Do orphans lead the World?

Boris Sirbey Perspectives Leave a Comment

Do you know what do Caesar, Cleopatra, Ramses II, Louis VIX, Napoleon, Washington, Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt and Barack Obama have in common?

The answer is simple: besides the fact that they are leaders whose name became famous in history, all of them are orphans.

However, they are far from being an exception: among the 400 most important leaders who have lived so far, almost all of them are in the same situation. This is the conclusion of a remarkable study co-authored by three psychoanalysts under the title: Do Orphans lead the world?

Published in 1978, this book was unnoticed by the general public. Yet, it highlights something fundamental about how history is written. It reveals why, in spite of attempts to create participatory models, most organizations invariably tend to reproduce a pyramid of power dominated by a single leader.

Lack of love

“I do not care if it hurts.
I want to control-have
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul ”
Radiohead Creep

To grow in a balanced way, a child needs the love of his parents. Ideally, each parent will express an aspect of such a love. Paternal love represents justice: the father sets the limits, rewards or punishes their children’s behavior for their own good. Maternal love is base on compassion: the motherconsoleand makes them feelthat they are accepted, that no matter what they do.

When justice and compassion come together, this creates equity, which is the right ground for individual achievement. The child who grows up in this equity is likely to develop a harmonious personality, which combines self-esteem to altruism, and will be ready to deal with the trials of life.

However, there are a number of children who cannot reach this inner balance: when a child has been abused or abandoned, or when the paternal or maternal is absent or dysfunctional, the individual becomes undermined by an emotional void that will deeply affect their relationships with others.

Such individuals tend to build their identity based on an idealized image of what they lack. For example, if somebody has never experienced parental love, he can try to find compensation for this lack by putting all his energy to become a judge, who is an archetypal figure of the father’s authority. If it is the mother who is the missing one, the answer may be to become a nun or a nurse, thus building an image of universal mother.

By recreating in the World an order that is consistent with an ideal conception of what they lacked, individuals emotionally injured during their childhood can find an answer to the unbearable emptiness they feel.

This compensation mechanism is not necessarily negative. On the contrary, deep emotional wound can reveal extraordinary and unexpected resources in us, and inner suffering often proves to be an essential ingredient to excel.

In the field of literature, there is an impressive number of orphans: Molière, Racine, Balzac, Nerval, Hugo, Renan, Rimbaud, Proust, Joyce, Poe, Tolstoy, Keats, Rousseau, Wordsworth, Max Weber, Baudelaire, Stendhal, Camus and Sartre, to name a few, have all been deprived of at least one of their parents between 0 and 12 years. Similarly, Gandhi or Mother Teresa exemplify orphans who have transcended suffering into love.

In the field of fiction, a character like Batman, who is now the most popular superheroes in the world, is the epitome of the orphan who reach beyond his inner wounds to become the personification of justice. A part of the depth of that character is that he channels its inner darkness to help others.

The real problems beginwhen theinner paincannotbe turned intopositive energy andreinforcesthe painof the World.




The leader and the crowd, dysfunctional couples

“Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood. ”

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Most all of human history has been written not by the peoples, but by a small group of individuals who could only survive their pain by projecting it on the whole society. Wars, crises and political events that determine the fate of nations is the product of unresolved suffering from a very small minority.

But wars cause the appearance of new orphans, and the patterns reproduce itself. It’s a vicious circle, and humanity has never managed to break it so far.

Of course, this circle can only exist because the crowd agrees to this relationship of dependence: the leader will seek the power as a substitute for the love he never experienced as a child, and the crowd will seek in the leader a promise of security that is a substitute for true freedom.

The fascination we feel for the leader comes from charisma, but charisma is fueled by the fact it echoes the whole group. The guru, the leader of opinion, the great manager, any holder of authority fascinates because he or she holds a collective energy. The leader is the focal point of the imaginary construction that represents the community, and his authority embodies our need of walls that protect us from uncertainties and from the dangers from the outside.

Among other words, there is no leader without a crowd to carry him. But this is an unhealthy relationship: the crowd is permanently infantilized by its dependence to authority, while the leader melts into a collective figure in which he will seek to endlessly compensate his emotional wounds. When a head of state dies, it is generally said that the nation is an “orphan”. In the case of General de Gaulle, Pompidou even said she was “widow.” It shows how much the relationship of the leader with the people is close to sublimated sex.

However, this relationship is inherently unstable. It is not based on trust, but on mutual dependency and fear. And is this fear gets too strong because of a crisis (whether it is the fear of the crowd towards the leader or the fear of the leader towards the crowd) and things can quickly turn into a nightmare. Like a dysfunctional couple, the leader will then blame the people and the people will blame the leader, until the violence explodes.

The current Syrian crisis provides a good example, but the scenario was endlessly repeated from roman emperors to Stalin.

This issue is so deep that it has determined the entire history of mankind so far. And will not free ourselves from the cycle of crises and wars until we finally manage to overcome the need of security we project on the leader.

I examined the possible ways to accomplish this in an article called How to prevent madmen from reaching power?


