martyrdom - st sebastian

MARTYRDOM is one of seven basic character flaws or “dark” personality traits. We all have the potential for feeling victimised, but in people with a strong fear of worthlessness, Martyrdom can become a dominant pattern.

Martyrdom in History

Martyrdom traditionally refers to an experience of suffering persecution, torture and death on account of one’s faith.

Before exploring martyrdom as a psychological mechanism, it is worth understanding martyrdom in this more traditional sense — though it turns out that the two aren’t really that different.

Martyrdom of St. Euphemia

The Martyrdom of St. Euphemia


Martyrdom is a familiar concept in the history of religion. In the ancient world, for example, many Christians were hunted down and cruelly tortured to death by their Roman rulers, simply for being Christians. Faithful survivors would then refer to their executed comrades as martyrs (from the Greek mártys, meaning “witness”). And if their comrades had stayed true to the faith despite all the suffering, then they might also be referred to as saints, meaning outstandingly holy individuals.

The careful use of words can put a specific slant on a situation, shaping how it is represented in the minds of others, as well as in our own minds. A word like martyrdom, for example, helps to separate “us” from “them” in terms of morality.

Having martyrs in our ranks implies that we are fundamentally innocent victims while they are fundamentally evil oppressors. It lets the oppressors know that they are committing an offense against God. It also serves as an inspiration to the faithful, contrasting the goodness and righteousness of the innocent underdog with the unholy injustice of an evil empire.

Once the power of influencing perceptions is understood, martyrdom can also be sought deliberately for propaganda purposes, rather than simply endured as unjust cruelty.

Martyrdom as a Deliberate Stunt

Originally, martyrdom was about keeping the faith while facing an unwanted early death:

“You may kill my body, but my faith will never die.”

But often, consciously or unconsciously, this has changed. In fact, committing a spectacular suicide as a sign of religious or political injustice seems like a worthwhile ambition to some.
matrydom video 100
For individuals with no strong attachment to life, choosing to become a martyr (in the name of Islam, say) — and taking out a few non-believers at the same time — can seem an extremely noble and attractive way to go. Not only does your willingness to die for your beliefs create “shock and awe” in the oppressors, but you also get to be feted in your own community (albeit posthumously)—and your family will be well honoured—and you are promised special treatment by the Almighty in the afterlife.

The Koran prohibits suicide, religious scholars say. But some Muslim groups insist that by classifying the bombers as martyrs, their self-destruction becomes permissible because it is a form of self-sacrifice, and because it is honorable to die in battle against infidels.

New York Times, 9 Jan 2010

Despite the fact that most religious persons (including Muslims) do not consider suicidal acts of terror to be valid cases of martyrdom, the term is used routinely by those using it as a form of propaganda. A would-be suicide bomber describing himself as a “martyr” clearly wants to imply that he is on the side of the  innocent oppressed.

This suicide-as-propaganda-stunt — acting out the role of outraged innocent victim as a form of “narrative attack” on others’ minds — is a far cry from the idea of keeping the faith despite torture and execution. Yet this is the very essence of martyrdom as a psychological syndrome or character flaw: the martyr complex.

The Martyr Complex

In the psychological sense, a person with a martyr complex is one who routinely talks about, emphasizes, exaggerates and even creates his own suffering in an attempt to make someone else appear guilty and blameworthy. Again and again and again.

Martyrdom is a sort of implosion of the will. The subconscious message that martyrdom puts out is something like:

“I have no will of my own because you are constantly oppressing me, denying me my freedom. All problems in my life are caused by your unjust mistreatment of me.”

Instead of exercising their personal power, an individual with overwhelming martyrdom will persistently act as though their power had been deliberately taken away from them.

In more mature versions, the individual may be conscious of their martyrdom streak and try to turn it into something positive, such as publicly suffering for a worthy social cause.

