Written under pseudonym, Confessions of a Sociopath tells the story of diagnosed sociopath, M. E. Thomas. Inspired by the success of the author’s blog sociopathworld.com, which both sought to raise awareness of the condition and act as a support network for those with the condition, the book further explores living life as a sociopath.
If first impressions count, Confessions of a Sociopath certainly sets itself a high bar. The first chapter, entitled ‘I’m A Sociopath and So Are You’ immediately peaks the interest, if not the disdain, of the reader. Following on from opening pages which give an excerpt from a supposedly genuine psychological evaluation, we can’t help but feel an instant disconnection from the narrator. Described as a ‘ “successful” psychopath’ in her medical report, Thomas then chooses to relay an anecdote about drowning a baby opossum; a story she proclaims would be a fitting start to a television show about her life. It is clearly apparent that Thomas is not trying to win any popularity contests, as one might expect from a sociopath but the author is quick to assert that she is highly successful, non-criminal and let’s be honest, unlikely to offer the gruesome stories that we might have been hoping for.
Thomas further cements her unlikeability by unveiling an impressive ego. She is quite sure that she is more intelligent than her readers but confident that we would like her; beliefs which at times seem misguided. Despite her unwavering superiority complex and her conviction that her sociopathic traits merely add to her personality rather than define her, Thomas often presents as a little ‘off key’. This is unsurprising given her diagnosis but it does give the book a strange tone. How are we to believe in a narrator who is a self-confessed liar and how much of what she says is really true? This would not be the first ‘true story’ to eventually reveal itself as fiction but rather than it being an outright fabrication, perhaps more likely is that Thomas feeds us the story that she wants us to hear.
The success of her blog clearly shows the niche in the sociopath market; with the term now widely used interchangeably with that of psychopath, this is not society’s best loved group of people. Along with other mental illnesses, sociopathy remains taboo and Thomas does attempt to dispel some myths and misconceptions. Interestingly, sociopaths are presented as being generally high functioning and though definitively lacking in empathy, not the criminal loners that we might have assumed from widely accepted stereotypes. Traits such as arrogance, callousness and calmness under pressure can, as Thomas points out, be seen as positives in terms of professional success and entrepreneurial prowess. Thomas’ own success as a lawyer would certainly attest to the merits of a sociopathic personality. Throughout the book, we are constantly given snippets from various scientific studies which appear to support Thomas’ stance on sociopathy. It is obvious the research has been carefully selected to consistently paint Thomas in the light she has chosen; at times the bigger picture fades in favour of fuelling her narcissism.
As the book progresses, we do gain some insight into Thomas’ life. We don’t get to look in on her mistakes with ghoulish fascination but that isn’t her purpose. Like anyone, sociopathic or not, Thomas has obviously made some dubious life choices. Indeed, part of the book’s appeal lies in its ability to similarly alienate us from Thomas and make us question how much we may be like her; to varying degrees, everyone likes to believe that they are special, that they are misunderstood. Perhaps its most resounding message is that no differences are insurmountable; if M. E. Thomas’ story is true, then she has certainly played her hand very well indeed.
Written by Keri Wilson
Posted on 04/03/2016
by Paul Dance filed under