Are They Really That Smart?

10 Sep 2019

Toxic people are scary. But are they really that smart? If you are to salvage your self-esteem from  your relationship breakup and – ideally, a modicum of financial security  – you need to  stay in your own power.  That means not being overwhelmed and intimidated by the games that a Narcissist plays and the fear of what they might do or say. Before you can do that, you first need to understand  how a Narcissist operates. But, also, where the limitations in their thinking lie.  That is what we shall be looking at here.

A relationship designed to shake you to the core

An emotionally abusive relationship is designed – by the abuser – to shake you to the core.  How can it not ?

Once you start to realise that the person who has persuaded you to love them deeply and wholeheartedly can treat you with utter disregard, your home and your world become unsafe.

In fact, the more a Narcissist reveals their destructive side, the more frightening  and topsy-turvy your world becomes.

Gradually, the belief takes root in your mind that you have been – and will continue to be – outmanoeuvred and outgunned at every turn.

Interestingly, that is just the battle that we are seeing playing out in British politics at the moment.

Our new Prime Minster, Boris Johnson, is a product of Eton College – a public school that has produced surprising numbers of political leaders.

How is this relevant to a discussion of emotional abuse and Narcissism?

Toxic little-boy skills

Briefly, the boys (and it is only boys) at Eton become boarders at the tender age of 8.  Even disregarding whatever dysfunction there may be in their family of origin, boarding school represents a major trauma for those children face.  They are thrown into an adversarial environment in which, assuming they don’t want to sink, they have to learn to swim very fast.  The “skills” they learn in that environment stay with them for life. (If you are interested to find out more, read “Wounded Leaders”  by Nick Duffell.)

Those little-boy skills hinge on making themselves look charismatic and powerful  – by making another person look bad.  That goes a long way to explain why we have such an extraordinarily adversarial and toxic debate in British government.  These wounded and toxic adults bring their little-boy skills to their political “craft”.

Currently, Johnson is threatening parliament – and anyone else who will listen – that he would rather “die in a ditch” than not get his political way.  He has used this kind of – empty – threat before.

Now, you don’t have to be a political leader – or attend boarding school – to resort to such tactics.  Rather, Boris’s behavior  epitomizes the schtick of the bog-standard grandiose Narcissist.  That is how any emotionally abusive individual attempts to intimidate their way back into power and control over people they see as being there only to do their bidding.

The question is, how bright is this? Whether in the public or the private domain?

“My” ex used that strategy frequently.  He used it to intimidate me, for sure.  He also used it to intimidate the hell out of his professional  body when his arrogant behaviour caused concerns.

How well does it work?

How well did it work for him?

I would say that it worked quite well for him.  He won various battles. But he lived an isolated, embattled professional life.

As you know to your cost, this kind of behavior can win an abusive person a lot of battles.  Decent, functional people get confused by the sheer weight of the toxic person’s conviction.  The toxic person’s  conviction leads decent onlookers to assume that it must be fueled by a passion to do right.  In reality,

It is fuelled only by a desire to be right. However much “collateral damage” being right inflicts on others is regarded as a price worth those other people paying.  Non-Narcissists really struggle to get their heads around that mind-set.

Other Narcissists, on the other hand,  tend to admire an Alpha Narcissist and so go along with that person.  For a while, at least.

How it ends

How does it all end?

In the political sphere, it inevitably ends badly.  Tragically, plenty of decent, honorable people will suffer – often hugely, unconscionably – before it does.

In the personal sphere, it doesn’t go too well either.  When you want to walk away from a toxic person in your personal life, they will do whatever it takes to stop you.  Including implementing a scorched earth policy.

That is seriously scary.

Nobody can take away from a toxic person the determination to inflict serious harm on their chosen victim.

What can you do

So, what can you do about it?

  1. Accept that the situation is what it is.

It is absolutely appalling that someone that you loved – sincerely and unselfishly – can behave as they do behave. But, in order to protect yourself to the best of your ability, you need to accept the reality. You cannot,

  1. a) change them, or
  2. b) convince the onlookers of your reality and your truth.

Killing though it may be to have to accept this deep injustice, if you want to keep fighting a losing battle, you will keep losing.

You cannot fight a Narcissist on their battleground and hope to win.

2) Don’t let fear intimidate you into backing down.  If you stay with a toxic person, it’s not as if things are going to be pleasant or you will be safer and more secure.  You will still endure constant, worsening attacks. Plus, you could have a LOT of years of misery ahead of you.

3) Try not to take it personally.  Again, this sounds counter-intuitive and even crazy.  However, it is the sanest thing to do – in an insane situation.  “Your” Narcissist is forever – in their own mind – fighting a war to the death. The moment that you cease to be 110% on their side, you become their sworn enemy who must be eliminated.  Therefore, you need to understand that you are at constant risk of attack.

4) Do your best to anticipate where and how they will attack next.  For them, victory means destroying you.  From their point of view, they can either get you back or they can leave you crushed and broken. Either outcome represents the victory they seek.

In order to achieve their outcome, the areas that they will target are your,

  • Finances
  • Security
  • Self-worth
  • Children
  • Social circle
  • Reputation

Your losses and your value

You will not be able to beat them at their own game.  You can only reduce your losses by not getting caught up in their craziness.  They will play incredible games to get you to give up your – justified – claims to a fair financial settlement. Similarly, they will try to squeeze you out of any property or assets that they can.

Also, they will, routinely, paint you as a crazy, money-grubbing monster.  All you can do is keep your calm and explain that that is just how they operate and remember that you have made a massive contribution to the relationship.

Actually, you have contributed  everything of any human value in the relationship.

They will, likely, try to paint you as a demon to your children.  You will need to stay as calm and low-key as you can – and not add fuel to the flames by wondering whether they will destroy your relationship with your children forever.  The likely outcome is that they will not.

They may well alienate you from what you thought was your social circle – which tells you that these people were only ever fair-weather acquaintances in the first place.  In the future, you will choose a more reliable social circle for yourself.

They will smear your name to anyone who will listen.

Are they really that smart?

And that brings us back to the question that started this article, Are they really that smart?

Honestly, Narcissists are NOT that smart.  They are efficient human wrecking balls.  That is what they do best. But does it work out that well for them in the long run?  That is a difficult one.  A more helpful question is, I believe,

“If you could have all the things that they strip you of by behaving the way that they do, would you do it?”

The answer, I’m guessing is a resounding “No”.

That tells you all that you need to know.

Maybe Narcissists are smart enough to hurt and exploit other people successfully for the longest time. But how smart is it to live the kind of toxic life, based on toxic values, that they do?

Not smart, at all.  You wouldn’t do it.  Sure, they have a kind of highly developed, low, predatory cunning. But you retain your humanity.  In terms of what really matters, you win. Toxic people are, quite literally, too smart for their own good.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

2 thoughts on “Are They Really That Smart?”

  1. Thank you for validating the fact that it is NOT me:(
    Your daily posts and articles are powerful, and oftentimes open my eyes to my reality.
    You are an Angel 😇

    • Dear Jodi,

      So glad they help.

      I can’t help smiling at you saying that I am an Angel. I have this strong sense that my ex-husband and family of origin would be more than happy to put an opposing view. 😉

      Stay strong.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,



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