M.E.Thomas is a high-functioning, non-criminal sociopath and in her novel ‘Confessions of a Sociopath’ she writes with breath-taking honesty about her life spent trying to blend in with normal society while quietly manipulating others and wreaking havoc.
I suppose I picked this book up for much the same reason as the many other thousands of people that have made this book a bestseller – because we all have a hidden and somewhat perverse curiosity about the people that society labels ‘freaks’. This curiosity can be dated back to the eighteenth century when people would turn out in droves to watch the bearded lady sing, or the bear-man dance. Whilst most of us probably consider ourselves to be slightly more civilised nowadays, the principle remains the same. Mainstream society has an innate curiosity about outsiders, perhaps even dangerous outsiders. The sociopaths – sometmes referred to as psychopaths – are part of that dangerous unknown, they’re hidden in plain sight. The author of the novel defines sociopathy as a lack of empathy and throughout the book she describes herself as constantly analysing and manipulating those around her in order to amuse herself – and often to hurt others. This concept seemed entirely alien. How could she truly not feel an ounce of guilt or compassion for those around her, even her closest friends and family? It made me feel genuinely uncomfortable to know there were people like that out there – though I suspect this was the author’s intention. I got the distinct impression that I was being manipulated through the pages of the book, going along a path she’d laid, seemingly of my own free will, but that she already planned out carefully and precisely. At the start of the book I felt like I was being let in on a secret or getting a peak at the unknown. But, by the end of the book I felt worn out, like I had been exposed to too much information and I had begun to question society norms I had previously taken as fact. Thomas offered unemotional, objective takes on society and how we handle moral dilemmas. Human interaction, our careers, relationships and sexuality often highlighted the irrational, emotional reactions of most people that could be easily avoided by a sociopath. She was keen to promote many sociopathic traits as not only non-dangerous, but sometimes desirable – and I found myself agreeing with her. The risk-taking and charisma that often make sociopaths have very successful careers are definitely traits many of us wish we could emulate. I was also struck by Thomas’ unflinching confidence and simultaneous self-awareness, she recognised her strong points and readily admitted her faults. It was a refreshing self-reflection. Thomas’ book offers the reader a unique and startling new take on what many of us do every day without a second thought. Perhaps more importantly though, it shed light on the mystery of the sociopath, and dispelled many untrue or exaggerated perceptions we have of them. It also explained some of the nastier sides to sociopathic personalities. Thomas is quick to assure the reader that sociopaths can definitely be dangerous and warns readers to be wary, but she also states that many sociopaths like herself can be normal functioning members of society who have never hurt anyone (at least physically). Sociopaths have been branded as dangerous, and been made outcasts since before the word sociopath was invented. It could benefit many people to hear their side of the story – they may have more to offer society that you might expect.