Jonah Complex: The Curious Fear Of Success

Leaving the comfort zone: If it costs you too much, you may have the Jonah Complex.

The vast majority of psychologists will be familiar with Abraham Maslow’s concept of selfactualization. We all know that we should eat, drink or sleep, but once these physiological needs are met, we aspire to other needs of a higher level according to the Maslow Pyramid theory  . 

At the top of this pyramid are the needs for self-fulfillment: the psychological and spiritual needs that make us feel fulfilled. Maslow was the father of  humanistic psychology, a psychological current that posits the existence of a basic human tendency (self-actualization) towards mental health and well-being. 

The Jonah Complex

Maslow, however, in opposition to self-realization, coined the term ” Jonah Complex ” to refer to the fear of our own greatness, the avoidance of our own destiny or the flight of our best talents.

In researching his concept of self-actualization, the humanistic psychologist posed the following question: If we are born with unlimited potential for self-development, ” why doesn’t everyone achieve the goal of self-actualization? ” One of the reasons that Maslow raises in his book The Farther Reaches of Human Nature published in 1971, is the Jonah Complex.

Who is Jonah?

The Jonah Complex is inspired by the  biblical figure of Jonah, a man who was a merchant and tried to resist God’s call to fulfill an important mission. His destiny was to become a prophet, however his first reaction was to flee, for fear of not being up to the task. 

Maslow’s explanation of the Jonah complex is that just as we fear the worst in ourselves, we also fear the best, we fear our best possibilities. It scares us to become what we imagine, in our best moments, our ideal conditions. We enjoy and even delight in the divine possibilities that we discover in our peak moments, but in the same way, we are agitated by fear or the weakness of those same possibilities, perhaps because we do not want to leave our comfort zone.

Get out of the comfort zone

Many times the fear of leaving the comfort zone is what limits us to continue growing or what causes us anxiety. In fact, on many occasions we even prefer the bad rather than risk seeking our self-realization, our well-being. Staying anchored in the comfort zone, avoiding self-reflection to continue growing, can cause us to remain anchored to our fears without stepping on uncertainties. 

We already commented in the article ” Personal Development: 5 reasons for self-reflection ” that constantly living from our desires and our unfulfilled desires, without betting on them, generates low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, social withdrawal, little assertiveness, stress and anxiety constant psychosomatic problems and poor emotional well-being.

Unlock yourself so you can move towards success

Although the reflection towards personal development might seem easy at first glance, there are many people who turn to coaching professionals to be able to unblock themselves. The  coach, as a facilitator of personal development, gets the client to reflect through Socratic questions, allowing the client to continue growing as a person. The coach helps to connect with desires and emotions, favoring self-realization and allowing one to get to the place where one wants to be.

In short, life urges us to follow the path of self-realization. Throughout our experiences, we are encountering various difficulties that prevent us from looking clearly into the future, and that generate fears, insecurities and make us feel lost. Some wait and wait for everything to pass and fit again on its own, others pursue again and again what makes them feel alive, what makes them feel well-being. It is the best way to abandon pessimism or bad habits that make us not achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

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