To define God complex, it is a person that has an un-moving mind set that he is infallible and not capable of being wrong or failing at any task no matter how difficult or daunting it might be. The person would most likely disregard the rules of society, and consider himself worthy of doing as he pleases. The God complex is not seen as an diagnosable disorder, and is not present in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders.
In terms of illustrating God complex behavior, many examples are available in pop culture as fictitious characters in plays, novels, television shows, and movies.
- In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the character Hamlet is seen as having a God complex. He chooses not to kill Claudius while he is praying. ( lest he go to heaven)
- The 1993 movie Malice stars Alec Baldwin as a can do nothing wrong doctor with a God complex. In a plot twist, Baldwin loses a law suit due to his God complex.
- The 2005 movie, The Island, featured an antagonist, Dr. Merrick, that was obsessed with creating human clones to use as replacement parts for humans that could become God-like by living forever.
- In the Japanese anime series, Natura, there are three villains that show signs of having a God complex. In part one the character Orochimaru desires to become the ultimate being by becoming immortal. In part two, Nagato thinks he is a God that bring people together by inflicting them all with the same degree of pain. The character Madara Ichiha wants to rule the world and make slaves of humanity by using an illusionary technique.
- In the video game Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, the antagonist character, The Engineer, thinks all of mankind is evil and are dirty pigs. He wants to make the world “pure” by wiping out everyone. The character uses religious terminology when speaking about the world, himself. and his plans.
There are other conditions and maladies that somewhat mirror the God complex psychology.
God Complex and Messiah Complex
A messiah complex is when a person’s state of mind makes them believe that their purpose in life is to be a savior.
The term messiah complex is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, its symptoms are similar to individuals suffering from grandiose delusions. These patients have fantastical beliefs that they are famous, wealthy, and or powerful. The delusions often take on a supernatural, science fiction, or religious theme.
It is believed that about 10% of healthy people have grandiose thoughts, but do not qualify as a sufferer of grandiose delusions.
This type of delusional behavior is often reported in patients suffering from bipolar disorder.
The classic symptoms of bipolar disorder are periods of very elevated moods, and periods of depression. During the elevated periods an individual will be over the top happy, energetic, or irritable. In this state people often make rash decisions with no thought process behind it.
The depression stage may result in bad eye contact with other people, crying, and a bad outlook on life. Risk of suicide attempts become very high at this time.
The cause of bipolar disorder in not completely understood. It can be related to long term stress or childhood abuse.
Bipolar disorder is often treated with pyschotherapy and medications like mood stabilizers or antipsychotics.
Messiah complex also mirrors individuals who suffer from schizophrenia. A person with schizophrenia engages in abnormal social behavior, and has an inability to distinguish what is real and what is not. The symptoms of schizophrenia can be separated into two categories. positive and negative symptoms.
God Complex Positive Symptoms
- Not ever believing or trusting what other people say
- Hearing, seeing, and feeling things that others do not
- Having disorganized speech and behavior
God Complex Negative Symptoms
- A loss of interest in everyday activities like bathing and grooming
- Always feeling out of touch with family and friends
- Having a lack of feelings and emotions
- Being incapable of experiencing pleasure
A real example of a person with a messiah complex is Jim Jones, a minister, who in 1978 presided over a mass suicide of his followers in Jonestown Guyana.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A cluster B personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder involves a person that has an overwhelming preoccupation with power, personal adequacy, prestige, and vanity. They are mentally unable to to recognize the damage their obsessed behavior is causing themselves and others. It is estimated that 1% of the population has the condition,
God Complex Symptoms
The basic characteristics of patients that have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are overblown feelings of self-importance. Also they have a sense of entitlement, and a strong need for the admiration of others.
- Other characteristics of this God complex type disorders are:
- Being willing to take advantage of others in order to achieve their goals and desires.
- An over-inflated assessment of their abilities, and exaggerated beliefs about their special talents and achievements.
- Dramatic behavior occurs that can be both anti-social and illegal.
- Although they may portray themselves as arrogant and super confident, in reality they may suffer from low self-esteem, and can not handle any type of criticism.
God Complex Causes
The cause of narcissistic personality disorder is not known, but Croopman and Cooper in 2006 listed the below factors as possibilities.
- Excessive admiration by parents and others, without any balanced realistic feedback.
- Over the top praise for good behavior, or excessive criticism for bad behavior.
- Being praised for exceptional looks or abilities when a child by adults.
- The patient could have suffered severe emotional abuse in childhood.
- The patient could learn manipulative behavior from his or her parents.
God Complex Treatment
It is not typical for people to seek treatment for NPD. This is mostly due to potential patients not really believing they have a problem, and don’t see the damage they may be causing themselves and others. They would have to be talked into seeking therapy.
Over a period of time, pattern change therapy can aid narcissists in becoming more empathetic in every day relationships. To change their sense of entitlement, patients are steered toward using their talents to help others without having an ulterior motive.
Skill training can have some limited success in curtailing anger, rage, and impulsivity. Medication has been ineffective in treating the disorder, If a therapist can recognize a patients traits, psychotherapy might have a chance of tearing down their narcissistic defenses.
Group therapy also has a place in treating NPD. It was originally thought the patients lack of empathy would derail any group progress, However , the group setting has been effective in letting patients explore boundaries, develop trust, increase self-awareness, and accept feedback.