In the book The 48 Laws Of Power, Robert Greene highlights an illuminating story about a woman in Law #10 – Infection: Avoid The Unhappy And The Unlucky.
In the 1840’s a young Englishwoman by the name of Marie Gilbert moved to Paris to pursue a life as a dancer and entertainer. She changed her name to Lola Montez and claimed to be a flamenco dancer hailing from Spain. By the middle of the decade, her fortunes were turning for the worse, so she decided to seduce Alexandre Dujarier, who owned the most circulated newspaper in France and was also its drama critic.
She successfully wooed him and the two were happy for a time as he helped revive her dancing career. However, the relationship quickly turned into a negative for Dujarier, who saw influential associates and friends leave his side. One fateful night, after consuming alcohol to excess, Dujarier insulted an influential drama critic over said critic’s commentary on Lola. This critic challenged him to a duel the next day and Dujarier was shot and killed.
Lola promptly fled Paris for Munich, where she sought to ply her feminine wiles on King Ludwig of Bavaria. She found a way to manipulate a close aide of his to set up a meeting the King. When she arrived in the anteroom of King Ludwig’s manse on the prescribed day, she overheard that he was too busy to entertain the wants of a stranger, so she pushed her way into his chambers. In the process, her dress ripped, leaving her bare breasts exposed. She was acting in a play on a Munich stage within 3 days.
King Ludwig was utterly mesmerized by the young Lola, completely captivated by her feminine displays and irrepressible charm. Just like with Dujarier, Lola created a mirage that everybody but Ludwig recognized. As Ludwig showered Lola with wealth, praise, and even poetry, Lola was quickly abusing her position of power. She became irritated at slights and began to assault citizens on occasion. This caused the content and peaceful citizenry of Bavaria to speak out against their Ludwig. Advisers who counseled King Ludwig on his association with this toxic woman were dismissed.
Eventually, King Ludwig was forced to tell Lola she had to leave the kingdom, much to his great sorrow. Even this did not satisfy the citizenry, as Ludwig was forced to abdicate the crown a month after he exiled Lola.
She moved back to England, where she curried the favor of an ambitious military officer, a man ten years her junior. Facts came forward that she had previously wed in England before she left for Paris, so she was summarily arrested on charges of bigamy. After posting bail, she and her star-crossed beau fled for Spain. The relationship was incredibly stormy, with her slashing at him with a knife at one point. The relationship collapsed and when the man returned to British soil, he found out he had lost his respected position in the military. Destitute, he moved to Portugal where he was killed in a boating accident some months later.
Her well-documented and torrid sexual tear through Europe did not go unnoticed. A man stepped forward to write her biography. He went bankrupt a few years after publication.
Lola—after her travails in England—moved to California where she entrapped a man named Pat Hull. After yet another incredibly rocky relationship, she left Hull for another man. Hull slipped into deep depression and turned to the bottle to remedy his ailing soul. He was dead within a decade.
For Lola herself—after her looks presumably faded in her early forties—she turned to Christianity and used her impressive powers of charisma to give sermons across America on redemption and salvation. Still desperate for the bright lights of the stage, she would dress up in all white with a halo over her head when she performed her religious lectures. She died a few years later in 1861.
People like Lola are often charismatic, tempestuous, and sultry. They draw you in with grand feats of dazzling allure, then feed on your emotions while dragging you down to the depths of despair.
While commentary on Lola could conceivably hinge on her peculiarities as a coquettish female, the most relevant angle is on relations with toxic individuals. Lola, despite her superficial charm, brought nothing but harm and death to the men in her life. She was a real-life siren who—by virtue of her personality—lured unwitting men to their demise. She had a black hole in her heart that could never, ever be filled by anything positive in the kingdom of man. No man could fill her bottomless pit of existential despair.
Extrapolating from Lola, this speaks to toxic people in general. All manner of brutish hater, unreconstructed bigot, and the garden-variety misanthrope fall under this umbrella of the toxic individual. While a few—like Lola—might have developed a level of mastery in the arts of personal charisma, most are obviously marked by their ignorance, anger and disaffection. While they might not leave a trail of broken men in their wake, they usually are marked by their negative commentary, their alienation of those around them and their lack of self-awareness.
As Robert Greene observes:
Those misforunates among us who have been brought down by circumstances beyond their control deserve all the help and sympathy we can give them. But there are others who are not born to misfortune or unhappiness, but who draw it upon themselves by their destructive actions and unsettling effects on others. It would be a great thing if we could raise them up, change their patterns, but more often than not is is their patterns that end up getting inside and changing us. The reason is simple—humans are extremely susceptible to the moods, emotions, and even the ways of thinking of those with whom they spend their time.
Going forward from this, a man has to be careful who he lets into his life. Whether a man wants to admit it or not—as we might not necessarily be products of those we associate with—but we can or become reflections of those with whom we choose to break bread with.
Bambina Delmont, the false rape accuser of Fatty Arbuckle
All too often, unassuming men will let toxic people into their lives. They either fall for the false bravado or charm of a toxic person or allow a supremely negative person into their social circle. These human cockroaches worm themselves into the souls of men and infect them their with their personal brand of hatred or discontent. They erode positive views on life, attack happiness and are opponents of contentedness, gratefulness and generosity.
A man should never associate with this class of people. They might be charming superficially, but they leach value and positivity long-term. Like Lola Montez, a woman like her is nothing but a one-night stand, a passing fancy. Her fatally toxic mindset means that there cannot be anything positive to be gained from associating with her in the long term.
The best way to identify these sorts of people is to solicit opinions on them from third parties, especially if they are disinterested third parties. If more than a few unconnected individuals are making the same general observations about a person, odds are they are correct in their personal assessments. With this information in mind, a man can decide whether to engage a toxic person.
As Greene observes, there is no rule reversal in this situation: associating with toxic people is always a net negative for a man. There is little to nothing to be gained from maintaining relations with the ungrateful around us. Their emotional states are not just contagious, but they also actively seek to infect those around them with their hateful bile. While it is true that misery loves company, only the foolish entertain the misery of the ungrateful.
Read More: Why The Past Is Best Left In The Past