Famous examples of individuals with a chief feature of martyrdom include:

  • Joan of Arc
  • Martin Luther King
  • Jimmy Swaggart
  • Yoko Ono
  • Nelson Mandela

Positive and Negative Poles

In the case of martyrdom, the positive pole is termed SELFLESSNESS and the negative pole is termed MORTIFICATION.

negative pole ←→ positive pole

Mortification“, which literally means “putting to death”, refers to self-inflicted suffering and torment. In this negative pole, there is a distorted (subconscious) belief that tremendous suffering is necessary, whether privately to atone for one’s sins or publicly to attract sympathy and pin the blame on others.

The individual will be unconsciously compelled to experience situations in which they are apparently victimised, mistreated and persecuted.  Some will even go so far as to die to prove their point (“Behold my terrible fate, which is all your fault”).

Selflessness” refers to a conscious willingness to put others’ needs and wants first. Ideally, this is out of choice rather than just a performance, which is more often the case with martyrdom.

If an individual with a streak of martyrdom is relatively self-aware and in control of their fears, their martyrdom can manifest in a more relaxed way as selfless commitment to what they see as a good cause.

Components of Martyrdom

Like all negative patterns of personality, martyrdom involves the following components:

  1. Early negative experiences
  2. Misconceptions about the nature of self, life or others
  3. A constant fear and sense of insecurity
  4. A maladaptive strategy to protect the self
  5. A persona to hide all of the above in adulthood

Early Negative Experiences

In the case of martyrdom, the key negative experiences in childhood revolve around blame, victimisation, and being unable to do anything right in the eyes of the parents. Typically, the child is constantly punished for getting it wrong, and constantly blamed for whatever goes wrong. He might even be portrayed, unfairly, as the source of all of the parents’ problems.

For example, the child’s parents might blame the child for getting sick when times are already hard enough. Or the parents might be intolerant of displays of anger, and regularly punish the child for showing the slightest hint of it—all of which merely breeds more outrage and resentment.

This constant blaming and unreasonably punitive treatment might also contrast sharply with, say, how an older sibling is treated, or how other kids at school are treated by their own parents. For example, the child might have an older brother who can get away with anything, while she gets blamed even for the brother’s bad behaviour.


Getting the love, care and attention which all children naturally crave seems to be an impossible task in this kind of setup.

If I just do as I please, I get punished.

If anything goes wrong, anywhere, I get blamed for it.

Whenever I express myself or assert myself I am rejected.

Whatever is going wrong, it is all supposedly the child’s fault. It is as if the child has no place in the family—in fact, no place in the world.

Over time, if such experiences of unfair disapproval and oppression are fairly constant, the child comes to perceive others, or at least certain types of others such as authority figures, as fundamentally cruel and unfair.


Following these bad experiences and negative perceptions, the child also becomes gripped by a specific kind of fear. In this case, the fear is of their own worthlessnessbeing of no value to anyone, being  nothing but trouble, being a terrible mistake.

The child experiences a tension between believing that he is fundamentally worthless and feeling that he is always being unfairly blamed and punished. His worst fear is that all the blame he receives is valid—he really is to blame for everything (after all, like all normal kids, he knows he is to blame for some things).

What if it’s true—that it is all my fault? That everything I do is bad, know matter how hard I try to be good? Then my life serves no purpose. I am worse than useless. 


The basic strategy for coping with this constant fear of unbearable worthlessness is to twofold:

1. Seek justice and vengeance against wrong-doers.

2. Seek reassuring confirmations of one’s innocence and worth once and for all.

To do this, the martyr subconsciously attracts and sets up nasty problems for himself for which others can take the blame. He lurches from one horrible situation to the next. Within these situations, not only can he attract sympathy as an innocent victim, but also he can finally, indirectly, express the anger for his original mistreatment.


The outer mask of martyrdom is all about being the innocent victim. Typically this involves:

  • constantly moaning, griping, complaining, talking about one’s problems;
  • exaggerating one’s level of suffering, hardship, etc.;
  • avoiding any form of relief, including therapy, lest it end the all-important suffering.

