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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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M.E. doesn't have to convince me that she is a very different type of person than most. For me, difference is fascinating but even for those who are comfortable belonging to 'normality' the divergent paths of human nature are extremely revealing. If you are a non conforming individual of any breed, but particularly if you place a high value on logic, many of the tenets M.E.'s morality and life philosophy will resonate with you. If you aren't, they might explain why certain people around you panic when you break down and start crying.

The style is engaging and readable, I can certainly believe sociopaths are charming! and although M.E. is not, and admits to this herself, a fully mature individual; she is self reflective and intelligent in a completely new way so that her observations are extremely valuable and different than those of neurotypicals.

"What makes you a sociopath is not that you choose to do certain things, but that you are presented with an entirely different set of choices than a neurotypical person." ( )
  Evalangui | Aug 22, 2014 |
Interesting and entertaining. For the review, visit The Book Wheel. ( )
  thebookwheel | Jul 8, 2014 |
Even after reading mixed reviews on the book I decided to give it a shot. The book is more autobiographical but the author freely admits to changing things to hide their identity and protect from potential lawsuits. The narrative jumps around and smugness of the book just grated on my nerves. After a while I was actively skimming looking for anything that might be interesting. I'm glad that I got this from the library because I don't think I would have wanted to have wasted my cash on this. ( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jul 8, 2014 |
I've met more than a few sociopaths in my time and some of them have written books, but this is the first book I've read by someone who defines herself as a sociopath and sets out to demystify the condition.

That, alone, makes it an interesting premise for a book and this book is certainly intriguing, although not entirely successful. Since one of the markers for sociopathy/psychopathy is a lack of insight into the self or interest in self-analysis, the very fact that Thomas went to all the trouble, over the course of years, to engage in all this self-examination makes the work somewhat suspect. It should also be noted that none of the medical professionals she consulted can, because of confidentiality laws, confirm or refute any of her assertions. Quite convenient, that.

M.E. Thomas writes under a pseudonym, but has been revealed elsewhere to be a modestly successful lawyer. This is useful information in that knowing who the actual person is and knowing some facts about her life gives the reader a comparison for the grandiose claims she makes about herself in her book. Is she really so highly intelligent, so astonishingly alluring, does she really not worry about her lack of income due to her ability to play the stock market and average a 9.5% return? Well, it's best to remember that one of the hallmarks of a sociopath/psychopath is that they lie like a rug and have a highly exaggerated sense of self-worth.

M.E. Thomas may be a "successful" sociopath, as she asserts, by which she means she lives well, has relationships, and contributes, in a fashion, to society. On the other hand, she may just be a nasty bit of work, a narcissist, a liar, a user, a con artist, and a petty criminal. Either way, someone who dedicates a chapter of her book to "ruining people" is unlikely to do herself much good with this book. It has sold rather well though, so perhaps because she doesn't give a fig for other people, money is consolation enough.

One gets the sense Thomas would like to be both admired and feared, so perhaps my reaction, which is to pity her, will elicit her wrath. She does have wrath in spades, apparently. For example, when a city worker chided her for using an off-limits escalator, Thomas followed him, a “metallic” taste in her mouth, fantasizing about killing him and “how right that would feel.” Violence was avoided, apparently, when she lost sight of him in the crowd. “I’m sure I wouldn't have been able to actually kill him,” she says, “but I’m also relatively certain I would have assaulted him.” However, she writes with what appears to be affection for a non-judgmental, Christian co-worker whose "willingness to regard me as a human begin despite her firm belief I was a sociopath offered me the possibility that I could be understood and accepted as I was. She was proof that not all people with consciences and empathy were appalled by the existence of people like me." For someone who insists she doesn't care about others and has no use for either a conscience or empathy, this is contradictory.

The book is adequately written. The prose is clean and the research is fine but, ike many such works, the writer seems to have revealed more about herself, and different things, than she intended. She says, for example, that she never engaged in any criminal behavior but also says she has a"“significant history of impulsive, aggressive, and generally irresponsible conduct — things like fistfights and theft.” She talks about theft quite casually. Underlying the entire work is a sort of plea to be pitied, to be accepted as her kind co-worker accepted her. One suspects such acceptance would be used only to Thomas's advantage however (as outlined in her "Emotions and the Fine Art of Ruining People" chapter). It's the sad push-me-pull-me stance of a deeply damaged person.

