Illeism: Referring to Yourself in the Third Person

lilies

Jedi Council Member
Maybe Gurdjieff mentioned Illeism? I might have read about it in one of the books about The Work. As an instinctive healing measure I began using it many years ago, here in the forum, to get my life situation in perspective. Probably I was chastising myself using Illeism. IIRC that's why, I think, it was Atreides, who remarked that "Uh, stop talking about yourself in the third person, man, reading it is so weird!" :-D

Then many years later I encounter this article on Sott:

Illeism: New research finds this ancient rhetorical trick leads to wiser reasoning

Socrates famously declared that "the unexamined life is not worth living" and that "knowing thyself" was the path to true wisdom. But is there a right and a wrong way to go about such self-reflection?

Simple rumination - the process of churning your concerns around in your head - isn't the answer. It's likely to cause you to become stuck in the rut of your own thoughts and immersed in the emotions that might be leading you astray. Certainly, research has shown that people who are prone to rumination also often suffer from impaired decision-making under pressure and are at substantially increased risk of depression.

Instead, the scientific research suggests that you should adopt an ancient rhetorical method favoured by the likes of Julius Caesar and known as "illeism" - or speaking about yourself in the third person (the term was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge from the Latin ille meaning "he, that"). If I was considering an argument that I'd had with a friend, for instance, I may start by silently thinking to myself "David felt frustrated that..." The idea is that this small change in perspective can clear your emotional fog, allowing you to see past your biases.
 

mamibio74

Padawan Learner
Ho ! how interesting ! I thought I never talked about me in the third person but after reading the text of Fleurs de Lys I just realized that when I talk to my grandson of 18 months I sometimes use the third person unconsciously. Usually I tell him "I" but if I have to be obeyed and he refuses to cooperate then I say "Grandma said..." I had never noticed this before. As if "Granny" was less sentimental than me and therefore had more authority. I will try to analyse what motivates the illeism for me in this particular case. All the paths are good to get to know each other bette no ? r.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Maybe Gurdjieff mentioned Illeism? I might have read about it in one of the books about The Work. As an instinctive healing measure I began using it many years ago, here in the forum, to get my life situation in perspective. Probably I was chastising myself using Illeism. IIRC that's why, I think, it was Atreides, who remarked that "Uh, stop talking about yourself in the third person, man, reading it is so weird!" :-D
It's still weird! ;) So I'd probably recommend doing it in the privacy of your own home, or mentally - unless you're Caesar. But you're right, Gurdjieff recommended something like this, and Maurice Nicoll recommended it explicitly in one of his books:

We have to learn to speak of ourselves in the third person. For example, in my case, I have to come to the point in my internal development of consciousness, through the work of separation, of saying: "Nicoll wants this", not "*I* want it".
One of the things Gurdjieff taught some of his students to do was to review their day before sleep by picturing everything they did during the day from the moment they woke up, as if watching a movie in their mind. So basically seeing oneself in the third person, as opposed to just speaking of oneself in the third person. And of course there's this bit from ISOTM:

"Instead of the man he had supposed himself to be he will see quite another man. This 'other' man is himself and at the same time not himself. It is he as other people know him, as he imagines himself and as he appears in his actions, words, and so on; but not altogether such as he actually is. For a man himself knows that there is a great deal that is unreal, invented, and artificial in this other man whom other people know and whom he knows himself. You must learn to divide the real from the invented. And to begin self-observation and self-study it is necessary to divide oneself. A man must realize that he indeed consists of two men.

"One is the man he calls 'I' and whom others call 'Ouspensky,' 'Zakharov' or 'Petrov.' The other is the real he, the real I, which appears in his life only for very short moments and which can become firm and permanent only after a very lengthy period of work.

"So long as a man takes himself as one person he will never move from where he is. His work on himself starts from the moment when he begins to feel two men in himself. One is passive and the most it can do is to register or observe what is happening to it. The other, which calls itself 'I,' is active, and speaks of itself in the first person, is in reality only 'Ouspensky,' 'Petrov' or 'Zakharov.'

"This is the first realization that a man can have. Having begun to think correctly he very soon sees that he is completely in the power of his 'Ouspensky,' 'Petrov,' or 'Zakharov.' No matter what he plans or what he intends to do or say, it is not 'he,' not 'I,' that will carry it out, do or say it, but his 'Ouspensky' 'Petrov,' or 'Zakharov,' and of course they will do or say it, not in the way 'I' would have done or said it, but in their own way with their own shade of meaning, and often this shade of meaning completely changes what 'I' wanted to do.

"From this point of view there is a very definite danger arising from the very first moment of self-observation. It is 'I' who begins self-observation, but it is immediately taken up and continued by 'Ouspensky,' 'Zakharov,' or 'Petrov.' But 'Ouspensky' 'Zakharov,' or 'Petrov' from the very first steps introduces a slight alteration into this self-observation, an alteration which seems to be quite unimportant but which in reality fundamentally alters the whole thing.

"Let us suppose, for example, that a man called Ivanov hears the description of this method of self-observation. He is told that a man must divide himself, 'he' or 'I' on one side and 'Ouspensky,' 'Tetrov,' or 'Zakharov' on the other side. And he divides himself literally as he hears it. 'This is I,' he says, 'and that is "Ouspensky," "Petrov," or "Zakharov."' He will never say 'Ivanov.' He finds that unpleasant, so he will inevitably use somebody else's surname or Christian name. Moreover he calls 'I' what he likes in himself or at any rate what he considers to be strong, while he calls 'Ouspensky,' 'Petrov,' or 'Zakharov' what he does not like or what he considers to be weak. On this basis he begins to reason in many ways about himself, quite wrongly of course from the very beginning, since he has already deceived himself in the most important point and has taken not his real self, that is, he has taken, not Ivanov, but the imaginary 'Ouspensky,' 'Petrov' or 'Zakharov.'

