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Narcissism, Illeism & Politics

India – the largest democracy in the world – has recently held its 17th Parliamentary Elections, in seven phases. In the last 45 days, various political leaders addressed a number of election rallies in different parts of the country, requesting the people in their own style to cast votes in favour of their parties!
The people must have noticed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing rallies, seldom used words in the first person, such as ‘I’ or ‘me’… he usually stated that “Modi won’t do this” or “Modi will do this”. Even when people attempt to read his interviews, s/he will find that the Indian PM loves to speak in third person, as he doesn’t believe in first person! Modi is not alone here… Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of the Indian Capital of New Delhi, was heard addressing a rally: “Only Kejriwal can develop Delhi.” Even, Rahul Gandhi – the President of the main Opposition Indian National Congress Party, wad heard saying “in case of any problem, you will have to call Rahul” (not ‘me’) while speaking at a rally…. Interestingly, PM Modi rarely uses the letter denoting egotism, i.e. ‘I‘! Psychologists have conducted researches on the types of speech delivered by the Indian Politicians this summer, in an attempt to judge their respective psychological traits


In Psychology, the act of referring to oneself in the third person, instead of first person, is called ‘Illeism’… quite a number of powerful persons (to be read Politicians) seen to do this! US President Donald Trump, many a times, has said: “Only Trump can address the (immigration) issue.” When his TV show ‘The Apprentice‘ occupied the top position in popularity chart in 2012, he tweeted: “Congratulations, Donald!”
The term ‘Illeism’ has been derived from Latin word ‘ille’, meaning “he, that”… This is not a mental illness, but a tendency, which exposes a person’s ‘mind’ or ‘personality’. According to Psychologists, a person speaks in ‘third person’ only when s/he wants to create a distance with her/himself. And, a person wants to create a distance with her/himself when s/he lacks self-confidence, or becomes doubtful about her/his strength or power, or tries to overcome fear, anxiety and suspicion! When a person is able to create a distance with the negative attitudes, then it becomes easier to present her/himself as ‘a self-confident person’ to the mass. Such a move also allows politicians to hide their tension and anxiety from the mass, and to show enthusiasm and optimism!

Trump 1.jpg
President Trump

This issue becomes a bit complicated when the researchers relate the use of ‘third person’ with ‘self-love’ or ‘Narcissism’. Narcissists try to be at the centre of attention to portray themselves as ‘confident’ or the ‘choicest‘ personalities! That is why they always want to be surrounded by obsequious attendants. They also expect ‘special treatments’ from others, going on to blame some ‘others’ for situations pertaining to crises! However, it is not that each and every ‘Narcissist’ is an ‘Illeist’… Psychologists believe that a majority of politicians have both these traits! A section of Psychologists is of the opinion that ‘illeism’ becomes prominent when someone tries to create a false ‘I’ in order to repair her/his deranged self-love. S/he fails to realise the fact that her/his true self is actually fragile!
Playwrights use ‘illeism’ to portray a character who tries to make her/his image bigger than her/himself. In his Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare wrote Caesar’s dialogues in first person. Even after receiving the information that he could be attacked, Caesar visited the Senate… because Danger knows that Caesar is more Dangerous than it! When an official had advised US President Richard Milhous Nixon to send condolence messages to the families of students killed by the US forces in Oliver Stone’s 1995 American epic historical drama film ‘Nixon‘, the President had reportedly replied: “I am sympathetic towards them. But, Nixon can’t do that.” Spanish draftsman Salvador Dali, former French President Charles de Gaulle, the last President of erstwhile Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, and many other eminent personalities had used their ‘names’ to portray their ‘strong’ characters in public domain…

President Nixon

The rise of Modi in the Indian Politics is dramatic, as he had to fight a lot to become Prime Minister after starting his career as a full-time Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker! Now, he seemingly wants to establish his complete domination over the opponents… as a result, he tried to reject all the ideas that would go against his Ambition! It is quite natural for such a person to have some anxiety or fear… and hence, it is not possible to understand his psychology without examining his mind in a scientific manner!
Meanwhile, many psychologists opine that using the ‘third person’ in a speech is a fine ‘Marketing Strategy’, especially for Politicians! President Trump is not only an individual, but also a Brand… His Company has set up many hotels, casinos and housing complexes, and the word ‘Trump‘ shines at those places! Donald Trump uses ‘third person’ to promote himself as a Brand… Perhaps, Modi, too, follows the same strategy, in a Modi-fied way! It seems that the Indian PM tries to remind the people that he is the one and only Politician who could lead the Nation to prosperity!

PM Modi

Which one is the truth – Modi is an illeist or a Marketing Expert? It could be comprehended only if it had been possible to know whether he calls himself ‘Modi‘ while talking to himself! However, it is not possible to know the ‘intra-action’ of such a powerful person, excepting possible snooping paparazzi

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