According to The American Psychological Association, complexes are groups or systems of related ideas or impulses with a common emotional tone. They exert an unconscious but strong influence on people’s attitudes and behavior. Carl Jung introduced the term “complex” to explain the personal unconscious.
Complexes typically have a specific theme, compromising core patterns that subconsciously influence our thoughts and behaviors. Wishes, memories, emotions, and perceptions that may have been with us since childhood, forgotten or repressed, may remain in our minds. These complexes explain how we see ourselves and our behavior toward others. Whether born with these influences or environmentally shaped as we age, complexes can significantly impact our lives.
Some people may use their “complex” to overcompensate for perceived shortcomings. Others may exhibit delusions of grandeur in their attempt to play hero or seek attention through sympathy and suffering.
There are numerous complexes that can influence our daily lives. We look at some of the most common below:
- God Complex
People with a god complex may believe they have divine powers and are above the rest of humanity. They often shun the rules of society as not applying to them as they feel superior to others. Narcissism, delusions of grandeur, entitlement, and exaggerated feelings of self-importance govern their actions.
God complexes may stem from unresolved childhood issues, feeling powerless, or low self-esteem. Parents who were overprotective or those who continuously praised their child could lead to that sense of self-importance for varying reasons. Lack of accountability during childhood can lead the individual to believe that they do not have to respect or adhere to the rules and norms of society.
In some cases, the god complex can stem from achievements, success, and admiration, all actions that boost the ego and make the individual feel superior to others without the same accomplishments. Behaviors include jealousy, entitlement, a know-it-all attitude, ignoring the needs of others, indifference in their actions as they affect others (lack of empathy), narcissism, and the need to control everything.
- Superiority Complex
A person with a superiority complex believes they are better than anyone else, exhibiting an exaggerated sense of self-esteem, often to escape their feelings of insecurity. Overconfidence can also lead to a superiority complex. While the individual may present condescending or arrogant behavior, there is a lack of narcissistic traits and the need for control and power in those with a god complex.
Ongoing pampering in childhood may lead to a person being used to having everything provided to them without the need to learn and apply themselves. In the absence of building capabilities and confidence, the individual can take on a sense of entitlement, believing the world continues to revolve around them. Instead of learning cooperation skills, they avoid coping with reality by developing a superiority complex.
A person with a superiority complex may brag about themselves to the point that it puts others down and pushes them away. Comparing oneself to others, overcompensating for inadequacies (real or imagined), overreacting, bullying, or exaggerating are characteristics of a superiority complex. The individual may suffer from low self-worth, career troubles, and relationship problems.
Some mental health conditions cause coping difficulties that can lead to developing superiority complexes to overcompensate feelings of insecurity. It is also wise to check for attention or learning problems in people with a superiority complex.
- Persecution Complex
People with a persecution complex may feel they are being persecuted or in danger. Isolation, lack of trust, paranoia, and suspicion are prevalent. A person may seem delusional and irrational and feel that everyone is out to harm them.
Approximately a quarter of the individuals diagnosed with dementia may experience persecutory delusions at some point. Delusions can also stem from epilepsy, drug use, schizophrenia, brain tumors, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and genetics.
- Martyr Complex
Individuals with a martyr complex typically put the needs of others before their own as a way to gain attention and sympathy for themselves through their suffering. In some cases, the person may ignore personal needs or inflict self-harm if they are not getting the attention they seek. Martyrs often play the role of “victim” and may be codependent.
Individuals may not know how to express their needs or feelings as they never learned that in childhood. Perhaps they had a parent who would lose their temper, but instead of comforting the child, they would make it about their shortcomings. In turn, the child learned to comfort the parent and say it was ok to excuse the behavior. The child never learned to put their needs first and, subsequently, only learned to model victim behaviors.
- Guilt Complex
People with a guilt complex blame themselves for what goes wrong, even if it is not their fault. They are highly critical of themselves and sensitive to others’ opinions. Anxiety, shame, worry, stress, and regret are typical characteristics. A person may have insomnia, trouble concentrating, social withdrawal, muscle tension, and an upset stomach.
