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Martha Stout, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice, served on the faculty in psychology in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School for twenty-five years. She is also the author of "The Myth of Sanity" and "The Paranoia Switch." She lives on Cape Ann in Massachusetts.
I've written many five-star reviews, but never have I been so motivated to try to convince everyone to read the book. Here's why: one in twenty-five Americans is a sociopath, a figure psychologist Martha Stout obtained from three journal articles and a U.S. government source. Assuming this premise of The Sociopath Next Door is correct, or even if the figure is say one in 50, odds are you know at least one sociopath. He or she could be an abusive partner, the person in the next cubicle at work, your landlord, or the person your teenager is dating. Even if you can't think of sociopath you know, you have high odds of encountering one. Given the havoc even one sociopath can wreak in one's life, this book provides a sort of insurance that you'll be able to identify him or her and deal with that person so they don't harm you emotionally, financially, or in any other way. This is a well-written and well-researched book that I think will benefit the 96% of you who are not sociopaths.
To gain the benefits of "sociopath insurance" there are three portions of the book I believe are crucial for you to read: (1) the discussion of what is a sociopath along with her stories illustrating the different types of sociopaths, (BTW, those stories would make fine literary short stories with Stout's descriptive language and suspense building.) (2) Stout's "Thirteen Rules For Dealing With Sociopaths in Everyday Life", and (3) the discussion of how good people with consciences end up allowing sociopathic leaders to rise to power and do horrific acts. If you read just these sections and skip all the philosophical discussions about sociopaths, you will still gain a lot from this book.
One of the first topics covered is what a sociopath is.Read more ›
Stout writes with striking lyric sensitivity and grace about those who have no ability to feel love, remorse, guilt, or joy. Oddly these are some of the most engaging people we will ever meet. Sociopaths, Stout tells us, are as ordinary as a virus. An intimate association with a sociopath carries its own warranty of being a party to a train wreck. Sociopaths can feign every kind of emotion; yet they know but feral pleasures. Sociopaths find rewards in the hunt. Their joys are in conquest and winning. They understand love, but can't feel it. Hence, sociopaths are condemned like the Flying Dutchman of legend to cruise the shoals of real emotion as distant observers, never finding the safe harbor of family, lasting friendship, or love. Stout's work is especially useful for victims. Those who have experienced a sociopath-- a neighbor who seems to thrive on a campaign of sabotaging our relationships and those of our children, a family member who never feels remorse, a boss who takes odd pleasure in demeaning workers and takes credit for our best ideas, a lover who can never be wholly pleased, but works instead to bedevil-- will recognize Stout's finely etched portraits. From this riveting book we can now know the distressing ordinariness of our experience. There is always comfort in finding a name for what is rightfully seen as an unsettling; or, as it is in some sociopathic iterations ---[eg, the Ted Bundys of the world]-- a terrifying encounter. For the rest of us, this book is a graceful, haunting, and carefully crafted admonition that evil is all too common; and it is carried within those charming, bright, accomplished, seductive, and dangerous people we all know, or will. Stout's effort is a stunning literary achievement: a seamless blend of moral philosophy and science rendered into a uniquely accessible, compelling, and useful handbook for our times.
This text is a lucid study of those individuals who seem to be born without a moral conscience, and as Stout elegantly points out throughout this narrative, one in twenty-five Americans are considered sociopath, causing havoc, heartache, destroyed careers, and the death of many people either directly or indirectly.
The single argument in this highly accessible thesis, the one that is down-right astonishing, (though not so after reading the reasons why) is that most of us "instinctively" know when there is a sociopath in our midst, but more often refuse to intellectually or rationally call them for what they are...why? The reason is that we would prefer to believe that the human being is fundamentally good, and pure evil is something rare or something beyond our day to day reality. On the contrary, there are people who move through their lives without a hint of guilt for their acts of harm.
The sociopath's motivation is ultimately selfish and life for them is one big game, a contest about winning at any cost. This is a frightening notion, but after reading this book, you will more than likely recognize someone in your past or currently in your life that has all the characteristics of a sociopath, and come to understand how and why your life is not the way it should be going and the reason for your general unhappiness.
Martha Stout's "composite" case histories are enlightening as she presents us with varied `types' of sociopaths from the homicidal & verbally abusive to the dead beat and covert destroyer of many lives.
One of the more interesting sociopath profiles is the case of "Dr." Doreen Littlefield, a psychologist working at a reputable hospital. Doreen isn't beautiful but has a good body and uses it to her advantage.Read more ›