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

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

3.1 34
by M.E. Thomas, Bernadette Sullivan (Read by)

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As M.E. Thomas says of her fellow sociopaths, we are your neighbors, co-workers, and quite possibly the people closest to you: lovers, family, friends. Our risk-seeking behavior and general fearlessness are thrilling, our glibness and charm alluring. Our often quick wit and outside-the-box thinking make us appear intelligent—even brilliant. We climb the


As M.E. Thomas says of her fellow sociopaths, we are your neighbors, co-workers, and quite possibly the people closest to you: lovers, family, friends. Our risk-seeking behavior and general fearlessness are thrilling, our glibness and charm alluring. Our often quick wit and outside-the-box thinking make us appear intelligent—even brilliant. We climb the corporate ladder faster than the rest, and appear to have limitless self-confidence.  Who are we? We are highly successful, non-criminal sociopaths and we comprise 4% of the American population (that’s 1 in 25 people!).
Confessions of a Sociopath takes readers on a journey into the mind of a sociopath, revealing what makes the tick and what that means for the rest of humanity.   Written from the point of view of a diagnosed sociopath, it unveils these men and women who are “hiding in plain sight” for the very first time.
Confessions of a Sociopath is part confessional memoir, part primer for the wary. Drawn from Thomas’ own experiences; her popular blog, Sociopathworld.com; and current and historical scientific literature, it reveals just how different – and yet often very similar - sociopaths are from the rest of the world. The book confirms suspicions and debunks myths about sociopathy and is both the memoir of a high-functioning, law-abiding (well, mostly) sociopath and a roadmap – right from the source - for dealing with the sociopath in your life, be it a boss, sibling, parent, spouse, child, neighbor, colleague or friend.
As Thomas argues, while sociopaths aren't like everyone else, and it’s true some of them are incredibly dangerous, they are not inherently evil. In fact, they’re potentially more productive and useful to society than neurotypicals or “empaths,” as they fondly like to call “normal” people.  Confessions of a Sociopath demystifyies sociopathic behavior and provide readers with greater insight on how to respond or react to protect themselves, live among sociopaths without becoming victims, and even beat sociopaths at their own game, through a bit of empathetic cunning and manipulation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
★ 09/30/2013
Pseudonymous author M.E. Thomas paints for the casual observer an illustration of the world of the sociopath. Bereft of the inborn empathic abilities that most people possess, Thomas used her considerable aptitudes to create a functional, albeit predatory, life for herself—a life anchored in rules arrived at through applied reason rather than in morals. Narrator Bernadette Sullivan’s coolly amused tone effectively conveys Thomas’s charming, detached observations about her life. Calm and self-possessed, Sullivan leads us through Thomas’s narrative as the sociopath speculates about the causes of sociopathy, its implications, and the impact it has had on her life. By turns a confession, an examination, and a self-justification, the veracity of Thomas’s narrative is open to question—she is a self-confessed liar and manipulator—but however fictional or distorted the story may be, Sullivan’s presentation of it is undeniably seductive. A Crown hardcover. (May)
The New York Times Book Review - Jon Ronson
Confessions of a Sociopath turns out to be an intermittently gripping and important book…it is a revelatory if contradictory muddle of a memoir in which [Thomas] succeeds in simultaneously humanizing and demonizing herself.
Publishers Weekly
An essential, unprecedented memoir by a law professor who is a clinically-diagnosed sociopath, these revelations from the pseudonymous Thomas deign to counter the label's public image. There are no tales of violent crime or unrecognizably perverse fantasies. Rather, her intelligent, measured prose conveys her message and her mindset yet betrays sociopathic characteristics: "While others were learning to play kickball, I learned to play people." Unlike those without this disorder, she has neither conscience nor remorse, manipulates to fulfill desires, and describes a lifetime of inability to relate to others' emotions. However, she is confident, charming, worries about having kids, and whether "they will be like me, and I worry even more that they will be not be like me." Sociopathic brains are structurally different from others, but the disorder's root causes are unknown. Thomas asserts that we have misunderstood a group that constitutes between one and four percent of the general population, and her arguments against using the diagnosis as an indicator of evil or a pre-emptive reason to imprison are a slam-dunk. This is a critical addition to narratives of mental illness, deepened by the awareness that we're reading someone whose most intense motivation is "acquisition, retention, and exploitation of power". (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for Confessions of a Sociopath