A person with a chief feature of martyrdom has a habit of complaining about endless problems and blaming those problems on anyone or anything but himself. It’s all the fault of his mother, his boss, his so-called friends, this society, the government, people in general, life, God.

Blaming others or the world at large is a way of soliciting sympathy and avoiding the dreadful inner feeling of worthlessness. It is as if the martyr is saying to the world, “Look how much I am suffering, and through no fault of my own! Please sympathise with me and tell me it’s not my fault!”

For martyrs, the idea of taking responsibility for improving or correcting their own lives is anathema. All negative personality patterns are like stuck records, and this one is stuck in a perpetual state of victimization. To end the suffering would scupper any chance of having the mistreatment acknowledged and all wrong-doers finally exposed.

It is important, though, that the suffering be seen as anything but self-inflicted or exaggerated. Hence, the martyr will outwardly deny any responsibility for his own suffering, and always exaggerate the role played by others. The martyr will also over-stress that his own motives are entirely pure—”I was only trying to help when suddenly he lashed out at me for no reason!”

Handling Martyrdom

Like all negative traits, martyrdom is a vicious circle. It simply creates the very experiences which the individual wants to avoid.

Those with martyrdom will find myriad ways to “tempt fate” in order to do something that will establish their worth once and for all. Martyrdom can attract thankless families, wasting diseases, sabotaged careers, destructive personal relationships, in an almost constant search for the elusive “grail” of worthiness.


All people are capable of this kind of behaviour. It is when it subconsciously dominates someone’s personality, however, that they are said to have a chief feature of martyrdom.

The solution to martyrdom lies in:

  • being honest with oneself about using martyrdom
  • giving up complaining, blaming and the attachment to being right
  • giving up the attachment to victimisation and suffering
  • allowing more pleasure, and being willing to be seen enjoying life
  • taking responsibility for one’s choices
  • learning to say ‘no’ to others

In short, it means swinging to the positive pole of impatience, which is ‘audacity’.

Further Reading

TYDFor an excellent book abut the chief features (our inner demons or “dragons”), and how to handle them, see Transforming Your Dragons by José Stevens.



49 thoughts on “Martyrdom

  1. The article states that “martyrdom is a negative personality trait, which causes people to unconsciously attract and exaggerate situations in which they are apparently victimized, mistreated and persecuted.”

    The Catholic Church is responsible for teaching me to live this way. Self-sacrifice is harm against me. I was giving to find a sense of worth. I am 57 and often put others needs before my own. I have to change my view of my true self. This article hit my heart. Every person involved with an alcoholic or addict needs to read, specifically, those who attend Al-Anon.

    To my girlfriends, I gave and gave and gave. To a group, I gave and gave and gave. The truth is I have worth without needing to sacrifice myself including my money, time or knowledge. I wanted to help, but few reciprocated. I believe, with the help of God, I could rid myself of this unhealthy attitude and turn my life around. This understanding may also be an answer to useless guilt.

    I grew to hate the nonsense the Catholic Church taught that suffering is the way to heaven, that self-sacrifice is a way of life. What bunk.

    I think if we dropped pamphlet to those in Iraq, Iran and other home of terrorists, these people might wake up to the fact that they have worth and purpose in a different light than self-sacrifice.

    • Your welcome….The article answered so many questions…A whole book could be written on this topic. Some one could actually earn a Ph.D. on Martyrdom…..Last week, my mom told me my catholic grammar school is closing…thank goodness….young people don’t need to get brainwashed….

    • Hi steven,

      Could relate to your situation much,especially catholic background.
      Life changes started happening to me when I started telling to myself-“I am responsible for the way I think,feel and act”.
      May god bless you to find this inner truth.

