The “Rhodes Scholar” Thing Isn’t Just a Dumb Gaffe

It’s an example of how narcissists weaponize language

Not a Doctor
7 min readOct 7, 2020
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Since parting ways with my narcissist ex-husband, I’ve been struggling to put into words the peculiarities of how he used language.

Trying to have conversations — okay, fights — with him was excruciatingly frustrating for a number of reasons. First, I never felt like I was being heard. And second, I could never really understand what he was saying.

I always felt like I was talking not to a person, but to directly to his anger. There was no rational or analytical filter on the rage that fueled these fights. It was as though emotion was pouring straight out of his limbic system in little bite-sized chunks — and these chunks were words. They never made sense. They had no connection to each other, or to anything I’d said. They were just…like little knifes, or boulders — each hurled with a sort of nihilism behind it.

I’ve been astounded, time after time, over the last four years, at how readily listening to Donald Trump triggers memories of my ex. The reflexive anxiety I feel at hearing a string of word salad and defensive non-rhetoric uniquely stems from sensing a loss of control: an inability to parse a situation, understand it, and take action around it — the feeling that I am being engulfed in…

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Not a Doctor

I’m a PhD student studying neuroscience and statistics, with penchants for futurism, socialism, and Taoism. Am ruled by a tiny dictator.