What Are the Different Complexes?

Medically Reviewed on 3/10/2021

Types of complexes

The American Psychological Association defines complexes as a group or system of related ideas or impulses that have a common emotional tone and exert a strong but usually unconscious influence on the individual’s attitudes and behavior. Different complexes include the Oedipus/Electra, persecution, inferiority, superiority, Madonna-whore, God, guilt and martyr complexes.
The American Psychological Association defines complexes as a group or system of related ideas or impulses that have a common emotional tone and exert a strong but usually unconscious influence on the individual’s attitudes and behavior. Different complexes include the Oedipus/Electra, persecution, inferiority, superiority, Madonna-whore, God, guilt and martyr complexes.

The American Psychological Association defines complexes as a group or system of related ideas or impulses that have a common emotional tone and exert a strong but usually unconscious influence on the individual’s attitudes and behavior. This means that complexes comprise core patterns of desires, emotions, memories  and perceptions that unknowingly influence the way a person thinks and behaves. The complexes are generally organized around a common theme, such as status or power.

The term “complex” in psychological context was coined by the famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. According to him, every person has certain emotions, wishes, memories and perceptions that could be forgotten, repressed or subliminal in their minds. They all form what he called “personal unconscious.” These unconscious influences arise from experiences in a person’s life. Psychological complexes were extensively studied by Carl Jung and another popular psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud.

Some of the commonly seen complexes are:

  • Complex of Oedipus/Electra (parental complex): Oedipus complex gets its name from the Greek myth in which Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. This complex refers to the erotic feelings of the son toward the mother along with hostility and rivalry toward the father during the phallic stage of development (begins when the child is around three years old). The corresponding relationship when a daughter has erotic feelings toward the father and hostility toward the mother is called the female Oedipus complex or the complex of Electra. 
  • Persecution complex: It is one of the most common complexes in modern times. In today’s fast and ambitious lifestyle, every person is in a hurry to achieve as much as they can and as fast as possible. The persecution complex makes a person believe that everyone is trying to harm them. The belief of being harmed is irrational and exaggerated and makes the person look at everyone with extreme suspicion.
  • Inferiority complex: Another common complex, it makes the person believe that they are unworthy or less capable than others. They may overcompensate because of this complex and achieve great things, yet they never believe that they have achieved enough success. An inferiority complex may make the person resentful and dissatisfied, making them avoid social interactions.
  • Superiority complex: This is the exact opposite of the inferiority complex. A person with a superiority complex believes that they are exceptionally better than others. They have a sense of exaggerated self-esteem and believe that whatever they do, say or believe is right. They feel that they have all the virtues and look down on others as inferior to them.
  • Madonna-whore complex: It is typically seen in men who are not able to maintain a committed sexual relationship with their partner. They suffer from the “Madonna-whore dichotomy” (MWD). This means polarized perceptions of women in general. People with this complex either consider their partner as a “pure,” “good” and chaste Madonna or the extreme opposite, a “bad,” “promiscuous” and “seductive whore.” The moment they begin to admire a woman sexually, they think of her in a disgusting way.
  • God complex: People with a God complex think that they have divine, God-like powers and are above all mankind. They believe that they are capable enough to take extreme risks and shun the rules of society.
  • Guilt complex: This makes the person blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. They are excessively self-critical and think that they are accountable for every bad happening. They are overly sensitive to others’ opinions and put all their efforts into trying to make things better.
  • Martyr complex: A person with a martyr complex strives to get attention and sympathy through suffering. They put everyone above themselves to the extent that they ignore their needs and desires. They may even do self-harm if they do not get the attention they want.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/10/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference

New World Encyclopedia


American Psychological Association


Simply Psychology