Guilt complexes can stem from childhood experiences, cultural viewpoints, religion, social pressure, anxiety, and feelings toward one’s thoughts or behaviors. A person may also suffer guilt if they feel manipulated into doing something they know is wrong. Typically overly self-critical, a person with a guilt complex may keep trying to make things better at all costs.
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- Inferiority Complex
A person with an inferiority complex will feel as though they are not as good enough as others, not as successful, or not as worthy. It is one of the most common complexes, often leading people to feelings of resentment, avoidance, and over-compensation. Withdrawal, embarrassment, shame, guilt, and failure often lead to isolation.
Job loss and broken relationships can lead to feelings of inadequacy. A person may look at their shortcomings and engage in self-criticism rather than turning to others for help. People with low self-esteem do not expect much in their lives, often leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy of nothing good happening to them.
Inadequacy and insecurity can arise from many areas, including imagined or actual deficiencies, whether physical or psychological. For example, a person can view their body negatively, such as being overweight, having bad skin conditions due to acne or aging, or, for men, even penis size. Fortunately, there are numerous ways of getting over such imperfections. Because aging can lead to many physical insecurities, looking to hormonal causes can help with this complex. Some individuals may research HGH treatment to increase the size of a penis. Find out the actual connection between HGH and penis size in adults to see if that might help in this particular situation.
- Don Juan Complex
A man with a Don Juan complex believes that women are solely for his pleasure and that they need him more than he needs them. The “Don Juan” may see himself as God’s gift to women. He is a womanizer who changes partners quickly, not getting emotionally involved.
Subtypes of the Don Juan complex are as follows:
- Casanova: charming, flirtatious, seductive, self-confident
- Gigolo: expert in lovemaking, gigolos sweet-talk their way into a woman’s bed (for money)
- Sex addict: men in this category have no self-control and may engage in illegal or risky behavior
- Seducer: natural charmer who wants to be the center of attention, often exhibiting manipulative, outgoing, and deceptive behaviors
- Hero Complex
In this situation, a person may create situations where they can rescue someone and be the center of attention. The individual may exaggerate or brag about their heroic efforts for recognition by others.
In work, the individual may feel like they are the only one who can accomplish a task and may overpromise what they can deliver. Individuals with hero syndrome get extreme satisfaction from solving a problem or finishing a project ahead of schedule. However, being the one everyone always turns to for help can wear off and lead to overwhelm from too much work, stress, and resentment.
How Do Psychological Complexes Ruin Our Lives?
Psychological complexes often remove us from reality in some way. We may use a complex as a crutch to help deal with difficult situations or avoid them entirely by focusing elsewhere. Some people may try to “save” the day through their actions, leading to unrealistic expectations.
- Social difficulties
Many of these complexes make it difficult for people to develop positive social behaviors. With the god complex, the individual is often critical or manipulative of others. They rarely take responsibility or accept blame or criticism of their actions, often casting the blame elsewhere. People with superiority complexes often have trouble maintaining relationships, except with those who also deal with insecurity.
- Mental health issues
Some psychological complexes stem from mental health issues, like dementia, often causing persecutory delusions. Other times, these complexes can lead to problems with mental health, such as when a guilt complex can lead to anxiety or depression that requires treatment.
- Adaptation problems
How one adapts to the world around them is influenced by any complexes. For example, people with superiority complexes may have fake or bluff their way into a job, struggling with a position they are not qualified for. That can lead to anxiety and stress.
- Inability to deal with trauma\problem
Psychological complexes often change our view of reality. That can make it difficult for a person to deal with a situation, problem, or trauma. They may withdraw entirely or try to overcompensate in some other way.
Having a psychological complex does not mean you are stuck in a no-win situation. Understanding the problem is the first step. Getting help for what you are feeling is the next step. Many people experience one or more psychological complexes, so do not feel as though you are alone.
Many times, these complexes stem from childhood experiences that we have not dealt with to overcome. Acknowledging this and finally dealing with it can lead to improved emotional well-being.
Learning how to change negative thoughts and actions to positive ones can make a significant difference in your future.