Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas

Book Review: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas

Goodreads Description: The first memoir of its kind, Confessions of a Sociopath is an engrossing, highly captivating narrative of the author's life as a diagnosed sociopath.

She is a charismatic charmer, an ambitious self-promoter, and a cunning and calculating liar. She can induce you to invest in her financial schemes, vote for her causes, and even join her in bed. Like a real-life Lisbeth Salander, she has her own system of ethics, and like Dexter, she thrives on bending and occasionally breaking the rules. She is a diagnosed, high-functioning, noncriminal sociopath, and this is her world from her point of view.

Drawn from the author's own experiences; her popular blog,; and scientific literature, Confessions of a Sociopath is part confessional memoir, part primer for the curious. Written from the point of view of a diagnosed sociopath, it unveils for the very first time these people who are hiding in plain sight. The book confirms suspicions and debunks myths about sociopathy, providing a road map for dealing with the sociopath in your life.

My Review: To start here, I believe the issue most people have when reading this book is a dislike of the author and her voice as she goes through her narrative, and I think it really highlights the differences between sociopaths and what M.E. Thomas refers to as "empaths." There is nothing in this book that will make you like M.E., and I don't think that's purposeful, simply a result of her laying out how she views herself and the world in the plainest terms possible. She is very cutthroat about a lot of social situations, and at times I was disturbed by the flippancy in which she cared for the others around her. There is no "soft blow" language here, and what I mean by that is when most people talk about something bad they've done, they will justify it, soften the blow, lower the risk or lessen the severity of their own actions to seem more "human" or sympathetic to those listening to their story, but M.E. doesn't bother with such fluff. She doesn't try to endear her to you, doesn't justify her actions beyond the straight "I did it because I enjoyed it" or "I did it to get X result." Because of this, I can see many readers being put-off by her and shutting down anything she has to say on the subject, which is a big mistake, in my opinion.

If you intend to read Confessions of a Sociopath, you must do so with an open mind and the understanding that everything M.E. writes is through a warped view. She has some great arguments, but everything must be taken with a grain of salt. However, if you go in with the right mindset, this book is absolutely eye-opening.

Confessions of a Sociopath is part memoir, part psychological research. M.E. looks at the history of study done on sociopaths way back into the 1800s and presents it in a very wonderful and informative way. She illustrates the faults in our tools for finding sociopaths, showing that most research and testing is done on the prison population. While many sociopaths do end up in prison, this only highlights one thread of sociopathy, and neglects to look at successful sociopaths who manage to immerse themselves in an empathetic culture and stay above the law. Looking at sociopaths as all murderers or serial killers is no different than looking at all Mexicans as lazy or all black people as criminals-- it is just not reality. She goes on to show the study of the brain and that sociopaths have been proven to have a different brain make-up, and explains the theories and research behind why sociopaths are so unempathetic, looking at something such as inattention to be the cause of this lack of empathy.

M.E. builds a wonderful case for how a sociopath may be a "successful" member of society. She insists that sociopathy is not as much of a "mental illness" as a different brain structure or personality type. Her description of sociopathic thought processes certainly brought the 4% statistic into reality for me, took away the stereotype of the "serial killer" and illustrated a very real person, whose personality traits I could see in people around me. But the thing that made this book so wonderful was the argument she raised on what should be done with sociopaths. All books and journals and readings about sociopaths indicate a need to find them, expose them, and avoid them. But if we come to a place where we can identify sociopaths, what would we do with them? Would we ship them off to camps to be put to death, because they are "beyond saving" or "monsters"? How is this any different from the way Jews were treated in WW2?

Confessions of a Sociopath is a fascinating read, and really opens up this topic to another perspective. Are sociopaths really monsters, or are we the monsters for thinking of them in such a way? Are they not just another structure of the human form, like autistics or geniuses? Sociopaths, much of the time, thrive in our world. They are our CEOs, our lawyers, friends and coworkers. They are people who are doomed to repeat the same destructive cycles time and time again because they lack the ability for self-reflection and introspection, and would have to work to obtain any level of self-improvement. But when autistics need this outside help, does anyone say they should be "avoided" because of their differences? Do we toss them to the curb because of the way they were born?

If you are at all interested in sociopathy, mental illness and psychology, I highly suggest the read. However, I'd advise readers to calm that emotional knee-jerk response when reading, and reserve judgement. The experience will be so worth it. 

TL;DR: 4/5 Stars. If you can put aside your own judgements, it is such a fascinating ride. 

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  1. I totally agree, the book is very very interesting, the author is extrimely candid about her ways, so you must be open to her world view.
    I share some of her lack of emotional-empathy traits, that can make me similarly routhless-cold at times, but I am more towards the autistic spectrum.
    I lack her aggressiveness and malice, indeed I often fall pray of bullies and malignant personalities that literaly freek me out.
    Malice is quite alien to me, so I am extrimely interested in reading on the subject to be able to understand maliciousness to protect myself.

  2. I would like to say that saying she has a warped view is based on the fact most people do have emotions that manifest in ways that go along with society. Thing is, empathy while most people have the capacity for it in most cases is a learned trait. We learn empathy starting in infancy, for whatever reason Sociopaths don't or are unable to learn empathy. Chances are some of it is physical and some social. Either or isn't the answer, since some people with who had a harder time learning it when they were small end up being what society sees as fully functioning empaths.

    Oh, and a point to be made. Yes, some people do treat the autistic like trash. Especially when they're on the higher end of the spectrum an much less able to defend themselves than your average person with the disorder.

  3. Thank you for posting this review. I find it utterly amazing how a sociopath can find the courage to "out" themselves to the public like this.