Are psychopaths toxic? This is a question that I get somewhat frequently. Others want to believe that the psychopath is irredeemable; that we are pariahs that deserve no human contact. The answer that I give is that it depends. Are we talking about the unsuccessful psychopaths that line our prison walls or our more adapted kin that have learned to succeed in life, warts and all? Ultimately the onus of any interpersonal relationship with a psychopath must reside with the neurotypical. We don’t blame the stove if someone touches it while it is hot, now do we?
Psychopaths can be extremely loyal to those deemed possessions. There may not be an emotional bond, but that does not mean that an interpersonal relationship with the psychopath need be doomed to one of abuse and misuse. Just as you may protect and keep safe a prized valuable, the psychopath can do the same with those in his inner circle. Reframing expectations when dealing with the psychopath is key for the neurotypical. We don’t expect the intellectually challenged to solve life’s hardest questions and we should not expect the psychopath to be a master of love and compassion.
More importantly, there is a responsibility for anyone in any interpersonal relationship to get out if the price of admission is too high. Poison only kills if it is ingested and the same can be said for those interpersonal relationships in which one party may be behaving poorly. I highly doubt that individuals place the word ‘toxic’ on every disagreeable person that they meet. No, such a highly charged word is usually reserved for those groups that “deserve it” according to society. So, in a sense, if one is convinced that another in their lives is truly toxic, they have the responsibility to sever contact. The host swats the mosquito does it not?
Are psychopaths toxic? Yes and no. We can be your best friend, your unemotional rock, and your steadfast ground if we choose to be. If we are a burden or abusive to those around us, they have the responsibility to get out as we are merely filling a niche held by parasites. No one should blame the parasite for feeding, especially parasites that are selective with whom they feed on.