    • Someone should do a case study on my sister in law who is an extreme martyr her whole life. Having a controlling and angry father, this woman at an early age 20’s) had back surgery that didn’t work out. She had emitionsl issues before but her martyrdom started when the surgery her father paid for failed. She blamed him, he felt helpless (wasn’t his fault her was trying to help her) and her life became a desperate car of being a victim and she blamed her father horribly and he fell into the trap and it escalated to where everything she tries fails and her physical problems are constant and its the medical world’s fault, she is a constant victim and constantly complains. Everyone around her is out to get her. This article should state my sister in laws name.

    • Absolutely Steven.
      I keep loving my church, but as I give give give, my time, my money, my open door to my home just as I have been taught to do, it is just draining my soul. I am guilty of martyrdom. I am angry. I feel the need for something back. I can’t keep blaming my abusive parents. I felt the church and the doing for others was the answer to self fulfillment. Just the opposite
      I am working on my self worth daily.

      Great article.

  2. Agreed Steven I have given up alot due to Catholic brainwashing not only of me but those in my life. The idea of worhipping someone being nailed to a cross and murdered for all the sins of everyone who hadn’t even been born yet is very messed up.

  3. Thank you, Steven for your post.
    I am a 60 year old woman still trying to gain freedom from years of suffering and martyrdom that was taught as “virtue” as taught by the Catholic Church.
    Self deprecation and martyrdom have been twisted into “good things”

    Thank you for this website as a road map to psychological health!

  4. dont throw the baby out with the dirty bath water, worship jesus, receive his love and gift of eternal life then the key is to love your neighbor AS yOU LOVE YOURSELF YOU CANT LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR IF YOU CANT FIRST LOVE YOURSELF FOLKS

  5. I hope someone is still monitoring these messages. The description of being a martyr fits my husband EXACTLY!!! OMG – to a “T”. And it is perfectly accurate that he refuses help because then he won’t be able to feel sorry for himself. He posts all his woes on FB and relishes the sympathy from others. Nothing is ever his fault (in his case, it’s because “God hates me,” “my life sucks,” “more bad things happen to me than to anyone else,” etc.) If he’s feeling down or upset about something at work or something one of his few remaining friends has done, you can be sure the spotlight will come around to be on me. He’s gotten himself into horrible financial debt – his desperate attempt at avoiding responsibility was to say it was the bank’s fault for allowing him to take money out of the ATM when he didn’t have it, and then finally, somehow, it was my fault for marrying him (even though I had absolutely nothing to do with his account). Okay, so, as his wife, how do I handle this? He clearly wants to pull me into an argument when he’s feeling bad and will criticize any small thing to try to drag me in. I just keep smiling and change the subject and refuse to be baited, but just by carrying on a normal life and a loving relationship with our children, I’m somehow offending him. We’ve been through counseling several times. The last time, because the counselor dared suggest he should try changing some behaviors and attitudes, he accused me of “turning the counselor against me!” He has an addictive personality and I think he might be slipping back into drug use here and there; he’s been on antidepressants but has gotten off them and doesn’t want to get back on. He has anxiety too. I’d just like to know how to get him to get help, and how to deal with this on a daily basis — without losing my own mind.

    • Hi and yes, still monitoring, just way behind in my responses.

      Whew. Well, I’ve known a couple of addicts whose line of defence goes, “Being an addict means I have no choice, so don’t expect me to take any responsibility for my actions.” It’s a typically tortured-logic excuse for carrying on as they are, which is doing something they enjoy whist pretending to have no option because they are so trapped in suffering from others’ faults. The drug taking is no doubt a pleasant relief, but a martyr doesn’t want to distract “the audience” (those around him) from his basic storyline that he is suffering through no fault of his own.

      The bottom line is he avoids taking responsibility and he justifies this by holding up the myth that others prevent him from doing so. He is waiting for the day when everyone finally stops ignoring his storyline, pays attention to his plight, and agrees that he has been – and always is being – victimised.

