Confessions of a Sociopath: Nature Vs. Nurture

Published: 2021-08-18 08:40:07
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Sociopaths are conveyed as cold and violent people by the media, when in reality they’re the same people run corporate america and seamlessly blend in with the rest of us. M.E. Thomas (a pseudonym for the author) is a diagnosed sociopath. Through her book, Confessions of a Sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight, she sets out to debunk common misconceptions about sociopaths to prove that they can function, and even thrive within society better than empaths, through sharing her personal experiences. A large percentage of our population contains undiagnosed sociopaths, twenty-five percent to be exact. The reason that the majority are undiagnosed is because of their ability to adapt to their environment and being able to use their sociopathic characteristics to fit in with the rest of society. Through Confessions of a Sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight, we get insight into Thomas’s own upbringing through her self reflection, she leaves it up to the reader to determine the true source of sociopathy. The concept of sociopathy is very intriguing, and hundreds of different factors need to be considered in this diagnosis. Thomas allows us to delve into her mind and witness the inner workings of how she processes information, showing us how sociopaths analyze situations differently than us, yet they can still trick us into believing they are the same as us. In this book, Thomas with the help of scientific research and other sociopaths, searches for the root cause of sociopathy and whether or not it’s inbred at birth or instilled into someone as they grow up.
The author decides not to disclose her name for the privacy of her friends and family and also to keep their identities hidden whenever she mentions them in her stories, to do so she uses the pseudonym M.E. Thomas. Despite this, most of the story involves her sharing personal details and memories that provide us with information about her life. Throughout the book, we find out basic information about her; she’s a caucasian female, successful law professor, mormon sunday school teacher, and a clinically diagnosed sociopath. We also find out details about her life that help us put her point of view on the world in perspective to her environment. She grew up in California as the fourth child out of five, with two older brothers, a older sister, and a younger sister. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in music from Brigham Young University, and later a law school degree noting how her sociopathy plays a role in her education. Through her education, she has been able to work for prestigious law firms, and her experience there has led her to her current occupation as a law professor. Her only other known works include a blog called sociopathworld.com (founded in 2008), she was inspired to create her blog after failing to find any insight on sociopaths from an another sociopath’s perspective. Thomas wrote Confessions of a sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight in 2013 in order to share her personal viewpoint on sociopathy and how it affects her and those around her. Most of her content comes from her own blog and personal life, she also references many scientific articles that back up her points on sociopathy. Thomas is still alive and she continues to write in her blog. Concepts in this book are still relevant today despite being written more than half a decade ago.
Confessions of a sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight primarily focuses on concepts on sociopathy and uses memories as examples of certain traits and characteristics and how they develop within people. That said, the true setting of the story is within Thomas’ mind. The reflections that Thomas has, happen during her childhood years take place in her home and school in her home state of California. As she grows up her environment develops with her as she grows up and moves to the colleges she attended, different jobs, and a couple of the different communities in which she has lived on her own. In the preface she validates her sociopathic standing by showcasing her official medical diagnosis as a sociopath from doctor John Edens, professor at Texas A&M University (Confessions of a sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight M. E. Thomas page xi). Apart from the preface and the first chapter which establishes her sociopathy, the book is arranged in chronological order based on Thomas’ life. The rest of the book focuses on how Thomas viewed the world in every stage of her life in what she felt she did better or different than everyone else, and how the different combinations of her environment and mental states as she grew up have led her to the realization that she is a sociopath. As expected, Thomas is the main character in this story with plenty of mentions to her friends and family members, especially her parents and her brother “Jim”, all of whom helped her reflect on her actions and emotions at a young age which helped shape her and converted her into the person she is today. The book also contains several more characters which are based on Thomas’ life.
This book provides great examples for Psychoanalytic criticism which is the method of interpreting literary texts in search of the author’s hidden or repressed desires and anxieties. It does not review what the author intended to be understood, on the contrary, it delves into what the author’s unconscious had repressed and how it is subtly revealed through the author’s diction. This criticism is deeply rooted in psychology, which makes it one of the more malleable critical theories.. The father of psychology himself, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) plays a major role in this type of criticism. Psychoanalytic criticism was created primarily based on Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory and his book Interpretations of Dreams (1900). Freud believed that humans were driven by unconscious desires, fears, needs, and conflicts that they are unaware of, which are defined by childhood events. Those same factors that drove people, became present through a person’s writing and actions. Freud also included the Oedipus complex to his theory, which involves a male infant desiring to eliminate the father and becoming the sexual partner of the mother. Since the Oedipus complex involves a person’s relationship with their parents, it makes sense that a parents impact on their children is at an all time high and any impact that they have will affect them for the rest of their lives. Freud also identifies the creative writer as a “strange being”, since they cannot explain the power that they have to arouse such strong emotions within the reader. Another major contributor to Psychoanalytic criticism is the post-freudian psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan (1901-1981). Lacan simply restates Freud’s concepts in light of a new era and focuses on language and its relating issues. Lacan adds three states of human mental disposition to psychoanalytic theory; the imaginary order, the symbolic order, and the real. Some examples of the characteristics that portray psychoanalytic criticism include the use of repression, super-ego, sublimation, ID, transference, projection, dream work, and e.t.c.
EX Instead images of her murdering her father with her bare hands manifested her dreams at a young age, she never acted on those urges but it showed how much she loathed him.
“One sunny afternoon when I was around ten years old and my brother was eleven, my parents took us to the park . . . They deposited us by the brontosaurus and went off to do their own thing. . . After an hour or so of this we headed back to the parked car just in time to see our parents get in. . . We were looking forward to going home and getting something to eat. . . We were about 150 yards away from them when we heard the car start. I am not sure when I realized our parents were leaving us. Even as the car drove through the narrow park roads, and we ran as fast as we could and screamed at the top of our lungs, I didn’t think that they would leave. . . The moment when you stop running after your parents’ car is the moment you lose hope” (Confessions of a sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight M. E. Thomas page 62)
Thomas goes into depth throughout her book into several concepts relating her own life to show a sociopath’s standpoint and also as a form of self reflection. As she uses her own personal life as a source for her writing, there’s no real way to fact check her statements to make sure that they’re accurate or test if it was all a scam in order to get a reaction out of people for her own amusement. However, she established her validity by providing her diagnosis and establishes a sense of security and credibility with the reader. The rest of the book is a descriptive narrative, as Thomas describes in detail her own life narratives that have deeply affected her since her childhood.
During our first year critical development takes place that affects us for the rest of our lives. When Thomas was an infant, she developed a horrible case of colic, also known as constant crying (Confessions of a sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight M. E. Thomas page 71) . Her parents could not console her themselves, much less find anyone else to console her, and they would sometimes leave her alone in a room to cry herself to exhaustion. Once she finally went to the doctor when she was six weeks old , they discovered that she had ruptured her naval due to excessive crying. By the time she grew out of that stage she had become an independent child without the need to rely on others. She compares her upbringing during that time to a study done on baby mice (Goleman, Daniel. She Jiao Shang = Social Intelligence), those mice that were licked and nurtured in the first stages of life, were more clever and prospered, meanwhile the mice that did not get licked, were slower learners, and easily overwhelmed and most of them died. Despite Thomas’ sociopathy, she show subtle hints or remorse as she writes this. Through her tone we can assume that she blames her parents for her improper development. It may have been one of the reasons why she became sociopathic, her window of opportunity to develop attachment and emotions during the first couple of months of her life may have set her up for a life without those traits.
While having four other siblings Thomas, did not have to necessarily fight for her parents affection, not that she wanted it in the first place. As one excerpt in the book showed, “One sunny afternoon when I was around ten years old and my brother was eleven, my parents took us to the park . . . They deposited us by the brontosaurus and went off to do their own thing. . . After an hour or so of this we headed back to the parked car just in time to see our parents get in. . . We were looking forward to going home and getting something to eat. . . We were about 150 yards away from them when we heard the car start. I am not sure when I realized our parents were leaving us. Even as the car drove through the narrow park roads, and we ran as fast as we could and screamed at the top of our lungs, I didn’t think that they would leave. . . The moment when you stop running after your parents’ car is the moment you lose hope” (Confessions of a sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight M. E. Thomas page 62). Her parents seemed to be preoccupied with their own lives, with little regard for their children. This mentality helped establish a hatred for their parents bringing the children closer together. Thomas on the other hand, used their lack of concern as a guideline to live her life, making sure she ensured her own survival above anything else.
