of the integrated or unified psyche.