05 March 2019

Cassandra Complex

Cassandra by 
Evelyn De Morgan - Wikimedia

The Cassandra complex is the name given to a phenomenon where people who predict bad news or warnings are ignored or outright dismissed.

For our origin story, we go back to Greek mythology. Cassandra was the daughter of Priam, the king who reigned over Troy when the Greeks attacked it.

Cassandra was so beautiful that she attracted the attention of the god Apollo, the son of Zeus. He gave her the gift of prophecy, but she refused his attentions. This made Apollo angry and, like all those ancient gods, he took revenge. He cursed Cassandra so that even though she could make truthful prophecies, no one would ever believe her.

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Amos were all prophets who tried to warn people of what they saw as wrong in their society. But people didn’t believe them, and they ended up being punished for their prophecies.

The term "Cassandra complex" entered the lexicon in 1949 when a French philosopher discussed the potential for someone to predict future events. This complex has found its way into usage in psychology, the circus, the corporate world, environmentalism and philosophy.

Psychologists use the term "Cassandra complex" to apply to people who suffer feel humiliated because they are never being listened to or believed when they try and explain themselves to other people.

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