Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A review of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

So, I just finished M.E. Thomas's Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight (2013).  I think I'm left with mixed impressions of this book.  On the positive side, I thought it was reasonably well written, if not occasionally a bit dry.  Thomas offers some interesting theories as to how having sociopathic tendencies could be a positive for some people.  On the negative side, I found Thomas to be rather unlikable, occasionally disturbing, and really more narcissistic than sociopathic.  Also, though she frequently describes herself as "smarter" than regular people and above being emotional, I notice that she does some really dumb things.

I think one of the dumbest things Thomas (a pseudonym) did was go on the Dr. Phil show after she published this book.  I own a newer edition of Confessions of a Sociopath.  At the end of the book, there are some extra materials that include an epilogue about the aftermath of Thomas's decision to publish Confessions of a Sociopath.

Thomas writes that she was very careful not to share too much about herself on her blog or in her book.  And yet, Internet sleuths being what they are, her real identity was discovered and she was promptly fired from her job as a law professor.  She was also barred from being within 1000 feet of the university where she worked.  Thomas writes that she doesn't think the restriction is legally enforceable and notes that it is a significant inconvenience to her, since the area around the school includes her bank, several public transportation stops, and other places she'd need to visit.  Thomas writes that personality disorders are legally protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), but she doesn't think a jury would be sympathetic to her if she decided to sue.

From what I can tell, Thomas is still LDS, which I think is pretty much the height of stupidity.  Based on what I've read, Thomas was employed by Brigham Young University, which is a Mormon owned school.  She complains that they are discriminating against her; just as they do to many people, to include homosexuals and apostates.  And yet, she's still in the church.  Even if I didn't have serious issues with the way Mormons treat others who aren't like them and even though I realize that there are many attractive, talented, and otherwise intelligent people in the church, I just think Joseph Smith was a liar and a con man, among other things.  People who choose to believe the lies the church was based on and accept its policies are, in my opinion, showing some serious logic deficits.  But then, Thomas writes that she frequently does things that other people might think of as crazy or stupid.  She habitually lives in the sketchiest parts of town, where rents are cheap but burglaries are frequent.  She even walked in on a burglary once, yet didn't decide to move.

A lot of the examples Thomas uses to describe her so-called "sociopathic" behavior don't seem all that sociopathic to me.  She writes of one incident where she gets angry at a guy working at the metro in Washington, DC.  The guy yells at her for trespassing.  She says she wants to kill him and follows him for a couple of blocks before she loses him.  In another passage, she writes of trying to kill a baby opossum in a swimming pool.  It fell in there and was on its way to drowning before she found it.  She isn't able to do it.  Later, she fishes the corpse out of the pool and tosses it over a fence.  Big deal.  She fights with her father.  Who hasn't?

Thomas repeatedly explains that she doesn't really enjoy being a lawyer.  She says she's a lazy person who thrives on any activity that allows her to game "the system".  Maybe law was a good field for her for that reason, but one thing good lawyers should be able to do is show good judgment and protect one's reputation.  I don't think publishing this book was an example of good judgment, even though Thomas claims that she's okay with the consequences.  Given that she admits to being sexually attracted to and acting on her attraction to both males and females, I'm surprised she's still LDS.  She does write that being Mormon forces her to be accountable and a "good person", so maybe that's a good thing.   At the same time, she writes about how bloodless and calculating lawyers are.  Hmmm...

I did find Thomas's anecdotal examples of what makes someone sociopathic versus narcissistic somewhat interesting, though I'm not sure I totally agreed with them.  And, again, I have certainly read books that were not as well written.  I don't think Thomas is very likable, though she insists that she is... and that people don't seem to notice her sociopathic tendencies.  I find that somewhat hard to believe, though maybe I'm biased.  Thomas does write that she runs into a lot of people who think sociopaths are inherently evil people.  I'm not sure if that's true or not, since I'm not really certain that Thomas is a sociopath.  To me, she seems a lot more like a malignant narcissist than a sociopath.  I'm no expert on sociopaths, though.... On the other hand, I'm not so sure Thomas is, either.

Anyway, I didn't hate this book.  I didn't love it.  It has three stars on Amazon.com and I think that's what I'd give it, too.  Thomas is clearly intelligent and some of what she writes is interesting.  Since she lost her job, maybe it's not a bad thing that I bought her book.  Of course, given her self-proclaimed ability to charm people, she's probably landed on her feet somewhere.  Who knows?  Read it if it interests you, though I certainly wouldn't call Confessions of a Sociopath a must read.


   

3 comments:

  1. I found the book pretty much a you described it. She's clearly smart, but not nearly so smart as she'd either like to believe or would like others to believe.

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  2. Yeah. Some people really slammed this book on Amazon. I have read much worse books that this one. I just felt like it wasn't exactly as advertised. It was also kind of boring in some parts.

    Incidentally, our friend John did not change his RfM nickname.

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