“[A] gripping and important book...revelatory...quite the memorable roller coaster ride.” New York Times Book Review

“Fascinating...part memoir, part psychological treatise, and entirely not to be trusted.” Boston Globe

“The goal of Confessions is to redefine sociopathy—or at least to shake off the stigma associated with it. And Thomas accomplishes both. Through her honest portrayal of herself as a highly capable yet deeply flawed individual, she demystifies her disorder.” Scientific American

“Fascinating stuff, and Thomas delivers...riveting...chilling...Her incisive observations about human nature can be breathtakingly pointed.” Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An essential, unprecedented memoir...intelligent, measured...Her arguments against using the diagnosis as an indicator of evil or a pre-emptive reason to imprison are a slam-dunk. This is a critical addition to narratives of mental illness, deepened by the awareness that we're reading someone whose most intense motivation is ‘acquisition, retention, and exploitation of power’.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Fascinating and compelling as well as chilling, Thomas’ memoir offers a window into the mind of a portion of the population that usually remains shrouded in mystery and fear.” Booklist, starred review

“[Thomas] invites us into her courtroom, classroom and bedroom to witness how her behavior has stunted her work life and made her love life difficult...Much here is chilling, but there are also cracks that make you ache for her....A work of advocacy for greater awareness of sociopathy’s reach and conduct.”Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
Thomas, a diagnosed sociopath, begins this part study of sociopathy, part confessional memoir with narcissistic descriptions of personal style and grooming habits that develop into a complex and layered self-portrait. She describes growing up in a large Mormon family and how her religious practices continued into adulthood, her time as both a music and law student, and how lacking empathy affected all stages of her life, notably her experience with making friends and enemies. Noncriminal sociopaths are, Thomas says, "hidden in plain sight," and her account of this experience doesn't bother with political correctness. She writes with blunt, witty insight on human behavior, particularly sexuality, and is strangely endearing. She smartly overlooks the potential damage to her reputation if a student or colleague reading the book recognized her as the author. Yet the story is too convincing to be a fabrication, and a sociopath isn't likely to feel remorse for expounding intimate details to shed light into the kind of life lived by four percent of the American population. VERDICT A page-turner with broad appeal. Some material has previously appeared on the author's blog, sociopathworld.com; fans will find an enjoyable companion in The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, who offers a psychiatrist's view of the condition.—Chrissy Spallone, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
The biting memoir of a "successful" sociopath, from the pseudonymous Thomas. The author is a lawyer, a teacher and a sociopath--she abjures "psycho" as a little too much--a full-blown example of anti-social personality behavior, with "a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others"--not in a legally criminal way but certainly capable of inflicting damage. Her self-portrait is not likable, but readers will admire her drawing attention to all the sociopaths out there. "We are legion and diverse," she writes. "At least one of them looks like me. Does one of them look like you?" Thomas treats her life as a case history, reaching for cognizance while pulsing with a frankness that roves between raw self-evaluation--which might be disarming if she had more emotional capacity--and an undiluted meanness toward those she would ruin, the many "gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race." She scours her past to see where her sociopathy was nurtured and genetics to see where it might have found a foothold through nature. She invites us into her courtroom, classroom and bedroom to witness how her behavior has stunted her work life and made her love life difficult. She explains her view of risks and consequences, "but my mind is almost always at peace no matter what I do." Much here is chilling, but there are also cracks that make you ache for her: "Sometimes I can't see people's disgust for me because I'm so single-mindedly inclined to see adoration." A work of advocacy for greater awareness of sociopathy's reach and conduct.

Product Details

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

M. E. Thomas is a diagnosed sociopath and the founder of SociopathWorld.com. But she is not a killer. Quite the contrary, she is an accomplished attorney and law professor who writes regularly for major law journals, donates 10 percent of her income to charity, and teaches Sunday School.