Where her lack of insight is in boldest relief is during her examination of her childhood, which was -- contrary to her assertions -- not normal at all. Beatings, neglect and a lack of security ought never to be considered 'normal' and the fact Thomas does consider it that way is evidence of a serious problem, although Thomas doesn't seem to understand that.

In the end, I didn't want to spend any more time than was necessary with this book and the relentless self-justification, grandiosity, arrogance and smug conceit. It was simply too sad. Consider this statement: “In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race, people are attracted to the sociopath’s exceptionalism like moths to a flame.”

Not really. But I wish her well. ( )
1 vote Laurenbdavis | Mar 31, 2014 |
Unreliable narrators fascinate me and other people's psychological states intrigue me.

So it's not surprising that when I spotted 'Confessions of a Sociopath' it went straight onto my wish list.

What's it about?

M.E. Thomas is (apparently) a successful American law professor writing about her sociopathy under a pseudonym. Originally, she created a blog - SociopathWorld.com - which became an online community for similarly minded people. Part memoir, part exploration of what creates sociopaths and how society should deal with them, this book offers an insight into her mind, apparently in a bid to make society more tolerant of sociopaths.

What's it like?

Not as shocking as you might expect. For all her talk of "ruining" people, Thomas is neither criminal nor violent; she has never seen the inside of a police cell, although she recognises that her poor impulse control might one day change this. Essentially, her deviance involves manipulating people to get her own way, sometimes simply without regard to their feelings, sometimes in order to hurt them. As she stresses, "empaths" (her catch-all term for non-sociopaths) do these things, too. The difference is that she doesn't experience guilt, and that some people would like to imprison her just for being...her.

Minor revelations abound: she no longer uses knives because she cannot force herself to be sufficiently careful with them; her parents once abandoned her and a sibling in a local park; she deliberately cut all ties with a previously dear friend because the friend's father was diagnosed with cancer and the friend became a chore. Despite her best efforts to shock (in the opening pages she describes leaving a baby opossum to drown), prurient readers will bedisappointed. This sociopath teaches Sunday School and loves her niece.

Her very mildness has left some readers questioning whether the whole book is just a hoax. After all, what self-respecting sociopath would admit that their "ruining" of people is often mostly in their own mind? Perhaps one determined to manipulate your response to her. Personally, I see no reason to doubt her, though I would have found this appealing even if it were simply a well-written fiction.

More questionable is the book's length. At 302 pages long, its not unwieldy, but I felt that leaving out a couple of the later chapters - which really just repeated variations on material covered previously - could have strengthened the book overall. I felt her account of her sexual awakening in Brazil was given more space than it required, and the - albeit quite interesting - idea that bisexuality is a key sociopathic trait had already been discussed.

There's a good balance of personal reflection and broader discussions of how sociopaths are perceived and treated by society. How do you identify sociopaths? What do you do with them when you have? Does their amorality make them more or less culpable of the crimes they commit? Thomas argues that sociopathic traits, guided suitably, can be distinctly beneficial. This fits with ideas in Jon Ronson's non-fiction book 'The Psychopath Test', in which he recognises that many successful business men demonstrate key psychopathic / sociopathic traits.

Who would Thomas be without her sociopathy? She's not sure, but she embraces it even as she recognises that she has no "core" self, that everything she presents to the world is some kind of mask. But then, as she notes: "What's the difference between acting the part of a good lawyer and being one? What's the difference between pretending to be a valuable colleage and being one?" If you participate in a scam long enough, surely it becomes who you are? Ultimately, we all adopt different roles and play them in ways that suit us.

Final thoughts

I found this a genuinely interesting read and digested it slowly over a period of about a month. There is, of course, discussion throughout about the causes or triggers of sociopathy, how far nature and nurture are each responsible. This is particularly key in the final chapter, which considers how sociopathic children develop and how they could be treated. Of course, most researchers / counsellors etc. prefer to talk about children with callous-unemotional traits, rather than diagnosing them using such a prejudicial term, but many will grow into sociopaths. Can this be avoided? If so, how?

Perhaps keen to demonstrate how educated she is, Thomas makes repeated reference to sociopaths in literature, especially Cathy from Steinbeck's 'East of Eden', when developing her theories. Although she refers to key researchers in the field, she rates her own opinions and experiences as equally valid (standard attitude for a narcissist) so it's unsurprising to find the book entirely without references.

If you're interested in a personal take on sociopathy then this would be an interesting read; if you want rigorous research then you'll need to look elsewhere. ( )
1 vote brokenangelkisses | Mar 14, 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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