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Martyr Complex

How to Overcome Martyr Syndrome

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Are you tired of living with feelings of suffering, overwhelm and helplessness? You may have martyr syndrome. Martyr syndrome is a term that describes people who use self-sacrifice and suffering to control or manipulate their environment. It frequently includes being stuck in a victim mentality with resulting feelings of helplessness.


  1. Stop holding on to your suffering. In any given situation suffering may include some or all of the following: guilt, a feeling of unworthiness, fear of change, fear of conflict, inability to see options or alternatives, stubbornness, or a belief that life has to be difficult. These beliefs can then lead resentment, anger or depression. Letting go of suffering is analogous to going to the bathroom. There are no feelings of guilt, unworthiness, fear of relief, and certainly no stubbornness about going to the bathroom. When you feel enough discomfort, you go to the bathroom. Look at holding on to your suffering the same way. Relief is possible, it's a good thing and you are worthy of it.
  2. Identify the "payoff." Holding onto your suffering must make you feel you have gained something. Is it sympathy, which you rather enjoy? Is it the compassionate coaxing and pleading, which makes you feel important and special to them? Is it a feeling of "ruined nobility", i.e., a feeling that you are slightly superior to others despite your pain, simply because you have these burdens to bear? Somewhere, somehow, you got the idea that your pain buys you something. Try hard to be unsparingly objective, and analyze what you gain each time you act the martyr.
  3. Stop expecting to be rewarded for your suffering. Do you feel you have to "earn" joy by struggling first? Some people believe that the larger the obstacle, the sweeter the reward. It's possible to get carried away and only allow yourself to enjoy life after you've suffered or struggled to some degree. If you find yourself stuck in this state of mind, think of times in your life (especially childhood) when you experienced joy without suffering.
  4. Examine your beliefs. Martyrdom is closely associated with many of the world's religions in terms of people suffering and dying for their beliefs.[1] What are the beliefs that you're suffering for? Are you trying to live up to an impossible standard? Demanding perfection from yourself? Feeling guilty? Are you believing your "inner critic"? A good question to ask yourself throughout the day is "Am I enjoying what I'm doing right now? If not, why am I doing it?" Most of your answers will probably sound like "Because I want..." or "Because I believe I should..."
  5. Stop blaming, justifying and complaining. Every time you blame other people or outside circumstances, you avoid taking responsibility to deal with things as they are. Every time you justify your position or make excuses, you are justifying staying stuck right where you are. Every time you complain about a situation, you are focusing on circumstances you can't change rather than the things you can change.
  6. Take responsibility. Regardless of the reasons why youíre in the situation youíre in, take responsibility for dealing with it as it is now. Ask yourself "What do I do that contributes to the problem?" and "What can I do to make the situation better?" For example, if you feel that someone in the house does not do their share of the housework, you may have cleaned up after them because you couldn't bear to see the mess, and/or you may have expressed your dissatisfaction in subtle or passive-aggressive ways that are easily ignored. Both of these things have enabled the person to continue in their behavior, if their actions upset you, it's because you have allowed them to.
  7. Don't be afraid to change your behavior. Ask yourself what step can you take right now to improve the situation. Even if it's a baby step, it's forward movement and putting small steps together makes progress and builds momentum for positive change. Fear of change is really the fear of the CONSEQUENCE of change. Personal growth only occurs through change. The consequence of change is rarely what we imagine it to be. You might be scared to "rock the boat" as many martyrs often bend over backwards to avoid inconveniencing others, and to avoid confrontation. If this is you, read How to Stop Being a People Pleaser. Be willing to disappoint people. There's a song that goes, "You've got to learn how to let things go, start living without fear, be willing to fall down, there's so much love here..." It's good advice. You can't make everyone happy all the time. Don't try.
  8. Raise your self esteem. According to self esteem expert Dr. Nathaniel Branden, "self esteem is our experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness." [2] Focus on the things you can do to improve the situation. When you focus on solutions, you tend to find solutions, then take action. When you take action the next step usually reveals itself. With repetition you build confidence in yourself and you begin to feel "competent to cope with the basic challenges of life."
  9. Stop waiting for the mindreader. If other people were going to understand you didn't want more to do, they would have understood by now. Wishful thinking never solves the problem. Good communication skills involve both speaking and listening. It's necessary to find out if the other person is aware how you feel, and what you want and expect. It's also necessary that they have a chance to express what it is that they want and expect. A simple conversation can clear up a big misunderstanding. It's also possible that the other person doesn't want the same thing you want, or worse (for you), doesn't care. It's important to know how things really are so you can deal with reality instead of some fantasized misunderstanding. You need to know where they stand and act accordingly. Even if the other person does not care about the issue as much as you do, you can probably negotiate a better situation than you currently have.
  10. Learn to set effective boundaries. Every time you say YES when you mean NO, you commit an act of self betrayal. You can learn to politely and respectfully decline to do what people ask you do. Before you agree to someone's request, ask yourself if you really want to do what they're asking, and consider how you will feel after you perform the request. What's in it for you? Will you feel good about your altruism and sacrifice, or will you feel bitter about being used yet again? Consider the consequences to yourself and others, then, act accordingly.
  11. Permit yourself to have something better. Give yourself permission to practice some self-care. If you were driving across a desert and were low on gas, you would pull into a gas station, put gas in the car, stretch your legs, use the restroom, and maybe have a soda or a snack. In short, you would practice a little sensible self-care. It is doubtful, if you were low on gas, you would keep driving until you were out of gas, having to walk miles in the scorching sun, warding off scorpions and wild beasts to the nearest gas station - if you even knew where it was - and then lug a gas can back to your car. Give yourself permission to engage in a little self-care. Your car can't run on an empty tank, neither can you.


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Sources and Citations

  1. ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyr
  2. ? http://www.nathanielbranden.com/

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© Roqet :: 2022-03-01 16:07:35