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Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
lovelybookshelf More than 1 year ago
Confessions of a Sociopath was a difficult read, in a way. It wasn't the content or the writing style as much as the tone, which felt a little odd, and at times, disconcerting. It was often cold and very pretentious. After a while, it really grated on my nerves. By the final few chapters, I would catch myself skimming the text and have to reread large portions. I think it would have been wiser of me to take the book in smaller doses, to break it up a bit. But... the content itself was pretty fascinating. It's easy to dismiss psychopaths as "evil" (especially thanks to Hollywood and the media) and not think about them with any more depth than that, but there's actually a pretty wide spectrum. I learned a lot reading this book. I didn't realize there were non-criminal sociopaths, nor did I know they could be as high-functioning as the author. There were some aspects of her story that were hard to believe. I couldn't tell if she was contradicting herself, if she was embellishing things, or if I just wasn't understanding her. Then came the epilogue, and everything that didn't make sense to me before sort of fell into place. I think the parts I had trouble believing were due to differences between how we (author and reader) view the world, not because of an intent to deceive. Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas was an eye-opening book. I wouldn't place it on my favorites list, but I did come away with more knowledge and understanding about a personality disorder I knew little to nothing about. (3 1/2 stars would better reflect my rating)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would first like to say : those of you writing a review for a book you did NOT even read, should NOT be rating or reviewing. I (and I'm sure others) do not care about your personal opinions from you watching the Dr. Phil show. Just because may not agree with or like someone, doesn't mean you can hijack their book review and try to ruin it for the rest of us! If those of you who are doing this would EVEN read before you so rudely rate and review... you WOULD have read the authors reasoning for writing the book along with her addressing manipulation. With that out of the way... (sorry I just get really sick of people doing that to authors and those of us who might just look at the stars if we don't look at the written review. Not just this book, but apps if they don't install correctly, other books if they didn't like the free Friday selection. That is no reason to review a book or app when you're not even basing it on the content!) This book was pretty interesting although a little creepy. I agree with the other review that it is best read in smaller doses, it can become a little boring and hard to grasp at times. I had really no idea what a sociopath was. The book fueled me to do quit a bit of research on my own and I found out a lot of info about psychopaths and sociopaths and the difference between the two. All in all I thought this was a very interesting book from the perspective of a sociopath (she does reference quite a few books written by specialized doctors so for those of you who think evil and sociopath go hand-in-hand you can look for yourself). If you have any interest in psychology or human behavior, then I think this would be a really good read for those of you. If I could a would have given the book 3 & 1/2 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't write a review if it has nothing to do with the book. No one cares about what you think of the author on the Dr. Phil show. We care about the content of the book. Five stars to even out the negativity of the morons who refuse to give real and constructive criticism. Morons.
Saga61 More than 1 year ago
Boring. I would say the author is more of a narcissist than sociopath. She's very invested in being a sociopath- I get it, it's rather exotic, dangerous sounding, etc. To those who can slog through the agonizingly long and boring accounts of her childhood, congratulations. I'll confess that the opening to the book did make me squirm, although I'm not certain why. I have no problem dispatching nuisance animals on my rural property. Perhaps it was the baby "cuteness" factor of the toddler opossum in her pool. As for being able to cut off all ties to friends when there's too little of their time and emotional presence to sustain the relationship, that seems like a normal, human thing to me. So much of what she considers proof of her "otherness" doesn't seem that bizarre. The author is clearly fascinated with herself. Unfortunately, I was unable to join in and appreciate the wonder that is Ms. Thomas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the whole book not just the internet excerpts. Reading to the end was the best part. It took about two weeks and at times I read way too late in the night as I wanted to finish a chapter and then started another chapter. The author has a high opinion of herself but if she truly graduated from a top tier law school, worked for a large LA law firm and taught as a Law school professor then she really is a high achiever. There was absolutely no humility until at the end of the book. The EGO is huge. Other reviews about animal cruelty, sex, and creepy physical violence misstate the book. We kill gophers don't we? How can a story about allowing a baby nuisance animal drown in the family swimming pool equate to killing the family pet. Kissing strange men in Brazil does not