Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
By M.E. Thomas
Pseudonymous Thomas writes a combination memoir, primer, and polemical on the sociopath, debunking the idea they are inherently criminals and postulating their benefit to society. It boils down to self-awareness and adherence to external stops as substitutes for wanting emotions, both of which Thomas possesses, gained through personal failure followed by dispassionate self-examination.
Thomas, a law professor by trade, is a first-rate writer. She benefits from superior powers of observation that she displays often in relating her personal story and that she employs to project just the emotions people expect of her in various situations. She states often and illustrates her central motivation: power and control. And time and again, she relates the effort required for a sociopath to blend into a society of empaths, her term for those fully equipped with emotions. In her case, to blend and succeed she has constructed what she calls her prosthetic moral compass.
Halfway through, she sums affairs up succinctly: “What is it like being self-aware without a self-construct [self-identity]? Much of my self-awareness is the result of indirect observation of the effects I have on people. I know I exist because I see people acknowledging my existence…. Sociopaths are like dark matter in that we typically keep our influence hidden, albeit in plain sight, but you can certainly see our effects. I watch for people’s reactions to me so I am able to understand, ‘I make people feel scared when I stare at them this way.’ My awareness of self is made up of a million of these little observations to paint a picture of myself, like a pointillist portrait…. That is why my prosthetic moral compass has been so useful to me, in helping to define me and restrict my behavior; my personal code of efficiency and religion have, for the most part, kept me on the straight and narrow.”
Her story ranges over her childhood, her somewhat dysfunctional parents, the benefits of her strict religion (she is Mormon), her dissolution into failure, her critical self-examination, and her resurrection. Along the way, she picks and chooses research to support her arguments about sociopathy and the place of the sociopath in society; that is, integrated. Naturally, as you read along, much of what she’s done will put you off. Nonetheless, you end up with, if not a liking for her, at least a bit of admiration. You certainly will end up with an improved understanding of how a sociopath thinks, copes, and exerts influence (or manipulates) those around him or her.
And why would this be important? To understand that sociopaths, apart from a handful, are not raging maniacs and probably exercise influence and control beyond their rather scant numbers. Because while comprising only around four percent of the total population, their representation in the professions, government, and corporate leadership is probably far greater, considering the attributes for success in these endeavors.
Approach Ms. Thomas’s book as an eye opener worthy of your time, for it is an education, self-education if you have ever suspected yourself to be among her numbers. You probably aren’t; few are. However, you just might some in your life, perhaps even exerting some control over you. w/c