      What to do? Depends on the level of trust in your relationship.

      You could either confront him with this directly – show that you have more insight into his irresponsibility than he’d realised. Point out that he has choice and has always had choice. To put it another way: acting with free choice or acting as if he has no choice … That’s his choice.

      That could backfire, of course, with him taking offense big time at your heartless lack of sympathy for his powerlessness (and I’m sure he can easily find good examples to prove his case. After all, he will have unconsciously set them up..). You could try showing him this page, but I don’t get the feeling he’s ready for that.

      Alternatively, you could approach it sympathetically and compassionately. Something deep inside him is terrified. He might come from a childhood where he was made to feel wrong no matter what he did, and is terrified of going there again, so his avoidance of responsibility is a blanket solution – “no one can ever again blame me for being wrong or getting it wrong if they think I had no hand in it in the first place.”

      The ideal solution is that he comes to see the light and gets that it’s all about his fearful avoidance of grown-up responsibility. The underlying fear or panic, however, is a delicate area which he might be very unwilling to look at or acknowledge.


  6. Thank you so much for answering! I think for now the only solution I’ve found is just not to feed into it. He has said he had a great childhood, so if there’s something there, he’s not willing to talk about it, or perhaps he’s blocked it, or perhaps there really isn’t anything. I just try to be upbeat and supportive without getting swallowed up in his “I need more!” mentality.You are completely right about him setting up circumstances to illustrate my or his coworkers’ or the world’s etc. heartlessness. The most harmless and normal situation can be turned into a dire insult; facts are twisted, timelines adjusted to provide maximum victimisation. It’s super frustrating. So we’re pretty much living separate lives under one roof. It’s good to know I’m not the only one living with someone like this, though. 🙂

    • I think in the context of this article, what you describe would be the positive pole of Martyrdom, i.e. selfless self-sacrifice for a greater cause.

      There is always a negative pole, however, which is far from virtuous. An example would be walking into a glass door and then blaming the door, the door’s designers, the door’s owners, the nearest bystander, etc etc.

  7. Hello Barry,

    first of all, I want to thank you from my heart for your webpage and the source of knowledge you have shared with us. I have a question regarding martyrdom, which is the basic flaw that I believe has ruled my life in times of great stress or pain.

    When I feel safe, loved and balanced I am able to switch to the positive pole, selflessness, but recently I’ve experienced a very painful life situation that has made my life a sudden hell.

    In my childhood, I was constantly ill and I ended up believing that this was my fault and that I was causing the ruin of my family. I also felt that due to my illness my brother had more liberties than I did and that I was powerless. I often felt resentment but did not express it. I now realised how I blamed my illness for all that was happening in my life. Once I became a young adult, the asthma disappeared and I was able to gain more trust in life and felt stronger. I might even say I’ve done pretty well in terms of travelling, experiencing love and achievements. I am now 36 years old.

    I got married a couple of years ago, but recently I caught my husband with another man (we’re a gay couple) and this caused (probably) the greatest suffering of all my life. This wasn’t all, he confessed me he had been doing this for a long time with different people, having brief sexual encounters that varied depending on how stressful he felt. The saddest things is, we later found out that he had been infected with HIV. I am still negative and the doctors feel optimistic about my health.

    This happened about a month ago and I have not been able to just leave the relationship and move on. This was my first reaction, but it is not my habit to run away from problems. The people who know what happened say “they would probably just leave the relationship”. In my heart, I still love him and want to make this marriage work. However I am also consumed by confusion and fear of my mental health (I am experiencing generalised anxiety) and the impact HIV will have in our lives. Hopefully, he is going to start treatment in a few days.

