Do you know anyone who is constantly in pain? Do you know anyone who is willing to make sacrifices just to feel good? While it appears to be a positive trait, experts have identified it as a psychological issue. The behaviour has been labelled “martyr complex,” in which a person, like a martyr, deliberately sacrifices things despite the unhappiness and pain their loss may cause.
People who suffer from this complex may always be ready to tell others about their latest woes or suffering. The complex may appear similar to victim mentality, but the two behaviours are distinct.
The distinction between a martyr complex and a victim mentality
On the surface, there may not appear to be much of a difference between someone who has a martyr complex and someone who has a victim mentality. A victim mentality may believe that they have been victimised by a person or situation, but martyrs may go a step further by actively seeking situations that will compel them to sacrifice for others. As a result, they are perpetually resentful and dissatisfied with life. Unlike real-life martyrs, they may sacrifice out of obligation or guilt rather than joy. This complex can make these people feel trapped because they are unable to say ‘no’ in situations and may jeopardise their own happiness.
Signs A person may have a martyr complex
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Martyrs, like people-pleasers, will forego their own happiness and needs for the sake of others. This complex is frequently developed in families where martyrdom is valued and celebrated. It may appear in families where the needs of others take precedence over a person’s own. The following are some indicators:
- A person who always appears to suffer in various situations
- A person who does things for others even when they are not appreciated.
- A person who may be taking on more responsibilities or commitments than is necessary.
- A person who is constantly made to feel inadequate.
- A person who has a habit of looking after others in a relationship.
How to deal with martyr complex?
Examine your own emotions Understanding the causes and issues that led to your martyrdom can help you make positive life changes. Try to become aware of your own emotional state. Consider why you might be acting like a martyr. You can identify the solution if you can identify the cause.
Do you have a low sense of self-worth? Do you ever feel worthless or as if you have no control over your own life?
Can you pinpoint the source of your annoyance? Or are you undecided?
Do you keep a lot of grudges? Is there something from your past that you just can’t seem to let go of?
Do you frequently perceive situations as hopeless? Why is this the case? Does it help you avoid awkward situations? Does it help you to justify your current situation?
Recognize that you have options
Martyr syndrome is frequently characterised by a sense of helplessness. You may believe you are a victim by nature, and this will not change. While there is much that cannot be changed in any given situation, learn to recognise where you have options. This will give you a sense of control over your life.
Everyone, for example, finds their job stressful at times. It is unavoidable to have to do things you dislike at work, and you cannot completely prevent stressful situations from occurring. You can, however, control your reactions and coping mechanisms.
When you’re feeling stressed at work, remember that you have options. “I can’t completely eliminate these stressors, but I can control how I react,” you tell yourself. I have the option of remaining calm and dealing with this effectively.”
When confronted with a difficult situation, sit down and make a list of everything you can do to help. This will give you the impression that you have more control over your life.
Stop expecting to be compensated for your pain
Some people volunteer to suffer pain and neglect in the hopes of being compensated in some way. People believe that being a martyr will bring them recognition, love, or other benefits. Consider how you hope to be rewarded for your martyrdom.
Consider how often you tell others about your martyrdom. Do you believe you use this behaviour to attract the attention of others?
Many people suffer from relationship martyrdom. You may discover that you are putting far more into a relationship than you are receiving. People frequently believe that by giving to difficult people, those people will change and become more loving and caring.
Consider whether this has ever actually occurred. Giving more than you receive in a relationship does not usually result in the other person changing. It only adds to your resentment and frustration.
Recognize your unspoken expectations
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People suffering from martyr syndrome frequently have high expectations of others. You have preconceived notions about how people should act that are not always reasonable or realistic. If you frequently feel victimised by others, take a step back and examine your own expectations.
Consider the demands you place on others. Consider what you expect from those around you and whether your expectations are reasonable.
In a romantic relationship, for example, you may expect your partner to complement you in certain ways. Assume you prefer to exercise with your partner, but your partner prefers to exercise alone. You may come to believe that you are the victim. You may believe that your partner should want to spend time with you and that they are therefore in the wrong.