Monday, July 22, 2013

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

These are the memoirs of a sociopath, so they are necessarily sociopathic. All that megalomania makes her be like, I am really the most awesome.

But sometimes? Being a sociopath sounds AWESOME. Not the successful-career-ladder-climbing-CEO-becoming parts; you have to wear pants when you're the CEO of stuff. But what she calls her 'extremely robust sense of optimism and self-worth.' Things go horribly wrong and she's all, Whatever, tomorrow's obviously going to be better.

She literally gives NO BOTHERS.

And when she talks candidly about how cold and remorseless she is, and how she ruins people for the challenge of it, I'm like, EGADS, of COURSE you should all be rounded up. But she makes the excellent point (a number of times) that people with Feelings and Emotions often do violent and ruinous things precisely BECAUSE of their emotions. Sociopaths don't commit crimes of passion.

But their megalomania does make them think they're always right. She gives a few examples of people whose lives she's ruined, and paints herself as a vigilante by insisting that all of these people deserved it, were 'bad teachers who should not have been allowed around kids' or weak-willed masochists who liked being tipped into a downward spiral. Which, maybe, but who are you to judge?

You're not the Baby Goose, I'll tell you that much.

She admits to being manipulative, and she can't avoid trying to manipulate you, Dear Reader. Discussing her career as a lawyer and the pleasure she took in winning judge and jury over to her side, she says '[d]oing justice is fine I guess, but beating someone is its own reward.' That deliberately callous 'I guess' is carefully calibrated to make her look tough and untouchable.

Perhaps most interestingly, Thomas has had to adapt to her sociopathy in a number of ways, most of them involving learning societal norms and cues, but she also, e.g., doesn't use knives because she can't make herself care that she might cut herself, so she cuts herself all the time. That is a weird headspace to be in.

And it's an important book because it changes the way you (meaning 'I') think about sociopaths. They aren't all killers; they aren't all shark-blooded heads of corporations, plotting how to squeeze another dollar out of Tiny Tim Cratchett's medical expenses. Their way of looking at the world is different, but it isn't wrong, and it can be terribly useful.

Overall, though, the book is surprisingly boring. I mean, you can only read so much about how ruthless and calculating and clever someone is, how hard they have to work to interpret feelings and respond appropriately, how interesting they find the Game of Life and how very much a game it is for them. It's the nature of the beast. I couldn't describe my personality for more than maybe eight sentences without boring everyone to tears.

I have ruined exactly zero lives. How dull.

Seven and a half caterpillars.


Rayna said...

FIRST OF ALL that Pooh gif is The Literal Best.

Second of all, this book sounds interesting but in the "I will read a well-chosen excerpt, because 300 pages of sociopathy might freak me out" way. I read a review recently (at Shelf Life, I think) about a book called The Sociopath Next Door, which sounded good but may or may not be based on some outdated research (according to people on GoodReads, anyway.)

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I'm-a pretty much gonna ditto everything that Rayna said. Sensible woman, that Rayna. :)

I'm intrigued and I might like reading your reviews of books like this, but an entire book of it at my disposable would probably leave me feeling ill-disposed.

Clong said...

The psychopath test is much more interesting. All about how the test was developed. And whether or not its too subjective.

Reading Rambo said...


Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Hm. I had thought of getting this for my mother -- she is obsessed with psychopaths and their weirdness -- but I am concerned about the possible boringness. I think she would be frustrated with all the life-ruining. I too have ruined zero lives, and I am pretty comfortable with that.

Bybee said...

I'm reading this book now, and it's a bit of a slog.