    We are now closer than ever, we’re taking therapy and comforting each other when we feel desperate. Our relationship has become peaceful and we are deciding whether we’re going to be together or not in the future. In fact, he’s taking the virus with dignity and faith. He asks for my forgiveness every day, stays strong and I truly believe he regrets having caused such pain in our relationship (by reading your blog I have come to the conclusion that his negative feature is greed). We talk a lot and I feel we’re both willing to make a deep change if we decide to stay together in the future. However, we are both aware that we cannot stay together for the wrong reasons (guilt, shame, fear, etc) but because we still believe we can save our marriage by rebuilding and healing our love.

    Paradoxically, I am the one who is constantly depressed and anxious. I feel like that because of the endless feeling of prosecution and that no matter where we go, no matter what we do, we’re doomed. I often torture myself with either dark and extremely sad thoughts as I reminder that I cannot be happy no matter what. I can relate with the sense of worthlessness you talk about in this article. Just by writing this I can see that I am now blaming HIV for the miserable situation of our marriage and use his condition to suffer and be more miserable. I feel, indeed, mortified most of the time.

    I want to enjoy life again. Now, however, it is not clear to me weather I am considering staying in this relationship because of my need of feeling worthy and passively blaming him/HIV for my depression/anxiety, which I fear will prevail no matter what; or if my decision in the future (if staying) will truly come out of love and selflessness.

    Thank you.


  8. Hi Mario

    First, just to check I am following the situation correctly:

    1. You can identify martyrdom as your dominant negative pattern, and you can trace this back to childhood experiences that fit the pattern. In childhood you had asthma, but in adulthood your ‘symptoms’ have become more subtle.

    2. You were recently betrayed (big-time) by your husband, whose secret sexual activities put both of you at risk of HIV/AIDS. (We already know he is HIV+ but you, so far, are HIV–.)

    3. Despite the predictable advice of your friends to move on, you are remaining steadfast in the relationship and hope to heal it, or at least re-negotiate it with mutual conscious agreement and clarity.

    It sounds like your husband has boldly stepped up in responsibility, and the air between you has cleared. The fact that he is now known to be HIV+ changes things, of course: it has evoked your compassion, but at the same time it also triggers terrible anxiety over what might happen and depression over what seems inevitable.

    Thus it seems that the present situation is bringing your martyr/victim streak into sharp focus. While this will be an unpleasant experience at one level, at another level you could view it as an opportunity to really get to grips with it and step out of it.

    As far as I can tell, there is a common sequence of steps involved in overcoming a negative feature that goes something like this:-

    1. SELF-IMPOSED SUFFERING: We act out our negativity out of sheer habit, pretty much unconsciously, without realising or caring. (Most people just stay here for their entire life.)

    2. SELF-AWARENESS: We may become aware of our negativity and how it affects ourselves and others. If we don’t just lapse into despair over it, this can prompt us to try and overcome it.

    3. SELF-INSPECTION: We observe ourselves and examine how our negativity operates inside our own minds as well as our external lives. We can even identify the components of it – persona, strategy, misperceptions, core fear, and how they form a vicious circle. Awareness helps to break the chain.

    4. SELF-ACCEPTANCE: We have to be careful to avoid the trap of criticising ourselves for our negativity. That is simply the negativity finding a way back in to re-close the vicious circle. We have to accept ourselves positively as people who sometimes function negatively.

    5. SELF-TRANSFORMATION: With self-acceptance, we are free to re-invent ourselves as individuals who are bigger than our negative patterns. We can operate from conscious desire and choice rather than blind fear and habit.

    It’s not that every aspect of our negativity has to be healed through therapy – we just need to be able to spot the whole thing for what it is and get ourselves into a place of choice whenever a situation comes along that might trigger it.

    In your case, you are very aware of your martyr-ish tendencies – the sense of victimisation, the urge to blame, the resistance to self-responsibility, and even the resistance to feel better about life (once you start feeling happier, martyrdom has no role and becomes redundant; hence, there will be a mental program somewhere that says: happiness is to be avoided in favour of misery). With this self-awareness, I would say you are in a very good place for making real progress.

