There are a lot of people in different types of professions who can develop a savior complex. What is a savior complex? It’s the idea that one person can save another, a group, or a whole world. It’s a commonly accepted belief, and this idea is reinforced in all sorts of ways, starting with Christianity.
For whatever reason, the Christian establishment that built up over the centuries created a story where Jesus is the savior for everyone. I would be very curious if that’s what Jesus felt. If you haven’t noticed already, people like to put words into other people’s mouths, and in the case of Jesus, they built an entire religion around him. Jesus was, after all, Jewish.
But even if you haven’t had a specific religion focusing you on a key saint to save you, action movies or the search for the one perfect soulmate further reinforce the idea that there is one person who can save you from pain, from a bad afterlife, from loneliness, from whatever it is you want to be saved.
And so it’s not surprising that some people will don that ego mask and try to be the savior.
While the savior idea is particularly strong in the spiritual context, anyone can get lost in a savior complex. They can be in any profession/calling including:
- Political activist
- President/prime minister of a country
- CEO (particularly those who try to turn around failing businesses)
- School teacher,
- and too many more to list.
Mothers and fathers can get caught up trying to save the family, children, and other relations. Children can do it too. Anyone can get caught up in trying to be that hero/savior for someone else.
The Savior/Messiah Complex in Spirituality
Of course, I need to talk about this particular ego in regards to spirituality. Plenty of people get caught up in the savior complex in the world of spiritual healing and teaching. Since there is already an expectation in many people that the spiritual teacher/healer can “save” them, it’s a really easy role to get caught in. If a person has an even mild interest in fixing and helping others, things can easily spiral out of control. This leads many people to becoming wounded healers as they exhaust their own energy in attempts to do more and to be more for other people. They are trying to solve problems that the other person has to resolve for themselves, and it can be quite damaging.
Very rarely, someone takes the expectations of being a savior and becomes a false teacher. False teachers aren’t usually interested in saving anyone even though they may prey on that expectation. Generally, they only serve themselves and are lost in their ambitions, fears, and desires. That’s a whole other topic, which you can read here:
Signs Someone Is Lost in a Savior Complex
In being lost, the person will tend to have the same problems over and over again such as:
- Being agitated/upset by whatever person/issue they are trying to save
- Being content only briefly when something is successful
- Potentially blaming others for their problems when the savior’s solutions aren’t working
- Getting exhausted
- Feeling like the work is endless (And there’s always more work to do in the world)
- Proclaiming a certain level of privilege or even Divine power, which often excludes other forms of help because they are the savior and have to be the one to do it
That last one is nasty. Someone can literally block out help because they are so lost in being the “savior.” Once again, people can play this role in anything. People can be trying to save a failing school district as much as helping someone heal their gut issues. But sometimes, someone else has the answer, and a true teacher, healer, or helper acknowledges this.
For example, maybe the gut issue isn’t a dietary one. Maybe it has to do with holding mother issues in that region of the body. Or vice versa. The humble doctor and the humble energy healer both learn to allow for either possibility and to send a person on to different forms of help if their offering does not work.
The savior cannot do this. They have to be the one doing the saving, and it has to be their solution. In a way, there is either not enough or no humility in the savior ego, and all parties suffer for it.
Admitting When You Are Lost
If you want to address any ego problem, you have to admit that you have a problem. Until someone does so, they will stay lost. When they do admit this, it begins a time of investigation of oneself. Some useful questions include:
Why am I trying to save people?
What goals am I trying to achieve for myself as well as others?
Where did these goals/ideas come from?
Where did the ideas underneath the goals come from?
How have I taken responsibility for things I cannot be responsible for?
As usual, answering these questions requires a lot of honesty. Self-honesty is so fundamental to this whole spiritual path because it’s only you that can truly know you. In saying that, learning this truth of self-knowledge also forces someone out of a savior role because you realize that you can’t have all the right answers for anyone else. Maybe you’ll have some useful advice, but all the answers? No way.
Stepping Away from Inappropriate Relationships
Because the savior complex likes to engage with certain types of victims or collapsing situations, the person healing from this ego identity will often have to remove themselves from a number of relationships. Some situations such as businesses have to collapse. Their business model is bad. The company is under too much debt. The business culture is too toxic to get people who are needed to even want to work in it. The fact that things fall apart often upsets the savior ego because s/he is here to save things. In an interesting way, they’re a kind of preserver of order. But some orders/structures need to dissolve. There is a wisdom in certain forms of destruction, and that lesson is one of the lessons the savior ego has to learn.
Additionally, more than a few victim egos will not like this stepping away. They will blame the would-be savior for not owning up to their promises.
They’ll be right.
The savior ego did not save them/fix them/heal them. The problems they had before, they still have. This is a humbling experience for someone with a savior complex, but it is necessary to help heal that ego identity and the issues underlying it to eventually be able to offer true selfless service.
Finding a Whole Host of Inner Issues
The savior complex – like many ego identities – is complicated. The ego seems to like to be complicated, and so each person who heals from this will find a variety of unresolved issues inside themselves. As usual, the core issues and deep attachments will very likely come from childhood. Oftentimes, the child couldn’t save or protect themselves from pain and difficulty, and instead of taking on a victim identity, they took on a savior identity. At the unconscious level, they’re still trying to save themselves and probably feel like a victim, but they project their issues onto others. And they keep trying to save others to resolve the insecurities and pain inside of themselves. This, of course, is done unconsciously, and it doesn’t work.
So if you find yourself realizing that you are lost in a savior complex, I hope you take heart. It’s easy to do in this society. This society focuses on a kind of hyper-individuality that is fertile ground to grow up would-be saviors.
And if you figure out that you’ve been involved in a situation with someone with a savior complex, it’s probably time to find a way to stand on your own two feet. No one person fixes/heals/saves you. You can do that yourself with a little bit of help from the occasional kind soul in your life and a little bit of the Divine Grace, which rather than being sought as a savior is best understood as the occasional boost that gets you through rough patches in life.