seem that salacious. The sex is not explicit. With the authors professed virginity through her teenage years and Mormon moral "lines" it is unclear how far her "seductions" really went? Lots of talk of kissing but is she really having affairs? The real heart of this book is the lack of emotions and the total lack of typical quilt boundaries. WOW, this is very reveling, looking into someones mind to find out how they think and why they do what they do. I was like a voyeur wanting to know the next juicy tidbit and thought at times that more could be revealed in the story line. The BAD: the book is repetitive and preachy at times. ME really wants us to like her and is trying to be a Joan of Arc spokesperson for understanding for her disability. She seems to change her point of view as the book progresses. She starts off angry with her parents, the world, and wanting to take vicious advantage of friends, acquaintances and family. By the end of the book she is talking about the good things in her life, how well her parents raised her and how sociopath children should be raised. I had to go back and reread sections to see if this was completely contradictory or if there was an arc progressing through her story. I concluded that she was being as honest as she could be, for a crazy sociopath, and that the two different points of view were consistent with who she now is compared to where she started on her journey. The GOOD. I liked the side paths about the scientific evolution of "sociopathy" and wished the book had footnotes so I could look at the sources. Sprinkled throughout the book were thoughtful comments about assorted things that made me read them twice. She has thought about her POV and has something to say. As a story, it was a waste of time until the end when she talks about wanting to have children and how she would raise a genetically probable sociopath. In the end the struggle for a socio without emotions and normal quilt to want to have a family and want to raise children in the best way possible was a story of redemption. She claims to be active in her strict church, teaching Sunday School, claims to be sexually abstinent at this time and says she loves her nieces and nephews. She compliments her parents on doing the right things in raising her even though this was done by their own self interest and not through some intentional desire to do good parenting. By the end there is a picture of a flawed human trying to do the best and I found this uplifting. My version of the book lacked an appendix,quoted on the internet, did Barnes cheat me?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What began to sink in as I plodded through this dry tome was that the author, in lacking empathy, automatically lacked the humanity to employ genuine humor, to spin an interesting anecdote or simply to engage regular folks like myself. The hundred or so pages I read before throwing in the towel read like an essay by a very sophisticated computer program. Dull as paint. Dry as a bone.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Because I'm generally interested in things psychological and sociological, I found this book an interesting look into a diagnosis I had no idea existed. It was both insighful and a bit frightening - the fact that there were cases out there of people diagnosed with non-criminal sociopathic tendencies was a total surprise to me. I recommend this book only to those who find such things interesting and helpful.
BBCloverMA More than 1 year ago
After wading through most of this story, I wondered if the author was just having a good laugh at those of us who "anted up" and bought it. Perhaps that's the whole point? I'd recommend you pass on this one. There are better books about sociopaths; lots better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found no boring parts and found this book highly entertaining.
YourEvilAngel More than 1 year ago
The book had a great flow & at the end of it, you don't LOVE the author but don't HATE them either. It just helped to understand how they were looking at the same things in a different way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...but if everything she writes is true, I'm not about to flat out criticize it. I will say the first half of the book is a good read for almost everyone interested in human behavioral variation. Warning to the easily shocked; the opening scene is startling and unsettling in a way that makes Stephen King seem like an amateur.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very interesting read. I would say, being a neuropsychology major, I did find her balance between fact and experience refreshing. It isn't up to us (non-sociopaths) to determine these facets and determinations.  I think the wicked truth this piece presents is the ambiguity of nonrecognition of an individual we want to be able to spot. Sociopaths and Psychopaths can be normal, law abiding citizens.  Very quick read, and very telling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the most fascinating nonfiction book I've ever had the pleasure of reading. There is so much depth---both intended and unintended. The criticisms the book has received (the author's callousness, narcissism, and contradicting statements) are actually perfect examples of the way a sociopath’s mind works. You really need to read between the lines to fully appreciate this book for what it is---certainly not a literary masterpiece, but you could not ask for a more enlightening raw display of the psychology behind a sociopath’s thought process. If you read this book in a constant state of analysis of the author’s claims (skeptically but not cynically), you will not be disappointed.