    With regards to the dilemma about your motives for staying on the relationship:

    There is no right or wrong choice to be made here. Whether you stay in the relationship or not, your fear and unconsciousness will be the same. What matters isn’t the choice per se but how you make it – either in a spirit of self-love and with positive anticipation of growth leading to joy, or in a spirit of fear and with the anticipation of pain.

    It is a safe bet that most of our decisions in life come from some mixture of positive/conscious desire and negative/unconscious fear – the two motivating forces in all people. To get to a point where you can choose from pure desire (love) without any sense of fear is no small challenge, but it is also one of the greatest goals you can set yourself in life.

    If you decide for yourself, right now, that your choice to be in the relationship is your choice, made freely and consciously, then it is. And if there is any unconscious motive at work, then be ready and willing for it to surface into your awareness, at a time and in a space where you (and your husband) can deal with it openly and lovingly.


    • Barry,

      I heartfully thank you for your response. You have read all the facts of my post in a very accurate way. Indeed, I feel that life is giving me an oportunity to break free from the chains of my negative pattern and become stronger. There is a constant inner battle between fear/anxiety and love/compassion just now, but freedom has to be earned and I feel I am walking in the right direction, regardless of what will happen with our marriage.

      Interestingly, I have also been reading the spiritual sections of your blog and have the feeling that I am a mature priest soul whose main goal is growth. I identify my husband as a young sage soul whose main goal is contentment.

      Your help has definitely touched my heart.

      Thank you.

    • I’m aware of antipsychotics causing various physical side effects, but not psychological or personality changes (apart from reducing psychotic episodes of course).

  9. I am truly being harassed by someone so the martyrdom is external, There must be an article somewhere about how to create martyrdom to incite groups of people. I would suggest that it is biased towards blaming the victim although there may be instances that are external terrorism recruitment.

  10. Your blog has been very enlightening, and thanks for it.

    How can I overcome the martyrdom complex? (Probably a greedy complex as well)

    My mom is a martyr, my sis is a martyr

    Through therapy, introspection and dream interpreting, I realized that I had as a child a lack of support, affection and recognition.

    Then I support everyone around and love probably to an excessive point. I give away, what I lack as a kid with the crazy idea that in that way, I`ll get it back.

    When people do not give me back what I have already given them, I feel like a victim, get extremely mad and disappointed. Sometimes I have the feeling that the more I give others, in a way I`m pushing them away.

    I have a long history of lost relationships because of this, and now having problems with my own kids because of that.

    Disappointment is a major issue in my life.

    I cry because people are ungrateful.

    I know it is a vicious circle, and I`m slowly making changes.

    I try to be more balanced and have more balanced relationships.

    I think that the goal here is to be my own parent, and give to myself what I lack as a kid. That is a major shift in mind…

    If you can contribute in any way to this healing process, I`ll appreciate it.

    Won`t be disappointed if you don`t. Lol

    I love my sense of humor. It is a blessing in my life, and sometimes in others lives too.


    • I am so anxious for a reply, because I can so relate to everything you have written here, and are living.

  11. I think a good point that needs to be made is that there’s a considerable gray area between understanding how we’ve become martyr personalities and blaming those causes for our martyrdom. If we’re going to search our pasts to see how we became this way, we need to be careful not to let what we learn backfire and give us an excuse to say, “See? It’s not my fault,” and then give up.

    That said, I want to suggest that religion can play a BIG role in creating martyrdom. Martyrdom becomes not just “evidence” that we’re “worthy” people, but it becomes evidence that our religion is “the true religion.” It becomes proof that the other religions / churches are wrong and ours is correct. I’m not suggesting this is true for everyone, just for some. (And, being correct or not, we don’t want to let it give us an excuse to “blame” our religion for “victimizing” us.)

    It’s a bit of a dilemma, understanding why we’re the way we are without the martyr blame.

