I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas

As a psychology major, I have to admit that I assumed that sociopaths were listed in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual), which is what psychologist/psychiatrists use to diagnose mental illnesses.  To be fair, when I took Abnormal Psychology, at the beginning of the semester, the professor had a heart attack and was absent for most of the class.  Instead we watched dated and boring tapes, which if you are up at 4 or 5 am and watch PBS, you can sometimes still see them.  I learned nothing about Abnormal Psychology, except what I already knew from my high school Psychology class.  So this book was a real eye-opener.  Sociopaths (they have been historically called psychopaths, but they prefer sociopath) are the polar opposite of manic depressives, who feel everything and are the roller coaster of mental diseases. 

Here are the factors used to diagnose sociopaths: superficial charm and intelligence, absence of delusions, absence of nervousness, unreliability, untruthfulness and insincerity, lack of remorse and shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity, general poverty in major affective reactions, specific loss of insight, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations and failure to follow any life plan.  Now most important to know, is that not all sociopaths are criminals, much less killers, like the famous Hannibal Lector.  Although, those that are, have a very high recidivism rate.  Many sociopaths make excellent lawyers, CEOs, politicians, doctors, and other jobs that can be cut-throat and require someone who thinks rationally.  She herself had already made her retirement on the market. She earns 9.2% on her investments.  Fortune 500 companies only have 3.5%.  One in five financial managers will be able to come close to her, but not for the seven years in a row she has consistently done, and no, she is no business or Wall Street wunderkind, but a very good reader of people and a predictor of what they will do.

The author, M, went to law school, but is also a musician.  She studied percussion because it gave her four instruments to play and she bores easily.  That's a problem with sociopaths: they bore easily and begin to play games of manipulation with other people around them for no reason except as a power trip.  This is one of the things she has worked on over the years (she's in her thirties now).  After leaving behind a string of broken relationships and jobs, she eventually learned that if she wanted to have a more satisfying and successful life, she would have to try to curb her impulses to manipulate.

As a child, she grew up in a strict home, but not an abusive one, exactly.  Though her parents were more interested in themselves, even once leaving her and her brother at the park and driving home, making them walk home on their own.  As a Mormon, she was lucky in that they have a set of rules already set out for you to follow.  Sociopaths do not know how to relate to people or how to react in society.  Being Mormon (she's a Sunday school teacher) also gave her a way out if she makes a gaffe that would make anyone else seem odd, but others just put it down to her religion.  As a child she got into lots of fights and did not understand why the other party would be upset by her hitting them.  In high school, she began to study people and their actions in order to fit in.  But she could not stop playing games with people.  She lists numerous accounts of how she pitted one person against another or how she got to play at the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City because she had accused her teacher of sexual harassment. 

After two failed jobs in prestigious law offices where she was bored working at a desk all day and managed creative ways to take time off for vacation, since the offices had no vacation policy.  She eventually, after being on unemployment for two years, went to work for the district attorney's office in the misdemeanors department.  This is where she excelled.  She knew how to pick a jury and manipulate them during the trial by giving them a look that said "you're not hearing the whole story" and if she failed to manipulate by normal means, she used to old stand-by: fear.  But then, eventually she got bored and became a professor at a small law school, where she gets by only teaching six hours a week and eight months a year.  She is very popular with her students, because she knows how to pour on the charm and make you look either really smart or dumb, depending on her mood.  As of this publication, 2013, that was what she was doing, but she says that she is getting bored, so she has probably moved on to something else. 

Sociopaths, by the way, do not have a sexual preference.  She has dated both men and women and is in a relationship with a man and has paramours on the side.  She wants to get married, and as a Mormon, is dictated to do so and have children.  She worries about having children and would she be able to raise an "empath" (what she calls those who are non-sociopaths and can react to feelings) child or pass on her sociopathy to them.  However, her longest relationship yet, has been eight months. 

It has taken her years to better understand empaths and try to be like them, but she does not always succeed.  She does, however, have a small group of people who know her, understand her, and care for her, and she treats them very well.  At first, her friendships were based on what she could get out of them.  As long there was an equal exchange, she would continue the friendship.  When her close friend's father got cancer and her friend was sad all the time and needy, she broke off the friendship, because her needs were not being met.  They have since reunited. 

She values her sociopathy.  While others panic, she is perfectly calm and rational.  In a crisis, honestly, you'd want to a sociopath in charge.  Rationality, she believes is a highly underrated trait.  She also knows she tries to get away with doing as little as possible to get by and she has trouble multi-tasking, especially if she is in a meeting with many people whose emotions and thoughts she must try to read all at once; but she is learning.  That is the main thing about this book.  She is very charming and compelling.  You easily get sucked into her world; but what a fascinating one it is.  If you would like to see her blog and learn more from her and other sociopaths, go to www.SociopathWorld.com.  She would like to be the face of the sociopath and lead to a better understanding that would end the stigma associated with it, but for now, she must remain in the shadows, as others do, because if she does not, she could lose her job and the life she has worked so hard to have.  Hopefully someday, there will be a time when she can come out into the light.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Sociopath-Spent-Hiding-Plain/dp/0307956652/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1465572799&sr=1-1&keywords=confessions+of+a+sociopath

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