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Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight Hardcover – May 14, 2013

3.1 out of 5 stars 340 customer reviews

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Q&A with M. E. Thomas

Q. Were you always aware that you were different?

A. Yes, though when I was young, I thought maybe it was just because I was smarter than everyone else. I saw things that other children did not see, was aware of the adult world in a way that even my smart siblings were not—awkward interactions from the end of an affair, why my grandpa treated my dad differently from his other children (he was adopted), and so on. I knew other people did not see these things because I would reference them and get blank stares in return. I learned to keep things to myself, even to pretend I didn’t see them. Those were probably some of my first attempts to wear a mask of normalcy.

Q. What are the common characteristics/behaviors shared by most sociopaths? Do they describe you, too?

A. Lack of remorse or concern for hurting or stealing; being deceitful, manipulative, impulsive, irritable, aggressive, and consistently irresponsible; failure to conform to social norms; and being unconcerned about people’s safety, including their own. You need to have at least three of these to be a sociopath. I have them all, to varying degrees.

Q. You believe that sociopaths have a natural competitive advantage. Why?

A. Sociopaths have several skills that lend themselves to success in areas such as politics and business: charm, an ability to see and exploit weaknesses/flaws (which in politics is called “power-broking” and in business, “arbitrage”), confidence, unflagging optimism, an ability to think outside the box and come up with original ideas, and a lack of squeamishness about doing what it takes to get ahead.

Q. If you don’t have a sense of morality, or feel the emotions that most people do, how are you able to operate in the world without being detected?

A. I think everyone learns to lie about his or her emotions to a certain extent; I just take it a step farther. People ask, “How are you?” and you respond, “fine,” even though you had a fight with your spouse that morning, have a sick child, or any multitude of things that make it hard for you to feel fine about almost anything in your life. You could honestly answer the question, but you don’t because overt displays of strong emotion in ordinary social interactions are not accepted. Most of the time I don’t need to show any emotion at all, and I try to limit the times that I do by begging off attending funerals, weddings, etc. When I do show up to these functions, I try to mimic the other attendees. If I’m dealing with a person one-on-one, I just try to reflect their emotions; usually they’re distracted enough by their own overflowing emotions not to notice my lack of them.

Q. Research shows that one in twenty-five people is a sociopath, yet most of us believe we’ve never met one. Are we just kidding ourselves? Are you able to spot them?

A. Statistically, everyone has met at least one sociopath; in fact, most people will have a close encounter with a sociopath at some point in their lives, either as a friend, family member, or lover. Sometimes I can tell who they are. I find that many successful sociopaths will leave deliberate clues as to what they are, the thought being that only other sociopaths would recognize them. I think sociopaths, like serial killers, often have a yearning to be acknowledged for who they are. They want people to admire their exploits, and that is hard to get when they are completely hidden, so they make small compromises.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Thomas (a pseudonym) is a young white female who has all the classic character traits of a sociopath. She is a thrill seeker with excessive self-esteem and a pronounced lack of empathy. She does not conform to social norms and has a penchant for deceit. “I may have a disorder,” she writes, “but I am not crazy.” In fact, she has excelled as an attorney and law professor who regularly writes for law journals and teaches Sunday school every week as a practicing Mormon. She is, she says, intelligent and charming. “You would like me if you met me,” she insists. She also describes what she is not. She is not a murderer nor was she ever a victim of child abuse. Recent studies, she maintains, report that 1-to-4-percent, or one in every 25 people, is a sociopath. Like her, most live normal lives. She describes her upbringing as the daughter of a violent father and an indifferent and at times hysterical mother and her genetic propensity toward her condition. Fascinating and compelling as well as chilling, Thomas’ memoir offers a window into the mind of a portion of the population that usually remains shrouded in mystery and fear. --June Sawyers

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307956644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307956644
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (340 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At least she is coming out to all but her family. This is written as a confessional/memoir of its author Monica E. Thomas,a pseudonym, necessitated by the subject matter and to protect her present socioeconomic life.

Having just read the reviews written before mine, it would seem I am the first to have actually read the entire book, well, at least, so far.

I would agree with the other reviewers that the book is technically well written, but does get long in the tooth by the half way mark, with many points being repeated several times which lengthened the book with no apparent advantage that I could ascertain; otherwise I would have given 4 stars.

