What makes someone better than everyone? If you ask someone with a god complex, they’ll probably say it takes being them to be better. These types of people are featured in everything from games to movies to anime. Light Yagami? God complex. That one version of Superman that only comic book fans can name? Also has a god complex.
For obvious reasons, people with god complexes can be difficult to be around at best and infuriating, even personally damaging, at worst. So, how do you tell if you’re dealing with someone with a god complex and how do you actually deal with it?
What’s a God Complex?
Let’s backtrack for a sec and figure out exactly what a god complex is. Contrary to what you might think, a god complex isn’t the same thing as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). While it can be related one of the personality disorders of the DSM V, a god complex can be broadly defined as an unshakeable belief in one’s superiority over others because of an inflated sense of self that tells them they’re smarter, more morally correct, and in a position to make life and morality defining decisions for others.
People with a god complex tend to be arrogant, even if only secretly so, about their perceived superiority over others. Intimate relationships with these people are, naturally, difficult because they don’t see their partners and family members as persons on their “level”.
Because of this, people with a god complex are portrayed in fiction as people who like to be in situations where they get to rule over others. Death Note’s Light Yagami enforces his morality over what he sees as a corrupt world – without any regard for nuance or other people’s humanity. There’s also Bondrewd from Made In Abyss who feels he’s in the position to sacrifice other people in the name of knowledge which serves as his notion of a “greater good” that he is ultimately serving – a vision he has for his field and humanity.
Some professions are stereotyped as having god complexes. Grace Ayandibu, a physician, wrote about the god complex receptive culture of medicine.
“I found ED doctors that were prone to bragging about their glorious acute workups; I watched one EM resident talk about reviving a patient who had overdosed on heroin in front of an attending urologist.” Ayandibu shared, “ He said he wished more doctors from different specialties witnessed ED doctors’ heroic saves and gave them the respect they deserved.”
Ayandibu posits that because doctors are often in high stress situations that deal with matters of life and death and they have a very specialized skill set, some of them develop god complexes.
Dr. Henry Woo, an associate professor of surgery at Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical School, points out that the way we treat doctors contributes to the personality problems that some practitioners in the field develop, “Hardly a working day goes by without a patient or their relative telling me how brilliant I was in helping them in their prostate cancer journey.”
While Woo appreciates the appreciation he gets, he says that this endless stream of positive feedback and praise from patients can inflate egos fast.
How to Tell if Someone Has a God Complex
People with god complexes are problematic to be around and can cause unnecessary stress on the end of people receiving their narcissistic tendencies. Sadly, there are no hard and fast rules about how you can tell whether someone has a god complex, but here are some signs that can point you in the right direction.
They Feel Like They Always Have Moral Ascendancy Over Others
People with god complexes see themselves as better than others and part of that has something to do with the way they think of others as less morally correct than them. They feel that they are in a position to make massive, life-altering decisions for other people’s behalf out of a misguided sense of having to be their savior.
They Have an Inflated Sense of Self
Aside from feelings of moral ascendancy, people with god complexes wildly overestimate their skills and intelligence. Their self-perception is much, much better compared to the reality of who they are.
And Yet They Need Validation
What’s a god without worshippers? Well, for people with god complexes, the only thing that feels better than their inflated sense of self is when other people validate it. They love to be praised and will gravitate towards people who give praise, even to the point of tricking them into seeing the person with a god complex the way they see themselves.
They Have No Long Term Relationships
Some people are just very introverted and shy, but a sign that someone might have a god complex is if they’re unable to maintain long-term relationships with others. This is because a long-term relationship not only risks exposing them as not as good as they like to present themselves, but also because their behavior is antithetical to what it takes to build a solid long-term relationship.
Note that this is different from being well-liked or popular. You can be either without having anyone particularly close to you in your personal, private life.
If this person always has something bad to say about people who used to be in their life, well, the only common denominator is them.
They Can’t Take Responsibility
While a god complex isn’t the same thing as narcissistic personality disorder, people with a god complex will avoid taking responsibility for their actions. This can range from shifting the blame on you or others for their emotionally hurtful behavior to bragging about how much better they are, hence why it’s not their fault they can’t hold down a job. That kind of thing.
How to Deal With Someone Who Has a God Complex
Dealing with people’s god complexes isn’t a walk in the park and most of the time, the easiest and safest way for you to handle the situation is to walk out of their lives. Like it or not, you can’t help people who don’t think there’s anything wrong with them so suggesting counseling and therapy can turn into a protracted battle between the two of you that you might consider not worth the emotional turmoil.
If it’s still early in the relationship and you don’t have a lot of legal entanglements with someone who has a god complex, the easiest and cleanest way to deal with them is to just cut them off.
What to Do if You Have a God Complex
If you’re freaked out about how this sounds a little too much like you, then that’s a good thing because you’re still self-aware. Before you lose the people in your life, consider reaching out to a therapist or psychologist who can walk you through your harmful thought and behavior patterns. You might feel like you can handle it all on your own, but having someone around who can offer an impartial opinion based on their expertise is, quite frankly, a helpful way to detangle your thoughts.
That said, be aware that a god complex is currently not a diagnosable condition in the DSM V so you may either walk away with a narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis or something close, maybe one of the other personality disorders.