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Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent…
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Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

by M.E. Thomas

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M.E. Thomas, a diagnosed sociopath, talks in depth about the way she lives her life, the forces that shaped her, the nature of her thoughts and feelings, and the way she navigates through a world of people very different from herself. This is both a memoir and a work of advocacy, as she makes the case for sociopathy not being all that bad a thing, painting sociopaths as being perhaps just one more point on a natural human spectrum.

As far as her intellectual arguments go, she does this well. Attempting to dispel a common stereotype, she points out that while the number of sociopaths is higher among violent criminals than among the general population, it is very much not true that all sociopaths are violent criminals, or even that most violent criminals are sociopaths. She argues that, while sociopaths lack feelings of guilt and shame to guide them and do not respond emotionally to the idea of doing something hurtful or morally wrong, it is entirely possible for sociopaths to behave pro-socially because they recognize that it is in their rational self-interest to do so, or because they recognize that society will function better, for them as well as for everyone else, if they follow certain rules. She calls this having "a prosthetic moral compass," and even suggests that claiming it is impossible to be good without an emotion-based sense of morality is as offensive as suggesting that it is impossible without religious belief... an argument that I personally cannot help but respond to. She also points out that there are areas where the dispassionate ruthlessness of a sociopath can be a definite advantage, such as her own field of law. A trial lawyer, after all, is supposed to be able to put aside her own emotions and moral judgments and concentrate solely on making the bast case she can.

Heck, Thomas even makes sociopathy sound kind of appealing: a life lived with a confident sense of self-worth, free of any of those often downright neurotic worries about what people might think of you, or about all the potential bad consequences of your actions.

And yet. And yet, in the midst of all this, I was constantly brought up short by the way she would casually discuss truly appalling things as if they were no big deal. She cheerfully talks about her favorite hobby of "ruining people," including all the details of why it's so much fun. She trots out lines of reasoning that are clearly twisted and self-serving to explain why such things are perfectly acceptable, and makes it clear that, to her, what "I didn't do anything wrong" means is only "I didn't do anything illegal" or "I scrupulously followed the rules of some game that only exists in my head, and that I did not ask anyone else if they actually wanted to play." Some of the things she describes are enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and on the whole I think it may have left me feeling significantly more frightened of sociopaths than I ever was before, however much appreciation I might also have for their humanity.

And, of course, there's also the question of just how much we can trust anything Thomas says here. This memoir certainly feels tremendously open and sincere, and her stated reasons for writing it that way, her desire to be understood, seem very real. But then, this is also a person who, by her own account, excels at faking sincerity and manipulating people by telling them what they want to hear, so it's impossible not to wonder to what extent she's also doing that to her audience of readers.

The cumulative effect of all of this is illuminating, unsettling, and deeply, deeply fascinating. Not only does it provide a window into the world of the sociopathic, but it also offers up a very different perspective on the rest of us, raising a lot of extremely intriguing questions about what "empaths" have that sociopaths don't, how it works, and what it means. ( )
6 vote bragan | Jan 19, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book and found a lot of interesting insights--especially for how sociopaths might perceive others around them. Some reviewers have pointed out that the book is repetitive at points, and I agree. However, it wasn't so bad as to keep the book from being readable.

Thomas comes across forthright about her thoughts and perceptions, and she is frank about her own perceived shortcomings as well.

I found some very interesting insights to glean from what she has to say. Yes, there are parts that are very self-centered (the work is an autobiography of a self-diagnosed sociopath, after all). I would recommend the book. Not only for those who wish to be able to avoid sociopaths (I don't believe this is the main point of the book, but I understand people don't generally like the idea of being hurt), but maybe just for the opportunity to see a maligned segment of the population as just another subset of human people trying to find a way to navigate the world. ( )
  JenLamoureux | Dec 30, 2014 |
I don't really know what I expected. Actually, I guess I do, I thought I'd be entertained, but for all of the author's professing how likable and intriguing she is, my goodness is she a braggart and a bore.

This is a dull book. ( )
  reluctantm | Dec 4, 2014 |
I listened to this book on audio, which I really can't recommend: audio is more intimate than the page, and that intimacy was very unwelcome here. To be blunt: listening to this book was deeply creepy.

It's worth noting that while Ms. Thomas makes a great deal out of having been diagnosed as a sociopath, she was not given a diagnosis of AntiSocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), which is the DSM diagnosis most commonly thought of as 'sociopathic'. She defends this as demonstration of the problems with psychiatric diagnoses, which depend heavily on criminal behaviour. She limits her criminal behaviour to things she is likely to get away with, thus avoiding many of the criteria.

As many other reviewers have commented, she is an unreliable narrator. For example, she describes one instance where a city worker reprimanded her for walking around a plastic barrier, and she became so angry that she followed the worker for several minutes, fantasizing about killing him. Eventually, she lost sight of him in the crowd. (As another reviewer noted, Thomas later doubted that she would have been able to kill the man, however, this had nothing to do with scruples: he was much larger and probably much stronger than her.) Nevertheless, she maintains that this was a singular incident: she has never assaulted anyone. Except for her brother. And some of her lovers: but that was consensual! At least after the fact. Really!

Thomas states up front that she is a megalomaniac, and much of the book reflects this, including her boast that she had saved enough money to retire on by the age of 30. Assuming that the claim is true, I'm curious: does a sociopath, with her innate lack of regard for risk, carry umbrella liability insurance? Because it is certain that many people might be interested in suing her. (She discounts this possibility, of course.)

She says she relates to the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, who also had no heart, but had spent a great deal of time in reflection. For all of her reflection, however, she still doesn't have a great deal of insight. She thinks her childhood (mental, physical, emotional abuse and neglect) was ideally suited to her genetics: it made her into a 'good' sociopath. She realizes that after several successful years in her job, she's starting to get bored and might soon quit - but she also wants to have children (speaking of jobs that might not be so much fun after a few years!). She thinks she would be a good mother. That might be the creepiest part of all. ( )
1 vote Heduanna | Nov 28, 2014 |
If you want a real waste of time read this book. I caught a short snippet of an interview of this women on the Dr Phil show he thought she was mentally ill but not a sociopath. I then had to catalog the book for my library. The book reads like it was written by a teenage boy bragging about his life. On that level it held my interest in same way a car wreck does.or an impossibly bad TV movie does. The author's note at the beginning of the gives the reader fair warning "...this story is told through the lens of how I see the world, including my megalomania, single minded focus, and lack of understanding about the inner workings of others." It should have been classed as fiction, Thomas tries to legitimize the book by adding quotes from some scientific studies but the citations are so poorly documented it is impossible to verify them. Thomas says she wrote this book in order to be an advocate or sociopaths. if this book is her best effort then sociopaths are in deep trouble.
( )
  Cataloger623 | Nov 8, 2014 |
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A diagnosed non-criminal sociopath explains how her charisma and penchant for convincing lies enables her to influence and seduce others, offering insight into her system of ethics while offering advice on how to manage a relationship with a sociopath.… (more)

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