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Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent…

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

by M.E. Thomas

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This was a simply fascinating book, providing an insider's perspective on sociopathy. The good news? I am not, it appears, a sociopath - - not nearly charismatic enough as it happens. I could not put this book down - - well written and researched, this was a surprisingly compelling book. ( )
  Meggo | May 31, 2015 |
Confessions of a Sociopath was an incredibly interesting memoir. I've always been interested in the inner workings of the mind, and have read many books with psychology as a major role in the title. This one certainly compares to those, but it had a different feel about it. Unlike other books about sociopaths, this one truly shows the inner workings of an anti social personality disorder. This book isn't about the outsider looking in- it's the insider looking out. That memoir story telling made this more of a diary feel. ME Thomas shares her thoughts and lack of emotion in relation to the world around her. It fully encompasses the sociopathic mind. Even the writing feels wild- lots of stories but so many disconnects. It was a herky-jerky rollercoaster from page one.
I did ultimately come away with a sense of knowing the common sociopath next door a bit more. Additionally, in my line of work, I've encountered ASPD youth and feel like this book helped me see them in a new way and will help me work with them in the future.
It also shed a light on the common misconceptions which is why I strongly suggest this book to readers interested in ASPD / sociopath / psychopath. It didn't come with the bias that I've seen in other books on the topic.
Fun and engaging, this book moves at a quick pace and will take the reader on the journey into the depth of the ASPD mind. Be warned though- you may start seeing "quirks" in a whole new light. ( )
  littlebirdreads | Feb 10, 2015 |
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 |
This person manages to give a bad name to Mormons, women, BDSM-enthusiasts, bisexuals, bonobos and — of course — lawyers. She has something interesting to say about religion — she finds religion very useful in providing her with a ‘prosthetic moral compass’. This is of interest to this empathetic atheist, who does not, in fact require external moral codes to understand the difference between good and evil. Maybe this explains to me why religion is so important to others? Yet the moral hand-writing is generally reserved for the ‘amoral’ atheists.

You don’t read this book hoping to find a likeable narrator, that’s for sure. I’m left with the icky feeling I had after reading Gone Girl — the work of fiction which nevertheless made use of some pretty awful tropes about how women manipulate men with their sexuality. In reality, of course, women are accused of doing this more often than women are actually doing this, which makes it such a frustrating read for someone with feminist politics. This book is similar because we have a person who identifies neither as masculine nor feminine (born female) who admits to manipulating people with her ‘remarkably beautiful breasts’. Reading this book is like reading one long, very unpleasant boast.

I’m not sure what to make of it. I was hoping for an insight into a fascinating personality-type. But when your narrator confesses to being an out-and-out liar, what are we to make of her tale? I have some doubts about its memoir status. Something tells me this is the modern equivalent of Go Ask Alice, except to confound the anonymity issue, the author is easily identifiable. She gives so many biographical details about herself that she was easily identified on the Internet. It didn’t help that she appeared on Dr. Phil wearing only a wig for disguise. She explains this away by saying that she only wants to remain anonymous to strangers; anyone in her personal life she wants to ‘come out’ to, in order to have better relationships with them.

Apparently this isn’t very indicative of a true sociopath. But as she rightly says — and it’s true of many things — our definition of a ‘sociopath’ is built on male models of sociopathy, mainly those of convicted criminals. She argues that sociopathy takes many different forms and may present quite differently in women. Who knows.

I’m interested in the idea (and I can’t remember which expert has said it) that sociopathy exists on a spectrum, along with other psych stuff like Asbergers — that it’s not a case of either being a sociopath or not being a sociopath — we all fit somewhere on a spectrum, with empathic at the other end. I’m inclined to go with that theory. If this description of sociopathy is apt, it tends to fit my experience of interacting with others.

I’m highly dubious about a sociopath’s ability to understand in what ways, exactly, their brains work differently from neurotypical empaths. I suppose they feel they have the advantage because empathy is the dominant culture. And minorities always tend to have a better handle on the dominant culture than vice versa. I’m even more skeptical about this author’s claims on intelligence. The writing didn’t strike me as particularly smart, despite dropping legal terms here and there. Isn’t there another term for thinking you understand other people better than they understand you? I believe it’s the Dunning-Kruger effect. This may be a part of sociopathy, I suppose. M.E. Thomas also writes of her own narcissism. Is that inherent to sociopathy, too? When does narcissism end and sociopathy begin? This whole media racket/Dr. Phil appearance/best seller high concept ‘memoir’ could as easily be the work of a narcissist.

At times it reads like a work of fiction. Like the times she writes outside her own body as an omniscient narrator, describing that thing she does with her teeth. She also describes vampires as ‘allegorical sociopaths’ which is interesting from a publishing perspective; is it any coincidence that the vampire renaissance has coincided with a whole swag of new books about sociopaths? (This being one of the tentpoles?)

In the end, this book may well make you suspicious of neighbours and workmates for a few days, and lead you to wonder about certain characters from your past, and whether they had as much empathy as you assumed they did. I suppose that’s worth a consideration. The epilogue offers some of the most interesting ideas of the book — our strange justice system, linked to displays of remorse, in which someone who genuinely can’t feel remorse is obviously at a disadvantage. I can begin to see why she wrote this book in the first place. But if she hoped to make me feel more welcoming of sociopathic personalities, she failed in that. And if she failed in that, how good is she really, at manipulating other people? Surely if she were that great, she’d have the natural tools of a great novelist at her disposal, conducting me, her reader, to hear the tune as she wants me to. ( )
  LynleyS | Dec 6, 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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