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"Confessions of a Sociopath" takes readers on a journey into the mind of a sociopath, revealing what makes the tick and what that means for the rest of humanity. Written from the point of view of a diagnosed sociopath, it unveils these men and women who are "hiding in plain sight" for the very first time.
"Confessions of a Sociopath" is part confessional memoir, part primer for the wary. Drawn from Thomas' own experiences; her popular blog, Sociopathworld.com; and current and historical scientific literature, it reveals just how different - and yet often very similar - sociopaths are from the rest of the world. The book confirms suspicions and debunks myths about sociopathy and is both the memoir of a high-functioning, law-abiding (well, mostly) sociopath and a roadmap - right from the source - for dealing with the sociopath in your life, be it a boss, sibling, parent, spouse, child, neighbor, colleague or friend.
As Thomas argues, while sociopaths aren't like everyone else, and it's true some of them are incredibly dangerous, they are not inherently evil. In fact, they're potentially more productive and useful to society than neurotypicals or "empaths," as they fondly like to call "normal" people. "Confessions of a Sociopath" demystifyies sociopathic behavior and provide readers with greater insight on how to respond or react to protect themselves, live among sociopaths without becoming victims, and even beat sociopaths at their own game, through a bit of empathetic cunning and manipulation.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-06-03
- Reviewer: Staff
An essential, unprecedented memoir by a law professor who is a clinically-diagnosed sociopath, these revelations from the pseudonymous Thomas deign to counter the label's public image. There are no tales of violent crime or unrecognizably perverse fantasies. Rather, her intelligent, measured prose conveys her message and her mindset yet betrays sociopathic characteristics: "While others were learning to play kickball, I learned to play people." Unlike those without this disorder, she has neither conscience nor remorse, manipulates to fulfill desires, and describes a lifetime of inability to relate to others' emotions. However, she is confident, charming, worries about having kids, and whether "they will be like me, and I worry even more that they will be not be like me." Sociopathic brains are structurally different from others, but the disorder's root causes are unknown. Thomas asserts that we have misunderstood a group that constitutes between one and four percent of the general population, and her arguments against using the diagnosis as an indicator of evil or a pre-emptive reason to imprison are a slam-dunk. This is a critical addition to narratives of mental illness, deepened by the awareness that we're reading someone whose most intense motivation is "acquisition, retention, and exploitation of power". (May)
A look into the mind of a sociopath
Confessions of a Sociopath opens on a disturbing scene. Author M.E. Thomas (a pseudonym) finds a baby opossum in her swimming pool. Fetching the skimmer, she uses it to hold the animal underwater; when it escapes, she leaves it to drown, returning later to toss the body over her neighbor’s fence. Does this sound like you or anyone you know? If it did, would you admit it?
Confessions of a Sociopath mingles elements of memoir with some scientific analysis and material from the author’s blog, SociopathWorld. Her own psychological evaluation defines her as “egocentric” and “sensation-seeking,” focused on “interpersonal dominance, verbal aggression, and excessive self-esteem.” Living in constant pursuit of her own advantage in any situation, with no regard for the emotions of others, Thomas has essentially lied, cheated and stolen her way to a good life, working less than half-time as a law professor and “ruining people” for sport, from fellow faculty members to romantic interests. A devout Mormon, she teaches Sunday school and claims to adhere to moral guidelines (she isn’t physically violent, for example), but finds wiggle room in even the most straightforward rules and exploits them to her benefit.
The book is fascinating for its glimpse behind the curtain, but it’s not without its flaws. The combination of a pseudonymous author who has blurred many identifying details with a sociopath’s lack of emotional connection leaves the experiences recounted here somewhat lifeless. Thomas also contradicts herself, boasting at length about her ability to ruin people, then giving a tame example and speculating that it was harmless to those involved. Most surprisingly, she initially calls her childhood “unremarkable,” then goes on to describe an upbringing shot through with abuse, neglect and melodrama verging on the operatic. It may not be the direct cause of her condition, but unremarkable? No way.
It’s a sociopath’s prerogative to be evasive, so we may never reach a full understanding of how the condition takes root or if it can be, if not cured, at least constructively channeled. Confessions of a Sociopath offers no easy explanations, but it’s an unsettling look at something that is far more common than most of us realize.