  12. A good article but your portrayal of historical Christian martyrdom in this article is grossly inaccurate. I suggest you read Foxes book of martyrs and research historical, non-Christian writers like Josephus to gain a correct understanding of the motivation for martyrdom and the actual physical horror of Roman torture and execution. Even though some of your material is quoted, by quoting it to substantiate your article you are invariably endorsing it in all the splendor of its inaccuracy and misinforming readers.

    • Done. I don’t share your view necessarily, but I also don’t want to be seen as espousing the opposite view.

  13. Hi Barry, first of all THANK YOU for a well-written article on martyrdom! Exactly describes my later father (he was suffering from delusions as well) due to his unhappy childhood. I must admit, there were several “streaks” of martyr complex showing in me in late adolescence…and that’s were my next question leads to. I have been in those days of poor self-esteem and depression prone to self-sacrificing, eating disorders and “alternative” lifestyles, e.g. veganism but thanks to a great support of my psychotherapist I was able to fully recover and understand that behind all these problems was just guilt and self-blame. This happened about 10 years ago, since then I haven’t experienced any problems (thank goodness!) Now, I have been recently confronted with my ex-college classmate who turned into a vegan a few years ago…and since I am working with shelters, animal right org’s etc. I meet an increasing number of people who try to brainwash others with veganism. And from all I can gather (including my previous experience) is that all this vegan craze is basically feeding martyr complex in vulnerable people- if I can quote from your article: ” we are fundamentally innocent victims while they [meat-eaters; in this case] are fundamentally evil oppressors. It lets the oppressors know that they are committing an offense against God [karma]. It also serves as an inspiration to the faithful, contrasting the goodness and righteousness of the innocent underdog [vegan] with the unholy injustice of an evil empire [meat industry]”…I am not saying that there should be any extreme suffering of the animals (I always care where my meat/produce comes from; buying only from local farmers I know personally), but it is quite unusual how ferociously do vegans respond even to the notion of “free-range” produce, ethically-resourced leather, wool, silk etc…I have even contacted the big vegan org’s e.g. PETA, Compassion in Farming etc. asking them to explain their reasons to try and grow such unhealthy feelings of guilt in their followers- 100% of them either used verbal abuse or didn’t care to respond. But the more I try and communicate with the vegan community (inevitable on one hand- due to the nature of my work, perhaps…but also liberally commenting on their posts), the more I think they are encouraging their supporters’ feelings of righteousness (to make up for the poor self-esteem?), the more they point out “meat-eaters crimes” and how victimized they are by the society…and somehow it reminds me of religious sects (martyrdom is quite common in such communities). Is it just my feeling, or do you think this can be possible? Thank you for your response.

    • No good person, let alone Supreme Being, would ever want another to suffer. You are not hearing God.

  14. Wow…Barry. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I feel enlightened and encouraged. Having dealt with a family of Martyrs for over 50 years and recognizing my roll in the situation, you have just confirmed that I have been making the right decisions and feeding the positive side since becoming aware. It’s nice to find validation and encouragement in such a well-written and strategically placed blog (page 2 of my google search!). Your writing is powerful and easy to follow. It’s nice to see that you are still monitoring the blog as well, so I know that you will receive my note of appreciation. I do have one question for you. Have you ever tried inversion therapy for that sciatica? It has saved my back, hips and knees from the years I physically abused my body in martyrdom! Best money I ever spent. Good luck and Thanks again.

  15. Although I read this article and made a comment in 2013, today, August 26, 2016, in a book called “Self – Defeating Behaviors by Cudney and Hardy, on page 138, I came across the topic called Martyring. After reading that section, I realized that I am still not over this unhealthy trait of martyrdom. In a search for more answers, I went to Amazon and discovered a book called “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom by Candida Moss, 2014. I plan to read it soon. Maybe it could add to this discussion, especially chapter 8 called The Dangerous Legacy of Martyrdom.

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