Orphan(s) of father before the age of 8 years

  • Confucius
  • Richelieu
  • Charles XII
  • Guillaume III of Orange
  • August
  • Caligula
  • Claude
  • Néron
  • Vespasien
  • Louis XIV
  • François 1er
  • Ivan le Terrible
  • Danton
  • Pierre le Grand
  • Brutus
  • César Borgia
  • Rodrigo Borgia
  • Clothaire II
  • Charles III
  • De Valera
  • J.G. Sforza
  • Sigebert II
  • Dagobert II
  • Pyrrhus
  • Henry VII
  • Henry III
  • Hoover
  • Louis XV
  • Philippe 1st
  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Charles Quint
  • Evita Perón
  • Queen Victoria
  • Pancho Villa
  • Richard III
  • La Fayette
  • Lloyd Georges
  • Othon
  • Philippe 1st
  • Jacques 1str
  • Marie Stuart
  • Alphonse XIII
  • Henri IV
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Jacques 1st
  • Jacques II
  • Jacques V
  • Jean 1st of Aragon


  • Mahomet
  • Christine of Sweden
  • Louis IV of Bavaria
  • Louis the Child
  • Louis XII
  • Valentinian II
  • Alphonso V
  • Aberdeen
  • Juarez
  • Bolivar
  • Démosthenes
  • Jean II of Scotland
  • Jean III
  • Jean V
  • Houphouët-Boigny
  • Isabelle Perón
  • Bokassa
  • Kenyatta


Orphan(s) of father before the age of 15 years

  • Louis IX
  • Motta
  • Atatürk
  • Lenin
  • Stalin
  • Hitler
  • Charles XII
  • Charles VIII
  • Philippe-Auguste
  • Tiberius
  • Gandhi
  • Washington
  • Ignace of Loyola
  • Henri IV
  • Reine Eleanor
  • Gengis Khan
  • Louis XIII
  • MutsuHito
  • Hadrian
  • Louis XVI
  • Louis XVIII


  • George III
  • Philippe 1st
  • Philippe II
  • Jefferson
  • Henri III
  • Khrouchtchev
  • Saint-Just
  • Tchang Kai-shek
  • Attila
  • Pierre II of Russia
  • Haile Sélassie Ist
  • Constantine II
  • Clothaire I
  • Philippe II of Macedonia
  • Charles IX
  • Louis 1st of Hungary
  • Philippe II
  • Edouard VI
  • Sigismond 1st
  • Richard II
  • Victor-Amedeus 1st



  • J.M Visconti
  • P.M Visconti
  • Jacques III
  • Edouard II
  • Edouard III
  • Charles VI
  • Mathias 1st
  • Elisabeth 1st
  • Cimon of Athens
  • Vladislas 1st
  • Vladislas III
  • Osman II
  • Hammurabi
  • Akhenaton
  • Cambyse II
  • Séthathirath 1st
  • Wellington
  • Robespierre
  • Callaghan
  • Mobutu



Orphan(s) of father before the age of 20 years

  • Roosvelt
  • Charles V
  • Louis II of Bavaria
  • Julius Caesar
  • W. Pitt
  • Louis VII
  • Cleopatra
  • Napoleo 1st
  • Cromwell
  • Henri VIII
  • Louis III
  • Louis VII the Young
  • Philippe IV of Spain
  • Peter the Cruel


  • Herod
  • Hannibal
  • Philip V
  • Philip II of Spain
  • Périicles
  • Metellus
  • Nasseredin Shah
  • Karl Marx
  • Catherin II of Russia
  • Scipio Aemilianus
  • Lorenzo de Medici
  • Gustavus Adolphus
  • Clovis
  • Pompey


  • Charles IV the Fair
  • Charles II of England
  • Philippe IV of France
  • Charles the Bald
  • Theodoric
  • Edward IV
  • John III
  • Elisabeth og Russia
  • Henri 1st of England
  • Henri II of England
  • Louis-Philippe
  • Olaf 1st
  • Cyrus the Younger
  • Ramses II



Orphan(s) of mother

  • Aberdeen
  • Buddha
  • Lincoln
  • Chamberlain
  • Bolivar
  • Hamilton
  • Caton le Jeune


  • Juarez
  • Hitler
  • Coolidge
  • Maximilian 1st
  • Ben Gourion
  • Nasser
  • Frederick II


  • Pétain
  • Robespierre
  • Ho Chi Minh
  • La Fayette
  • R.C Salisbury
  • Bourguiba
  • Chou En-lai



Rejected by the father

  • Martin Luther
  • Barack Obama
  • Calvin
  • Alexandre le Grand
  • Harding
  • Quisling
  • Gomulka
  • Trostsky
  • Gaddafi


  • Salazar
  • Mao Tsé-toung
  • Mussolini
  • Franco
  • Nasser
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Nixon
  • Richard the Lionheart
  • Tito


  • Golda Meir
  • Cortes
  • Mazarin
  • Sun Yat-sen
  • Frédéric II of Prussia
  • Tamerlane
  • Louis XI
  • Clémenceau
  • Gambetta



Abandoned children

  • Moses
  • Churchill
  • Mirabeau
  • Constantin the Great


  • Cavour
  • Maximilian 1st
  • Bismarck
  • Che Guevara


  • Henry II the Saint
  • Constantin The Great
  • A.B. Law



Illegitimate children

  • Sukarno
  • Napoleon III
  • William the Conqueror
  • W. Brandt
  • Thiers
  • Pizarro
  • Charles Martel


  • Theseus
  • Mary Tudor
  • Cesare Borgia
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • John Borgia
  • Amin Dada
  • D’Alembert


  • Sigebert II
  • Prince Orlov
  • Mansfled
  • F. Douglas
  • Baez
  • T.E Lawrence
  • Charlemagne


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Boris Sirbey

Boris is Chief Editor @HumanAge and CIO @MyJobCompany. He has a PhD in Philosophy and is a specialist of Collective Intelligence Engineering. Super Powers; #Geek #Innovation #Change Management #Collective Psychology #Resilience Linkedin profile.

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