I encounter persecution complexes all the time. There is no shortage of people who feel that they are the focus of remote wrath on the part of an individual, group or organization. This is essentially what a persecution complex is. There is an element of paranoia in persecution complexes. Persecution complexes invariably are defined by the suspicion that you solely are in the cross-hairs.
There is confusion about what a persecution complex is. It’s easy to throw out description and some use it to mold just about anyone under its accusatory umbrella. However, I feel it is very important to spell out precisely what a persecution complex is.
A persecution complex, firstly, entails that you believe you, you, specifically, are the singular target of a concerted focus of harassment or attack. If you have a persecution complex, you believe that you alone are the victim. A black person who alleges that Whitey is out to make life miserable for all blacks, including himself by extension, is not guilty of a persecution complex as much as he simply believes there is an overall culture of racism. Suspicion of racism is not in and of itself a persecution complex. Now let’s say the black man tells you that his boss is specifically sabotaging his work environment and job reputation with definable actions aimed directly at him, whether unfounded or not, then we can say that this man has a persecution complex because the aggression and incivility is all about him and not his skin color or weight or style of dress. Sure, these secondary traits may act as catalysts for his boss’ behavior and general dislike of him, but the point is that he is claiming that the boss is seeking to make his life miserable, not that of his brothers or family or co-workers.
That ethereal sense of antagonism that we suspect is directed against us by ambiguous groups of people, the type which transcends individual attacks, is better defined as a displaced racism or sexism or any other institutional grudge -ism you choose.
I am a man of many complexes, but the “persecution” one isn’t it, though some may argue otherwise. I don’t feel persecuted because the antagonism I draw is rooted in disinterest or in massive social displacements of which I am an unfortunate bystander. Note, I said “I am an unfortunate bystander” not “I am the unfortunate bystander…” This is the important distinction between persecution and simply recognizing that one belongs to a segment of the population that suffers at the hands of another group for any multitude of immutable characteristics.
Many conspiracy theorists may fall into the “persecution complex” camp but I generally believe conspiracy theorists are correct to feel paranoid, but for different reasons than they might claim. One day I’ll write about conspiracy theories and why I don’t believe they are unfounded, but also why I believe they are not nearly as sinister as some would believe. Many of the beefs I write about may appear to some as persecution complexes, but they don’t exactly fit the criteria. For instance, when I wrote about the blonde chick on the elevator who I’m convinced doesn’t like me, I was hardly asserting that she is out to get me. This is what would make it a persecution complex. However, I am merely saying she doesn’t like me. It’s a statement of fact. I am capitulating that I’m most likely barely a blip on her radar and her disinterest in all things me is the overriding motivation for her dismissive attitude. I never sat here and wrote that she was trying to muck up my life or my work reputation. That would have been extremely vain of me. This is why that is not the sign of a persecution complex. I owe up to the fact that I meant, and mean, nothing to her. There is no persecution to see here, move on now.
Persecution complexes involve vanity and self-absorption. You alone are the reason another person devotes so much time and energy to destroy you. Self-anointed victims of persecution complexes are unable to process the possibility that perhaps disinterest instigated the discouraging behavior that feeds many persecution complexes. What greater vanity resides in man’s heart than the unquestioned expectation that he was molded from the hands of a higher being? That strikes me as very vain. The fact we are “made” in another’s image seems to me an excruciating vain thought pattern and this is why religious people are very much wrapped up in the “persecution complex.” Because their vanity is intertwined in their expectations that everything in this world is about them, and they don’t trouble themselves with the possibility, for one moment, that the possibility of “disinterest” is a motivating factor for anybody, least of all, god. It is against this backdrop that many religious people feel persecuted, rightly or wrongly, for their beliefs. When your life is holy and beyond reproach, it only makes sense that those who question such a thing are surely out to get you. If people question your devotion, you are being persecuted. The ultimate vanity!
For religious people, disinterest is akin to atheism. It is a void that has nothing to do with anything. A persecution complex is only as powerful as our mission to make everything accountable to our contrived notions. This is why I am the last person anyone should suspect of having a persecution complex. I believe absolutely nothing is about me. I don’t matter. There is no god to lend me objective worth befitting another’s persecution. I rail about disinterested and annoying behavior, but nowhere do I insist that people are out to get me. I’m merely the constant bystander who is mired in the muck of impersonal humanity.