Shadow Wounds You Might Not Realise You Have

Shadow Wounds You Might Not Realise You Have

Are you self-sacrificing and at the service to others at your own expense?

Let’s explore Martyr Complex (Wound)?

A martyr complex is a recognised psychological pattern. It’s marked by self-sacrifice and service to others at your own expense. Identifying martyr traits and tendencies can prevent burnout and destructive stresses on your relationships.

Some aspects of martyrdom may seem desirable or in your best interest, but it’s important to understand the negative implications outweigh and possible benefits.  Mainly because, martyr complex is a wound in action.

Martyr and Victim Wound

The martyr complex is closely related to another behaviour pattern called the victim complex or victim mentality. They share similar motives, conditions, and behaviour.

The victim complex. At its core, the victim complex involves someone viewing themselves as a victim of their life events. They often express that bad things always happen to them, claiming that they have no control over their life, and they don’t take responsibility for their part in all of this. The motives with victim mentality are most often unconscious.  Again, these behaviours are coming from a wounded place that requires (naming) witnessing and healing.

The victim mentality provides people with a sense of safety and validation. As the victim, they don’t have to take the blame for their actions or how they have played a part, they get attention from the people around them, and they are validated by sympathy and support from others. However, by putting the responsibility on others to rescue them, they sacrifice their own inner authority and inner control and ability to act self-confidently. The wounded part of them lures them into relying on others for their self-worth.

With both martyr complex and victim complex (wounds), a person relies on other’s for things a well balanced adult is designed to rely on themself for. Those who turn themselves into martyrs victimise themselves for the benefit of others but deep down it is their wound seeking attention or acceptance. They constantly self-sacrifice resources, emotional, energetic, material or financial. A martyr wound also often consciously or unconsciously takes on the role of the ‘hero’,either with a little ‘h’ or a capitol ‘H’. 

This can cause deep fractures in relationships, friendships, teams or families but the wounded party will feel attacked or abandoned and blame the fractures onto others because they are unable to notice their own wounded drivers at play.

‌People with martyr wound behaviour tend to have good motives for their behaviour and actions and helping everywhere all of the time. They will initially struggle to hear or accept or understand being bought to awareness of the martyr element of their helping behaviour.  

Signs of a Martyr Complex Wound

Martyr complex behaviour differs depending on the root cause or wound.

Minimising accomplishments. You may dismiss your actions, saying it’s not important when you make sacrifices. You do it for the good feeling of making the sacrifice and not for the praise of being recognised. 

Blocking other’s from helping.  You end up doing an imbalanced amount of the tasks because you refuse to delegate tasks or accept offers of help from other’s.  Something in the wound behaviour will not let you accept help or task sharing and it does not occur to you that this blocks others from contributing which causes a ripple on affect.  People may use you or take advantage of you or they may feel resentful or negative about not being able to fulfil their own need to contribute or help.

Being the hero. The idea of the “hero syndrome” can serve as a sign of the martyr complex. You may often play the hero and do everything yourself, solving everyone’s problems without complaint.

Lacking self-care. You can’t pour from an empty jug. If you‘re in a situation where you’re constantly giving and letting your personal needs or health take a back seat, you’re likely exhibiting the patterns of a martyr complex.

Seeking chances to sacrifice. Similar to the victim complex wound, a martyr looks for opportunities to step into harm’s way. You may search for instances or create ways to make those sacrifices.

Having unrealistic values. A martyr wound may see you viewing your actions as an expression of how much you care. You may feel that if you’re not working hard for people every day, it means you don’t love them enough.  You may project this unrealistic value onto others which will fracture relationships.

Healing the wound and Getting Help

The martyr complex is often deeply embedded into your lifestyle which makes it hard to spot and address and care for. You can take steps to shift your thinking away from being hijacked by martyr complex wound and toward taking the right kind of care of yourself that actually heals the wound that allows a healthier set of behaviours to emerge.

  • Invest in yourself by setting aside time and resources for things that easily make you feel good or joyful.
  • Journal out some of your deeper voices to just observe them and to acknowledge them.  Using curiosity as to their roots as opposed to shaming them or judging them. Often witnessing different parts of ourself helps to integrate our internal pieces which can help to make wiser, healthier meaning of ourself. 
  • Spend time with friends and family in environments where you don’t need to ‘parent them’, ‘tell them what to do’ or ‘keep offering to help them’ as this helps others let their boundaries relax or to let their guard down, enjoying your company with more ease.  It is likely you can feel their self protective guard but you can misinterpret the guard as a rejection of you which can trigger you to double down on some of those martyr driven behaviours.

Take this seriously (no need for panic) so you can honour yourself into a healthier set of behaviours.

Talk to your coach or counsellor or doctor for additional advice about how to release and heal the core wound and put your health and happiness and well-being as a real priority.

Book a breakthrough call to start the journey of exploration and healing.



Reference: Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 25, 2021 Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors