cover image Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent in Hiding

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent in Hiding

M.E. Thomas. Crown, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-95664-4

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)