ladyleal More than 1 year ago
Confessions of a sociopath is about the author who was diagnosed as a sociopath and she explains how sociopaths think and how they can be dealt when faced with one. It’s a fast read book, but it drags on a little because the author tends to repeat the same idea over and over again to the point of me saying “yah I know I get you ok”..  The first few chapters are interesting because you will be amazed on how they think of their selves as superior to others and there’s this air of confidence that would make you think that it’s too much boasting. But that’s the point of the book, I mean sociopaths are very confident and they think that they can please everyone with their charm. The author really made it clear that sociopaths doesn’t always connect with people and the book doesn’t connect to me either. It’s interesting and very educational but  I think that she could just make the book a little short and less on the bragging about her extremely magnetic personality, charming and very persuasive character. 
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Have you ever manipulated anyone? Or used your charm to get what you want? Or rationalized bad behavior? Chances are, even if you don’t want to admit it, the answer is yes, which means that you, too, exhibit slightly sociopathic tendencies. The idea that everyone can relate to a sociopath is the undercurrent of Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas. Thomas, a self-proclaimed sociopath, offers readers an inside glimpse into the minds of sociopaths everywhere. Although the book is largely personal, she draws from encounters with other sociopaths on her website to draw broad conclusions. Here are five things that might surprise you: - Not all sociopaths want to kill puppies. Sure, they may not go out of their way to save a puppy if there’s no benefit to themselves, but there’s such a thing as survival of the fittest that sociopaths subscribe to. - Most sociopaths follow the law. It’s all about details. Yes, sociopaths are inherently selfish, but it is this same selfishness that compels them to follow the law. Granted, the won’t refrain from killing you because they have a moral aversion to it, but they will refrain from killing you because going to jail is inconvenient to them. - Sociopaths aren’t necessarily crazy. Granted, there are some crazy sociopaths out there, but for the most part they are successful, law-abiding citizens who are fully aware of the fact that they don’t feel emotions – they just don’t care. More often than not, they come across as the office jerk, but in certain professions this works to their advantage. - Sociopaths can love. According to Thomas, she feels true joy when she plays with her niece and prefers to have her family around as opposed to not. She’s also been in love, even if what she considers love is different than what an empath (someone who has emotions) calls love. - Some empaths are more evil than sociopaths. This actually makes sense. Think about how many crimes are committed in a fit of passion or in the name of religion. One of the quotes in the book that struck me is the following: “It’s as if the existence of evil…. provides a safe haven for the good to engage in evil.” Basically, there are a lot of people who commit crimes against “bad” people in the name of “good.” It any of the above have sparked your curiosity, then I highly recommend reading this book. Thomas blends personal experiences (including her devout Mormonism) with scientific studies to try to understand herself and educate the public about why they shouldn’t start chasing sociopaths with pitchforks. One criticism of the book that I’ve come across on a few occasions has to do with her appreciation for her parents even though they were clearly awful. I chalk this up to her rational approach to life – she doesn’t care that her parents were awful because she can see how her upbringing helped her become integrated into society. In the end, despite the jumpiness of the storyline, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the subject.   Allison @ The Book Wheel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the book reitterated the same basics points many times, it was a decent read. After having encountered more sociopaths than I would like to admit, and being hurt by them in the process, it was eye opening to see the logical way they go about their exploitations. Although I agree that sociopaths have a right to be a part of a law abiding society ( as long as they are law abiding) I wouldn't say its reasonable to hold close relationships with them, especially if you are volnurable and trusting. It may be nessecary to have some contact, if you have to, but avoidance should be used. The author definetly uses the audience's ability to empathize to gain likeability but that is just a tactic so that she and her group can be more vocal about how great they are. In my opinion, sociopaths do not add to society as she suggests, but this is not a witch hunt either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
fred5962 More than 1 year ago
If you can try to drown a baby opossum in a pool, find that the opossum won't drown, leave it struggling in the pool to go shopping, come back to find that it had drowned, and be glad, then you may be a sociopath. You'll find Ms. Thomas' stories like this one in her book. And you may start wondering about yourself, as I did.
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