I generally do not like interacting with people a lot. I was shy as a child and when I grew up I came to believe that small talk is for small people. That’s not to say I don’t have friends or I hate people, just that meeting new people is an effort for me and the older I get the lazier I get and I tend to feel less compelled to make the effort. Because of that I was interested to read the Confessions of a Sociopath by M. E. Thomas, not necessarily because I am one, but to find out more about the condition (if it can be called one).
The book starts with an excerpt from M. E.’s diagnosis and the follows a relatively shocking scene, meant to hook the readers by antagonizing them from page one. And it works for a while, M. E. explains about sociopathic traits in general and those that she identified in herself. But at some point I found it difficult to stay interested, because M. E. is very self-centered and reading time and again how she is impulsive and likes manipulating and ruining people gets boring at some point. Maybe this is also my rebellious streak, M. E. obviously considers herself a fascinating subject, so by pure contrariness on my side I am tempted to deny her this.
I found her journey to becoming a ‘functioning sociopath’ interesting overall, but not the way it was written, the book definitely could do with some more editing. At times M. E. feels like more than one person, on one hand revelling in the havoc she can wreack on other people’s lives; on the other she puts a lot of effort into reigning her impulses, striving for love. Which proves the, maybe not so obvious point, that not all sociopaths are inherently evil, and also that ’empaths’ can be evil too, sociopathy is definitely not the line between the good or evil.
It was not an easy read, I found M. E. super-annoying at times, but on the other hand I could sympathize with some of her struggle, as well as the need to constantly hide her diagnosis in fear of how it may impact her and her family if it became public knowledge. How she’d be judged not on her actions, but purely on the label she’s been assigned. This I think is a broader issue with how mental illness and veering from what is considered normal is perceived.
I also definitely agree that there is a need for greater understanding in the society that not every sociopath is by default a violent criminal, just like not every person with autism is a genius. We have to accept that sociopaths are one of many variations on the spectrum and they are able to function in the society with the right support.
All in all I did learn interesting things from this book, but it was not a pleasant experience. The book is often repetitive, M. E. is egocentric to a point of being annoying and the writing is not great. An important book, but it would probably have a bigger impact if it was better written.