I would agree that the author as self described is unlikeable, but whom I found very interesting simply because I am a retired psychologist and spent the last ten years working with female murderers. The author goes into some detail in trying to distinguish psychopaths, sociopaths, and person with anti-social personality disorder; but for the majority of the world these distinctions are exercises in semantics only. To help clarify this point, as the author takes some time discussing her rational for the distinction. A psychiatrist, Hervey Clecky wrote the magnum opus on psychopathology in 1941 in a book called MASK OF SANITY; he might be better known to you for his book on multiple personality disorder which was turned into a movie in 1957 called THE THREE FACES OF EVE. A Dr. Robert Hare building upon Clecky's work devised a 20 question scale to judge antisocial personality disorder. He only used convicts to base his results on, so it is not representative of the general population and certainly doesn't have the background of the MMPI.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I think this book would have made a fine essay. As it was, it was about 150 pages too long. I guess since I work in mental health already, the author was creepily familiar. She tells you how intelligent she is, how charming, how easily people can be manipulated. Although she is a sociopath, she makes sure to tell you that she has treated people like dirt, but actually she deserves a lot of credit because she could've treated them worse. She drones on and on about herself, and frankly I lost interest in her after a while.

Perhaps if more research were cited and the book gave information as to how to get rid of the sociopaths in your life, or how to spot one, or information that would've benefited readers, it would've been better. As it was, I felt like I was trapped in a room with the author, as she went on and on thinking she was charming while I deperately tried to think of an excuse to leave.
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Format: Hardcover
ME Thomas claims to be a Dexter but she really is a Saddam Hussein. I come from a malignant narcissist home and Thomas speaks and rationalizes just like the narcissists I know. Search for the fairy tales of the malignant narcissist and you will see. Here is a description of Malignant Narcissism from Goldner-Vukov and Moore (Psychiatria Danubina, 2010; Vol. 22, No. 3, pp 392-405); in parentheses are my examples of how her confessions match up to this disorder:

1. They are contemptuous of social conventions and show a passive tendency to lie, steal, and mismanage money. (in other words her disdain for risks keeps her undetected)

2.They are adaptive, capable of consistent hard work and of achieving success (she's a lawyer). However, their work is done primarily to gain admiration (writing this book) and their intellect is strikingly shallow. They are often materialistic (she tells us of driving off in a muscle car and wearing nice clothes in her opossum drowning story) and ready to shift their values to gain favour (her claim to be a chameleon). They are prone to pathological lying (details are contradictory, her father was a hateful petty guy on one page but did his best on another page). In the realm of love and sexuality they are charming (what she calls her sociopath charm), seductive and promiscuous (she tells of her promiscuity), but unable to develop deep relationships.

3. The ego-syntonic sadism of MN is displayed by a characterologically-anchored aggression. It is expressed in a conscious `ideology' of aggressive self-affirmation (she knowingly wants to make others feel bad about themselves and mess up their plans).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is based on a pre-publication copy.

Among the defining characteristics of a sociopath are "specific loss of insight" and "pathologic egocentricity". The book needed the author to overcome both of these, but instead these dominate the book. If you have read enough to know what a sociopath is, I doubt you will find much of interest in this book. If you haven't, save yourself a lot of time and simply read the Wikipedia entry (or similar). The book's only new thing that registered with me was something that isn't part of the normal summaries and diagnostic checklists: extensive and compulsive risk-taking behavior.

Disclosure: Being obliged to write this review, I labored through the first third of the book (stopping at page 105) and then heavily sampled the remainder of the book and found it to be no different from the first third.

Although the sociopath is "unresponsive in general interpersonal relations", I expected the manipulative and calculating nature of a sociopath to push the author to make the book into something that would be attractive/useful to the potential audience in order to find customers/readers, but there is no discernible attempt in this regard.

Because sociopaths "lack remorse or shame", I didn't expect this book to actually qualify as a "confession", but I did expect non-trivial insight. Instead the book is predominately a boring, repetitive litany of the sociopathic activities and thoughts of the author with a mix of proclamations celebrating the superiority of sociopaths. It wouldn't even qualify as a bad diary.

The book fails in one of the characteristics of sociopaths: "superficial charm". Although the writing is technically OK, there is little of even the basic techniques to make an account interesting.
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