Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

A journey to healing from complex trauma.

The fine line between martyrs & narcissists…

Interesting reading on what I also see within society within Christianity, as those who truly are martyrs, and often narcissists, and yet don’t realise it. And will be very upset if you point this out.

I have always noticed this, had the red flags and know narcissistic martyr behaviour when I see it. Of course, that is never received well.


I was struck by this idea yesterday, driving home from work, about the perhaps narrower line between the one and the other than we might assume.  I believe that when we think “narcissist”, we are only thinking of the classics.  Recent history (like the last few weeks of news) has inserted a few new narcissists into the public archive- although there was no surprise there- such as Mr. Sheen and Mr Gaddafi, Mr Berlosconi now on trial on Italy, Mr. West of music and making idiotic comment fame.

These men live in their completely self involved and self deluded world, mirrored by hand selected sycophantic nubile nymphs and entourages of beta males.  Every man who is not him is a beta male.  Or less.  No men want to be a beta male, but having to accept that, many will go for an A in Asskissing. If you remember which one of you is the sun, you might get some radiation, I mean, radiant heat from his glow.  Eventually, things burn down.

All of them see themselves as unique, amazing individuals who have been unfairly singled out, and unfairly criticized while they live in truth, and stand for something much greater than our average feeble minds can understand.  They could lead a cult.  Oh wait, they already do. 

It’s not too hard to find lesser narcissists among us.  In what used to be a rarer occurrence (blame the lamestream media and the interwebs), we now have weekly if not daily occurrences of these men driven, DRIVEN, by a higher force, to share themselves with the world.  They can’t help it, they have to bring the message to the public.  Be like me, I am like a god. Listen to me, god speaks through me.  For those not on the god channel, with considerably less musical talent, an incapacity to get elected to office, or a face just not up there for the movie industry, our pantheon of minor narcissists finds paid work in the pulpit of enthusiastic religious crowds, the parapet of counter-politics, and the publishing world of instant self recognition- now with video.  

The message is the same, the content and delivery and audience different.  I am here to serve you, the masses, by gracing you with my brilliance. I have no choice, I suffer, for you.  This will end by the hand of god, I will have to die in a blaze of glory.  I will not go down without a fight to the death, taking any and all with me.  How is that not a martyr?

On the flipside of martyrdom, we often find our long suffering, more commonly recognized martyrs attached to the world of “good”.  They get out there and slog all day long, unrepenting, unrelenting, and unreimbursed.  Some get some “free” media coverage, but they are not the hero, they are the fighter of the cause.  Also suffering, also fighting the good fight or the right fight, they will go down with the ship.  Or the unpopular vote.  Their narcissist enemies will paint them into self involved, outside egos.  They know how to do this very well.

Our “lesser” martyrs among us can often be found in social service groups- like church, elementary schools, hospital settings.  These are the ladies, and men, who just refuse to say “no” and take on yet another thing because that is their sworn duty.  To god, or to themselves.  It is why they are here.  I am all for having some purpose to guide your life, a few mottos and philosophies to inform our decision-making. Blind adherence becomes short sighted, the vision of how we want to see ourselves in the mirror, how we would like others to see us.  

And with that, a classic “martyr” becomes a narcissist.  She (or he) loses the ability to distinguish between herself and her “god given role”.  The difference here is whether or not they get the kudos.  

We say we dislike narcissists, but we look at them an awful lot and pay them way too much money and allow them way too much leeway in abusing those around them.  We train them, often from childhood, and perhaps their mom was a martyr and their dad was a narcissist, as well.  We say we admire martyrs, but we look at them for what they can give us, and often let them go unpaid, and quickly reign them in when they cross any minor line.

Are they really so different?  Self obsessed, aligned to a noble cause, driven beyond rational and reasonable boundaries of human relationships?  When it comes down to it, the bottom line is making it all about their sacrifice, their vision, their contribution, their special role.  I realize that in our world, and our modern society, gender informs a huge part of who can become a narcissist and who will become a martyr- and succeed.  Was Che a narcissist or a martyr?  Putin? Bill or Hillary?

Certainly one can become a successful public figure and not be one or the other.  While the recognition is there, it is less about the individual and more about the work and contribution that they make.  Mel Gibson used to be a martyr, now he’s a narcissist.  Harrison Ford has just always been a good, well liked actor.   Mother Theresa and Ghandi, were martyrs in their lifetime.  Subsequent published opinions of them demurred from the popular view about their personal visions compared to their vision statements.  Some provide really good entertainment, some provide really good public service, but it takes a special kind of person to garner that much momentum and attention to their own cause.

What kind of cause we find worthy for attention, that is up to us.   We get to vote with our remote control, our ballot, our wallet, our use of media.  The imperfect memory of public opinion and history will decide, eventually if someone is one or the other.  History is written by the winners, no?

Author: Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

I am a survivor of complex and multiple trauma and abuse, who at the age of 40, began my healing journey. I am using my journey to recovery and healing, to help others, to help survivors feel less alone, validated, encouraged and to enable others to understand themselves more. Complex trauma, particularly from severe, prolonged childhood abuse, is profoundly life changing. Complex trauma produces complex adults. The journey to recovery is a painful, often lonely, emotional daily challenge and it is my aim to encourage others in their daily battle. ~ Lilly Hope Lucario

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