"It is difficult even to imagine how often a man dislikes to use his own name in speaking of himself in the third person. He tries to avoid it in every possible way. He calls himself by another name, as in the instance just mentioned; he devises an artificial name for himself, a name by which nobody ever has or ever will call him, or he calls himself simply 'he,' and so on. In this connection people who are accustomed in their mental conversations to call themselves by their Christian name, or surname or by pet names are no exception. When it comes to self-observation they prefer to call themselves 'Ouspensky' or to say 'Ouspensky in me,' as though there could be an 'Ouspensky' in them. There is quite enough of 'Ouspensky' for Ouspensky himself.

"But when a man understands his helplessness in the face of 'Ouspensky' his attitude towards himself and towards 'Ouspensky' in him ceases to be either indifferent or unconcerned.

"Self-observation becomes observation of 'Ouspensky.' A man understands that he is not 'Ouspensky,' that 'Ouspensky' is nothing but the mask he wears, the part that he unconsciously plays and which unfortunately he cannot stop playing, a part which rules him and makes him do and say thousands of stupid things, thousands of things which he would never do or say himself.

"If he is sincere with himself he feels that he is in the power of 'Ouspensky' and at the same time he feels that he is not 'Ouspensky.'
Etc. (It's in Chapter 8.)

I've tried this and can confirm that indeed it is very uncomfortable. :whistle: There's something about narrating your actions, feelings, hesitations, impulses, etc. that really snaps you out of the immediate identification of just 'going with the flow'. It's easy enough to look back at yourself with a critical mind - even that often isn't pretty - but there's something about doing it in realtime that puts things in particularly stark relief. You're essentially placing yourself within a story, and you quickly realize how mediocre the story is, and what a non-entity the main character is - you - and how far away your actions are from what you would LIKE them to be, or what illusions you have about yourself. But the good thing is that we all have some understanding of what a good story is and what a good protagonist can be, otherwise we wouldn't be able to tell that we're in a bad story with a mediocre protagonist. And through practice we can come to do some things that we can actually feel good about narrating.
 

Approaching Infinity

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My English text is gone. Do you have the English version on your screen ?
Yes - sounds like it might be a technical problem with your browser - maybe it's auto-translating the text into another language. What text, specifically, isn't in English?
 

mamibio74

Padawan Learner
[QUOTE = "Approaching Infinity, post: 805623, membre: 3"]
Oui. Cela semble être un problème technique avec votre navigateur. Peut-être s'agit-il de traduire automatiquement le texte dans une autre langue. Quel texte, en particulier, n'est pas en anglais?
[/CITATION]

I used several times the "preview" key and suddenly the English text disappeared and the text in French was posted without I press the "post" key
 

mamibio74

Padawan Learner
[QUOTE = "mamibio74, post: 805626, membre: 13817"]
[QUOTE = "Approaching Infinity, post: 805623, membre: 3"]
Oui Cela semble être un problème technique avec votre navigateur. Peut-être s'agit-il de traduire automatiquement le texte dans une autre langue. Quel texte, en particulier, n'est pas en anglais?
[/CITATION]

J'ai utilisé plusieurs fois la touche "Aperçu" et tout à coup le texte anglais a disparu et le texte en français a été posté sans que j'appuie sur la touche "post"
[/CITATION]

The text that starts with "oh! that's interesting "
 

lilies

Jedi Council Member
I've tried this and can confirm that indeed it is very uncomfortable. :whistle: There's something about narrating your actions, feelings, hesitations, impulses, etc. that really snaps you out of the immediate identification of just 'going with the flow'. It's easy enough to look back at yourself with a critical mind - even that often isn't pretty - but there's something about doing it in realtime that puts things in particularly stark relief. You're essentially placing yourself within a story, and you quickly realize how mediocre the story is, and what a non-entity the main character is - you - and how far away your actions are from what you would LIKE them to be, or what illusions you have about yourself. But the good thing is that we all have some understanding of what a good story is and what a good protagonist can be, otherwise we wouldn't be able to tell that we're in a bad story with a mediocre protagonist. And through practice we can come to do some things that we can actually feel good about narrating.
Pretty much! I remember a feeling of a strange dislocation. As if I was a football being kicked away from the Player[me], severing the illusion of my self-image from something that still could observe the separation.

Extended identification and wrong crystallization might have created a split being [in me], where the illusionary self still held on to a good chunk - maybe half - of the daily/weekly life force available to the centers. I was pretty shocked to find out, - when I was exhausted from continually pegging away on my Magnum Opus and that I strangely felt incomplete & empty.. - then out of desperation I identified myself with the illusionary I and it felt that missing one-half of my daily/weekly life force suddenly became available, began flooding the centers so I could continue with the [for me] extremely difficult work. :shock:
 
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primeaddict

The Force is Strong With This One
I have been analyzing my dream-self lately and I’m shocked by how different my dream-self is to my conscious self. This awakened my awareness that I have many selves. So now with the recommendation of using Illeism I’ll speak to which self the specific memory belongs to.



There are many memories of my teen-self that causes a great deal of discomfort. Same for my romantic-self and student-self to name a few. I tried talking to each self and it is less uncomfortable since it automatically references the marked difference to my soul-worker-self.
 
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