Martyr complex: what it is, how to identify it and what to do about it

Sacrificing oneself for the good of others is one of the maxims of Christianity, something that has deeply penetrated Western societies. Even among the least believed, the act of helping others at the expense of one’s own well-being is an act interpreted as kind, from a good person.

Helping others is good, but everything has its limits, and sometimes even this help can become a demonstration of believing yourself better than others to accumulate burdens that you really cannot bear.

The martyr complex is a condition in which people sacrifice more than they should, but at the same time combined with a certain air of being better than others and a mixture of low self-esteem. Let’s take a closer look at what it is.

    What is the Martyr Complex?

    Many people put the well-being of others before their own and even consider the opinions of others more important than their own. This, which may seem so charitable and generous on his part, ends up making them take on the role of perpetual victim because they are the ones who suffer the most from those around them, those who face the greatest adversity in life. It’s really like looking for it. This way of life is what we can call the martyr complex.

    The martyrdom complex is usually justified by the excuse of love, duty and sacrifice. It is about adopting an attitude, voluntarily, of seeking suffering and feeling persecuted in order to nourish certain psychological needs.

    East believing that sacrificing means being a better person is thinking that is the right thing to do. The search for this suffering leads the martyr to feel better about himself in a certain way.

    In the martyr’s way of interpreting the world, bearing the weight of pain and misfortune interprets it as an act of kindness, as it is taken away from another person. It makes you feel more valuable, that you are fulfilling a vital purpose which is to save others from suffering., even if he wears it. But this pattern of behavior is extremely self-defeating because constantly ignoring your own needs makes you chronically unhappy, plus you feel that others should be grateful, but since they don’t prove it, you end up very frustrated.

      How does a martyr behave?

      Really, to some degree, we are all a bit of a martyr. Sacrifice for the good of others is something rooted in Western cultures as it is one of the pillars of Christianity.. On more than one occasion, we have sacrificed ourselves for someone we love or believe that we really needed a favor or some ignored act on our part. But in the case of people with the martyrdom complex, it goes to a very intense extreme.

      To identify a person who may have this complex, we need to pay attention to various behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and values. Among them we have the following signals.

      They see themselves as good people, but on the level of heroes or even saints. They see themselves as morally elevated compared to others, which also makes them see others as selfish or insensitive for two reasons: one, so as not to sacrifice themselves like them; and two, for not appreciating the effort they make in sacrificing themselves, even when they don’t make the slightest mistake. On top of that, they tend to exaggerate their level of suffering to make sure they come across as a sacrificed person.

      Such people they speak in such a way that with their speech they capture the attention and recognition of those who listen to them. They tend to have very low self-esteem, which is easy to spot as they often say they are not worthy or deserving of love, and they also tend to underestimate their personality and abilities. .

      It is difficult for them to say no and to set limits. Because of this, they carry too many favors and may even fall into abusive relationships. But paradoxically, some martyrs end up becoming manipulators, psychological abusers, taking advantage of their situation as victims to engage in emotional blackmail and get what they want from others.

      Another defining feature is that they are not able to solve their personal problems effectively. They do not implement strategies to solve their problems. But it is also that when one of these problems is solved by the simple passage of time, the person with the martyr complex emphasizes another that previously did not give so much importance. They see the glass always half empty, there will always be a new problem to complain about again and again.

      As we said, they consider themselves morally superior to others. It motivates them to look for ways to show their kindness and good intentions, while creating situations in which they make others look like bad, selfish, bad people with simple words.

      They are often disappointed to see how others react when they do something for them. Indeed, even if they do not do it for favors, they are often unhappy with the appreciation of their good deeds by others. They seek admiration and praise from others and, of course, if others do not see it as something too important or simply see it as one more favor, the person with the martyr complex even takes it as an offense.

        How to act in front of such a person?

        People with the martyrdom complex are not easy to treat. These people can become extremely tired and exhausted from being there all the time telling us how badly they are doing. His negativity, full of desire to be the center of attention and desire for recognition can affect us a lot. They infect us with their negativity, making us see that we are also suffering from worse things than they actually are, but on top of that, they make us feel bad for not being as “charitable” or “kind” as they are. them.

        To deal with this type of person, we can use the following three strategies:

        1. Do not accept your favors

        Do not accept favors or help on our behalf that he or she may interpret as a harsh sacrifice. It happens to these people that the more we receive from them, the more likely the martyr will be disappointed in us for not valuing them, which will make them a source of conflict in the not too distant future.

        It is not a question of rejecting everything he offers us, but of evaluating when it is really necessary to receive his help. What we can do on our own, in case he offers to help us, we can tell him that it is not necessary, that we have already succeeded, that we are self-sufficient.

          2. Don’t feed your victimhood

          When a person with a martyr complex shares their feelings of grief and victimization with you, the worst thing you can do is try. Do not add to his anguish or fall into compassion because if you do, you will contribute to his constant moaning and complaints about the heavy load he is carrying on his back. All you have to do is change the sign of the conversation, emphasizing the positive aspects of your life or some of your strengths instead of emphasizing what you’re complaining about.

            3. Explain how we feel

            If the person with the martyr complex is someone important to you, You need to explain to her how you feel as a victim and that her actions are not benefiting you or her.. Most likely, he will be on the defensive at first. However, if things are said calmly, valuing their efforts and offering solutions, they may realize that their suffering is unnecessary and that it also hurt the people they wanted to help.

            Bibliographic references

            • Berger, Allen S. (2003). “Choosing to Suffer: Reflections on a Riddle.” Journal of Religion and Health 42(3): 251-255
            • Johnson, P. (2017) The History of Christianity. Barcelona: Barcelona Spain Network.
            • Kets, M. (2012) Do You Have Victim Syndrome? organizational dynamics; 43 (2).

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