This week, for some unknown reason I decided that it would be a good idea to read ‘Confessions of a Sociopath’ by M.E. Thomas. Written as a memoir from a diagnosed sociopath, this book is a frank and brutal account of the inner workings of one sociopath.
At first, I thought the book was going to be a yawn. After all, how interesting could it be to read 300 pages of somebody talking about themselves? And then, like sociopaths do themselves, the book drew me in deeper and deeper until I couldn’t help but finish the entire thing within 24-hours.
And while I wouldn’t entirely agree with the thought processes of sociopaths (or at least this sociopath), I did discover some really interesting things about this disorder. Read on to learn more about the mysterious individuals labeled as sociopaths.
Secret 1: You might be a sociopath
According to recent research, it’s estimated that around 1 to 4 percent of the population, or every 1 person in 25, is a sociopath. That means if you work in an organization with 50 people, you’ll likely have two sociopaths in your midst.
But how can you tell if you’re a sociopath? Well, M.E. Thomas suggests the following guidelines may come in handy. You could be a sociopath if:
- You have a lot of friends, admirers and lovers
- You are extremely self-confident
- You are charming
- You use your charm and confidence to manipulate others
- You are morally ambivalent
- You believe in survival of the fittest
- You are great at making decisions on the fly and being spontaneous
- You get restless easily
- You are a daredevil
- You are successful
- You are easily distracted
- You have a predatory spirit
- You are highly intelligent
Thomas suggests that if you believe you might be a sociopath, that you should keep that knowledge under your hat. Don’t visit a psychologist to be properly analyzed. Don’t tell friends and family. Acknowledge the reality and then move on. Thomas states that sociopathy is ‘untreatable’ and suggests that if diagnosed it can only make the life of a sociopath more difficult.
Secret 2: Sociopaths sustain eye contact
Have you ever met someone that unflinchingly maintains eye contact with you? That no matter how many times you look away or glance down, they sustain direct eye contact with you? M.E. Thomas describes this as a ‘predator stare’ and states that most sociopaths exhibit this trait.
Often this stare can make the sociopath come across as arrogant, aggressive or seductive. Realistically however, this is an unintentional behavior and while it might unnerve others is not something they do deliberately. It’s just how they interact. Perhaps because their emotional cues aren’t as developed or because they simply don’t care about making others feel uncomfortable, this sustained eye contact quickly becomes one of their calling cards.
Secret 3: Sociopaths are actually psychopaths
If you’ve ever heard the term ‘psychopaths’, then you’ll likely have a good idea of what a sociopath is too. Thomas states that psychopath is the old way of referring to sociopaths but due to negative reactions from the public, was changed to sociopath.
A sociopath suffers from antisocial personality disorder, which is described as being “a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others.” Typical characteristics include overconfidence, lack of remorse, high levels of manipulation and an inability to confirm to social norms.
Secret 4: Not all sociopaths are criminals
While it’s widely believed that most sociopaths engage in criminal behavior, the truth is that just 20 percent of prison inmates have been classified as sociopaths. However, Thomas does admit that sociopaths are believed to be responsible for 50 percent of all serious crimes.
She also confesses that while she has never killed anyone, there have been occasions where she has wanted to. One such incident occurred when she was chastised for using an escalator that was out of order. Overcome with rage, she followed the man that chastised her with full intentions of killing him. Thankfully, he was lost in the crowd, but the situation made her realize just how easy it would be for her to lose control.
Secret 5: You’d probably like a sociopath if you met one
Described as charming and friendly, I sincerely believe that sociopaths are actually quite likable. With the knowledge and expertise to make you feel flattered, complimented and admired, they are charismatic and persuasive in their social interactions.
And while their interactions may not come from a natural ‘instinct’, and are rather from learned behavior, they still know how to make you feel good about yourself.
Often, the accounts of sociopaths focus on the negatives and how dangerous they can be to society. But the truth is that a sociopath has a choice of how to interact with others and usually they choose to interact peacefully. In fact, Thomas suggests that sociopaths savor the feeling of being adored, so they go out of their way to make you like them.
Secret 6: Sociopaths prey on weaknesses
Now for the not-so-great stuff. In reality, sociopaths have a heightened awareness of individual’s weaknesses and make an effort to engage and interact in a way that allows them to gain more of an insight into others failings. Thomas describes how she would question and engage in activities such as reading somebody’s diary in order to learn more about their weaknesses. While this knowledge isn’t always used to the individual’s detriment, Thomas does recount stories of her ‘ruining’ people by using their weaknesses against them.
In my opinion, this stems from their need for challenge and their view of the world as ‘survival of the fittest’.
Secret 7: Sociopaths are often sexually ambiguous
In her book, Thomas describes her sexual interactions and explains that for her, it is not attractiveness that appeals to her, or a specific gender, but rather the attributes and personality of a person that interests her. She has had relationships with both men and women and growing up felt that she was asexual.
It’s also interesting to note that she has had a few ‘normal’ relationships. In fact, as of the publishing date of this book, Thomas was in a serious relationship. She believes that while sociopaths may not feel the depth of emotion that non-sociopaths do, they still have the capacity to love and exist in a close to normal relationship. Thomas also describes how she would like to get married one day and have children.
Secret 8: Sociopaths are usually at the top of their field
“Squint at the symptoms of psychopathy, and in a different light they can appear as simple office politics or entrepreneurial prowess.” This quote from the book illustrates how many of the qualities sociopaths embody, such as ruthlessness, competitiveness, charm and cunning actually work to a sociopaths advantage in the workplace. And in fact are actually traits that we actually admire in our leaders.
Dr. Robert Hare continues this line of thinking by stating that a sociopath is four times more likely to be at the top of the corporate ladder than at the bottom because of their unique personality traits and the demands of high-level jobs.
It makes you wonder how many powerful CEO’s and executives are actually sociopaths …
Secret 9: They think in terms of benefits
In her book, Thomas explains that she views all of her social connections in terms of the benefits they provide her and reviews these benefits regularly. In one instance, a friend became less of a benefit and more of a hindrance when her father suffered from cancer. Responding to this change in status, Thomas disengaged from the friend until her friend’s father had died, at which point they reconnected when Thomas viewed her as being valuable once again.
Secret 10: Sociopaths are social chameleons
Finally, Thomas suggests that she has no ‘sense of self’ and instead adapts and adjusts to different social settings depending on demand. There are no definite personality traits that she holds dear and if questioned, she would be unable to properly define herself as a ‘person’. Rather, she is constantly changing and transforming in order to get the best out of the world around her.
So what do you think? Were the secrets what you expected? Or is your view of a sociopath vastly different to the reality?
Keep in mind too, that this is just the account of one sociopath. Each sociopath is unique, and at the end of the day, they are still human beings. They deserve our respect as well as our love and affection. Nobody warrants judgment based on their varying disorders.
But … don’t get me wrong; this article is still a cautionary tale. If you get on the bad side of a sociopath, they will destroy you.
Cover photo: datingasociopath.com