By Dana Morningstar
Cerebral narcissists take great pride in their intellect and are often extremely intelligent and convincing. What makes them different from an intellectual person who enjoys a good discussion, or who enjoys teaching others, is that a cerebral narcissist leverages their intelligence in order to “win.” They often proclaim that they are logical and reasonable—even though their opinions and arguments are often anything but. Because they often come across with such great conviction, they can say the most outlandish, hateful, or dangerous things and spin it in such a way that they come across as balanced and fair.
They are usually incredibly persuasive, intelligent, quick-witted, and able to shift between logic, logical fallacies, lies, name calling, and anger to knock their “opponent” off balance, as well as to make their point. They often have advanced degrees or high levels of success (or claim to), and to those who see through them, they come across as pretentious, grandiose, and exhausting. They rarely like to associate with anyone below their (perceived or even fabricated) intellect, educational or financial level, and when they do so, it’s generally in order to engage them in some sort of argument so that they can win.
What can be so crazy-making is that these narcissists continually shift their argument and use a series of logical fallacies, reductionist arguments, lies, half-truths, word salad, and semantic ploys to frustrate the other person until that person becomes exhausted or explodes in anger, at which point the narcissist will declare that the other person is too unreasonable, illogical, or too emotional. It’s like the saying goes, arguing with a narcissist is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how good you are, the pigeon is going to knock over all the pieces, poop on the board and act victorious.
Example: Doug considers himself a genius, comparing himself to the character “Sheldon” on the TV show The Big Bang Theory, and often talks about how lonely it is for him not to be able to find friends or girlfriends who are on par with his intellect. He doesn’t often date, and when he does, the relationships start to crumble as soon as his girlfriends begin to challenge him or assert their own opinions. Whenever this happens, Doug begins yelling, belittling them, or he gives them the silent treatment. The same pattern has happened with his friends; many of his former friends’ wives refuse to have Doug around as he would continually try to bait them into arguments about their parenting or their role as a wife or mother. Doug’s idea of having a conversation is forcing his opinion on others by being what he calls “brutally honest” and then making it seem as though they had the issue whenever they got offended by his uninvited (and sexist, racist, and otherwise offensive) “honesty.” Doug believes that his views are all based on logic and reason, and that anyone who doesn’t believe the same is either too emotional or too stupid to see the truth. The real truth is that Doug is a legend in his own mind.
Dana Morningstar is a former psychiatric nurse turned domestic violence educator who specializes in abuse awareness and prevention. Her passion is working with survivors of abuse to reclaim and rebuild their self-esteem, boundaries, confidence, and identity. She is an author of multiple books on the subject, and also has a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, as well as several online support groups, all of which you can find under the name “Thrive After Abuse.”