Messiah complex

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A messiah complex is a state of mind in which the individual believes he/she is, or is destined to become, a savior. The messiah complex does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

The character Holden Caulfied in the book Catcher in the Rye appears to have a messiah complex; he sees himself being - and wants to be - the savior of people from his perceived threats of a modern, capitalistic society. Holden was disillusioned with the trappings of wealth, and sought to share that disillusionment.

Some experience the messiah complex through delusions of persecution, in which some believe they are to be sacrificed in a manner resembling the crucifixion of Jesus. Delusions of persecution may indicate severe mental illness that is not properly medicated.

Appearances in popular culture

  • In Season 5 of House M.D., Dr. Gregory House refers to Dr. Robert Wilson as having the messiah complex because he believes Wilson chooses his partners only if they have some illness or impairment, thus allowing himself to essentially be a 'saviour' for that person. (In an earlier episode, Wilson notes that while some people have a messiah complex, House has a "Rubik's complex," a need to "solve the puzzle.")
  • In The Lawnmower Man, the titular character envisions himself in virtual reality as a Christ figure--“Cyber Christ,” he says.