Martyr Complex

The Martyr Complex


by Krishna on June 23, 2007

One of the most destructive behaviors in any relationship is the existence of someone with a martyr complex. As the definition from Wikipedia explains, a “person who has a ‘martyr complex’ desires the feeling of being a martyr for its own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need.” The characteristics of such persons include

  • They have the need to be a victim and complain always and relentlessly.
  • They take little initiative in trying to fixing any complaint.
  • If any problem is solved, but in a different way than what they proposed, the problem still exists, as far as they are concerned.
  • If any problem is solved according to their solution, they will find another problem to complain about.
  • If any problem is solved, it is because they complained about it.
  • They complain about problems that do not concern them in the least.
  • They do not appreciate any good things being done.
  • They lie and twist facts to prove their point.
  • They selectively forget, ignore or avoid any facts that may conflict with their point.
  • They resort to name-calling when everything else fails.

Personal relationships are not immune to this. A standard case is that of the troubled teenager who blames his parents for everything going on in his life. And nothing that the parents can do can change this attitude. It doesn’t matter how hard the parents are working to buy all the things he wants. He blames them for not spending time with him. Now, if the parents listen to him and re-arrange their schedule, he accuses them of wanting something from him. Or tells them that it is already too late and they are wasting their time.

What can the parents do? Most of them desperately crave the same love and affection when the teenager was younger. Nothing they do seems to reduce the anger of the teenager. Anything they do is twisted and thrown back into their faces. I have seen many parents give up at times and get really angry. This does not help, of course, but now the parents start exhibiting irrational behavior. This includes not listening to any complaints and insulting the children whenever they get a chance.

Now, both sides are officially at war! Everyone is miserable, but they are also happy in a way, because now each side can justify what they are doing by pointing to the other. “They did this, so I am doing this.” “I tried my best, but nothing worked.” “He can do what he wants, but I am prepared for anything.” “It is only a matter of time, and then I will be free and happy.

These paragraphs are just exerts from the original.


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