Politicians: Should be psychologically assessed

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Former President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

In the social media age, political determinants of COVID-19  are pronounced.

“There is no place for politicians to hide anymore so faults  are inevitably revealed.”

Political power is the master key to all locks and research shows that people in positions of power can let power literally go to  their head. If our political leaders seem off, there is a scientific  reason why.

There is a darker side to many leaders, manifested in character traits such as extreme pride and overconfidence, coupled with a complete contempt for others. These character traits can lead to impulsive and often destructive  behaviour.

However, all politicians are human. Politicians  and policymakers have to make important decisions in unfamiliar circumstances with vast gaps in the available information and all in the full glare of public scrutiny. Behavioural researchers have determined that people under the influence of power act as though they have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

According to The Atlantic, behavioral researcher Dacher Keltner — a psychology professor at UC Berkeley — has determined that people under the influence of power act as though they have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Keltner spent about two decades researching this phenomenon, and he determined that powerful people become “more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.”

It was also found that powerful brains had impaired specific  neural processes, specifically empathy. Once we have power, for too  long, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the  first place. Powerful politicians stop simulating the experience of others, which leads to an empathy deficit. Those in power may suffer from Hubris Syndrome.

The traits of Hubris Syndrome befall many who have substantial power over a length of time. As with any syndrome, the Hubris Syndrome is manifested through a variety of symptoms and is set off by a trigger, which is power. Hubristic traits and the  Hubris Syndrome appear after the acquisition of power.

According to Keltner, Hubris Syndrome is “a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held  for a period of years and with min- imal constraint on the leader”.

People with Hubris Syndrome suffer from some of the following symptoms:  Using power for self-glorifi cation;

 An almost obsessive focus on personal image;   A messianic manner of talking about current activities and a  tendency to exaltation;

 Excessive self-confi dence, ac- companied by contempt for advice  or criticism of others;

 An identifi cation with the nation or organisation to the extent that the individual regards his or her outlook and interests as identical;

 Loss of contact with reality;

 Reckless and impulsive actions; and

 Hubristic incompetence where supreme overconfidence leads to inattention to details too much self-confidence which leads the leader not to worry about the nuts and bolts of policy.

Researching the medical his- tory of UK prime ministers and  US presidents, the Duke University in the US reveal that Hubris  Syndrome is related to power, and thus any person in positions of substantive power, can suffer from this syndrome.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a cure at this time Does any of this sound familiar to you?

DR KRIS NAIDU is a Nadi- based family physician.

The  views expressed are his and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.

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