When we think of bullying, we usually associate it with different types of physical and verbal aggression. We associate it more with people of school age, and find that it often takes place online, thorough social networks. But there are also other more subtle ways of bullying and intimidating others, for example through humiliation and sarcasm. This type of harassment is known as intellectual bullying, or intimidation.
Intellectual bullying has received far less attention and recognition than other forms of bullying that are better known. However, this doesn’t make it any less damaging. In fact, this form of psychological violence doesn’t only have consequences in adult life. It is also very painful for those who suffer from it during childhood.
Intellectual bullying and hierarchy
Intellectual “hierarchy” is a way of classifying people according to their educational and school qualifications. We learn and play out this classification from childhood. At the top of the hierarchy are those who have a higher level of education, training and qualifications. At the bottom are those who have received little training, and have very few qualifications. The problem arises when people who occupy the top of this hierarchy unjustifiably belittle those in lower positions.
This “intellectual superiority” that some demonstrate and use to discredit others is a type of psychological harassment known as intellectual bullying or intimidation. We shouldn’t overlook this attitude, due to the great damage and suffering it causes. In fact, intellectual bullying is no different from physical bullying. Both can affect the victim’s self-esteem in a devastating way.
Scientists tell us that humiliation, in any of its forms, including intellectual, activates the areas of the brain related to pain. It triggers a more intense and lasting response than joy, and a much more negative one than anger.
Humiliating another person is one of the cruelest behaviors that exists. Here are the type of people who often carry out this type of behavior.
The intellectual bully
The “intellectual bully” is usually more intelligent than the average person. Because of that he will consider himself superior to those around him. Consequently, this way of thinking leads him to use humiliation, contempt and sarcasm towards other people. He does this to somehow “confirm” his apparent superiority. All this behavior really does, though, is to betray the insecurity that he is trying to hide from others.
Another characteristic of the intellectual bully is his condescending attitude. The insecurity that grips him hides behind his great words and arrogant phrases, with which he tries to confirm his intelligence and superiority. For that reason he uses very technical, gimmicky and flashy words, in order to make others feel stupid and inferior to him.
Here’s a question to make you thin – aren’t these exactly the sort of people who are venerated and praised in the media? Aren’t the most popular programs on TV the ones in which the audience love to see this sort of attitude?
In a certain way, people who use physical violence are more likely to learn their lesson, as they will see their actions won’t be put up with in a civilized society. However, intellectual bullies are, sadly, in a better position to gain status in society as a result of their intelligence. This is because their “intellectual superiority” often receives rewards. This situation means that they continue demonstrating their supposed intelligence, without being questioned about their harassing and humiliating attitude.
Consequences of intellectual bullying
Intellectual bullying has devastating long-term effects. Studying in a competitive environment in which “intellectual superiority” is valued causes a deep and long-lasting emotional and psychological trauma.
People who are victims of this type of harassment often suffer serious damage to their self-esteem. They also tend to lose confidence in themselves, so they stop taking the initiative and become demoralized. We shouldn’t forget that this type of intimidation is the cause of a high percentage of adolescent suicides.
However, intellectual bullying, or intimidation, also has consequences for the bully. In the long term, the intellectual bully ends up being the victim of his own game. On the one hand, people around them end up discovering just what cruel and toxic people they are, and choose to keep away. On the other hand, their insecurity, which leads them to humiliate others, will prevent them from fully developing and taking full advantage of their potential.
To educate is also to teach compassion and humility
This intellectual bullying, in general, is due to a lack of compassion. When aggressors hurt their victim, they do it knowingly. If they had really cared about the person’s feelings, they wouldn’t have harassed or bullied them in the first place. Therefore, obviously, one of the solutions to fix this problem of intellectual hierarchy is for the person to realise the need for compassion, in addition to empathy. Instead of trying to fit into an intellectual hierarchy, we should use our knowledge, internalize it and then use it to help others.
As Aristotle said, “educating the mind without educating the heart is not education at all.” From this point of view, both the “intelligent” and the “inferior” benefit mutually from each other. The latter acquires a better understanding of the world, while the former learns to be more compassionate and humble.