Keywords: nonfiction, psychology, mental illness
Who is the devil you know?
We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.
How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They’re more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others’ suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win.
The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know—someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for—is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.
It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.
First, I want to thank Martha Stout for writing this brilliant and thorough piece.
Second, I want to encourage every single person to read this, because chances are you know at least one sociopath.
For me, that person was very near. I’ve struggled immensely with how to live my live sans them and not second guess myself at every turn. For me this book was a remarkable healing accessory in that it helped me see that:
1. I am not crazy.
2. I am justified in cutting said person out of my life.
3. It’s ok to do that and still feel bad.
I just don’t have enough praise for this book. I originally chose it for my 52 books/52 weeks 2015 read-a-thon because I thought it would help me write better characters in my own novel, but in addition it also helped me find the peace to accept my decision and move on with my life.
The information presented in TSND is well-presented and in layman terms which are easily digested by most. There are several cases of sociopaths presented, as well as their victims. In addition it delves into the genetic vs. environment aspect of what makes a sociopath. Perhaps most useful for the average person however is the plentiful information of how to identify and survive and escape the clutches of a sociopath.
It is not written as a cut-and-dry science book, but more accessible and indeed friendly. I found the information within to be well-articulated and well-paced.
Do read it, and recommend it to others.
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