The Martyr Complex is where a person thinks that their committing a sacrifice that serves a greater purpose. There are so many complexes that can be describe someone as a martyr, the closest one that comes to mind is The Christ (or saviour) Complex.
This is how they differ, a martyr is someone who so strongly believe in something (usually against the popular belief) that they die for. It can be sacrificial, or it also can be through violence (see List of School Massacres, USA – 47 incidents). The Christ or the saviour complex is about the same, superficially, but as we dig deeper, it functions on a much different playing field.
So, you may have heard of the Superman complex.
(I tried a bit a colour there, its supposed to look like Superman’s costume. Didn’t really come out the way I would have thought though.)
The idea behind this complex, is that the person views him or herself as a saviour of some sort.. That they are there so “save” people, and they will sacrifice their happiness in an effort to “help” another or alleviate their suffering.
Martyr is someone who suffers needlessly or is killed for their certain beliefs, quite often I have read that martyrs suffer or are killed because of religious beliefs (but is the belief in religious rules that different from the belief that you are able to help people where others can’t or aren’t able too?). Now martyrs are sacrificial because they are fighting for what they believe in, which can be viewed as the same as the Christ/Superman complex.
We should all know that Christ was killed, and that he sacrificially died for our sins. (Which I think is totally a waste, because people haven’t really changed; and they won’t. We aren’t born knowledgeable of the world around us, so as humans we all are learning). A more in-depth analysis of why Jesus died can be found here. I think his death (and analysis of it) can teach us a lot about human behaviour, at least in the parts of the world where Christianity is largely believed at some point in people’s lives. Christianity governs and influences a lot of Western civilization.
There is a down side to the idea of the martyr or saviour complex, the idea of being a martyr or some sort of saviour based on a belief that you hold (and you hold alone, despite talking to people about it) makes you vulnerable to disguise your victim complex. There are some people who are so stubborn, that they would rather destroy themselves and the lives of those around them; just to avoid accepting responsibility for their actions. Thus, they mask it as being sacrificial, usually using the famous tagline; “You’ll understand why later”.
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How does this complex, or series of complexes contribute to human suffering? Well, it’s really one ingredient to a system of beliefs that can result in the deaths of many. How many terrorists attacks have resulted in a huge amount of deaths, for religion? Did you know that the Columbine shooters (April 20, 1999) we referred to by the 2007 Virginia Tech shooter by first name, describing them as a group; “we martyrs”.
There are articles claiming that these students were bullied, however sporting t-shirts that read “Wrath” and “Natural Selection” (with the Santa Fe shooter sporting a “Born to Kill” t-shirt). Could it be that it’s not that the kids were bullied as much, it’s just that they weren’t given breaks? What if it was that these kids took a different perspective on life, that inherently. it is not so much the fault of their own, but the “systems” faulty output?
Now add a touch of narcissism and this PRACTICALLY forces you to have a complex. Either you feel like you’re a victim of some oppressive system (victim complex), you possess the information or a level of understanding that others don’t (superiority complex) and finally, you feel that the only way (and fasted) way people are going to learn is through some act that will forcefully make people understand; like a shooting, or suicide.