It was established that there was a mutual love among them, but it was mostly the required love that is known between parents and their children. While in reality, Thomas had a power struggle with her father, since he wanted dominion over her and the rest of the family, while she would undermine what she believed was his undeserved authority. She contained a negative view and lack of respect for her father because of his narcissism and obsession with his image. Her father would beat her black and blue whenever she misbehaved, and Thomas would never react, which she believes may have encouraged him to beat her harder in order to try and get a reaction out of her, although it hardly worked. Even as a child, Thomas learned how to manipulate her father just to get a reaction out of him instead. His obsession with his image made it easy for her to torture him by making him think she was going to expose his beatings to others. Meanwhile her mother was hysterical and self centered. Her mother was involved in her children’s school musical extracurriculars, but it was more for herself and her own standing within the community, than for the benefit of the children. She also taught piano to the neighborhood kids. At times Thomas felt as if she had to wait for her mother’s attention since her mother was usually preoccupied with her own musical or theatrical life. Her mother’s neglect is apparent through her writing as she lacks the loving appeal most people have for their mother and instead refers to her with a detachment.
Growing up in this family dynamic played a significant role in her developing as a sociopath. The fact that she had to fend for herself at times trained her to act only in her self interest
Her siblings (Confessions of a sociopath a life spent hiding in plain sight M. E. Thomas page 87-94) each played a major role in her development as she witnessed their actions and motives, and learned to adapt her own in response to theirs.
Her oldest brother Scott was referred to as the thug. He was all muscle and no brains. Growing up, Scott would bully everyone including his family members. He neglected to recognize the fact that his actions had negative effects on others, which is one of the ways Thomas related to him.
Through him, Thomas also learned to assert herself physically and establish an outlet for physical violence.
Kathleen is the sister that Thomas was the closest to. During their high school years they caused revolts and attempted to make a change within their school. Although Kathleen did these things for the greater good, Thomas did it for her own self interest. This shows how sociopaths do the same things as everyone else and their intentions are what truly separates them from the rest of society.
The sibling she’s the closest to is her brother Jim who plays a big part in her memories. They were referred to as the twins because they were very close in age and always together. Despite having grown up alongside Jim and facing the same challenges as him, Thomas became a sociopath while Jim remained a regular empath. As they grew up, she witnessed how he would react to things, with emotional involvement that simple act disgusted her, and lead her further away from giving in to her emotions.
Susie isn’t mentioned much in the book, it’s just noted that she was followed by the reputations of her siblings, given that she was the youngest out of the bunch. Thomas’ blatant disregard for her younger sister showcases her emotional detachment from the people that were close to her. She refers to her sister in the same way anyone would refer to an acquaintance or a stranger. This is most likely a result of how their age gap kept them from interacting together at a young age, and Thomas’ disregard for others feelings.
As many sociopaths, Thomas lives for her own purpose. Because of her lack of empathy, she sometimes neglects to consider other people’s perspectives while making decisions. We see this as she talks about living in the worst neighborhoods in order to save money and because she doesn’t place her own safety on a higher standard. That action caused her friends and family to worry about her, one of her friends even requested that she move to a better neighborhood for her own peace of mind, Thomas could not understand the sense in that. This may stem from her parents’ lack of concern for her safety at a young age, which could have caused her neglect her own safety as she engages in reckless behaviors.
Thomas, implies heavily that how she was raised may have made her a sociopath, but she never denies the idea that she may have been born a sociopath. Sociopaths brains are different than the average brain, and Thomas herself wonders whether missing an extra chromosome could have had this effect on her. She acknowledges that at one point in her life she attempted to be normal, until she realized that she simply couldn’t feel the same as others. Thomas has always naturally been analytical and manipulative in her environment, never really able to relate to the kids in her own age group. This is a common trait within kids at a young age, although it doesn’t guarantee that those kids will end up becoming sociopaths.
This book teaches the reader other points of view which the reader can apply to their own individual thoughts. Personally, I enjoy learning about how other people think and relating it to how I think. For me it’s a type of self help book that teaches me that there’s different ways of looking at things. It reminds me that there are millions of things in the world that I don’t know or will never experience. It makes me grateful for having been brought up the environment and manner in which I was. I understand why Thomas felt the need to write this book, there is very little research that has been done on successful sociopaths within society. Most of the research they have, has been developed from prison inmates which are the most available test subjects for researchers. This has led to negative connotations on Sociopathy and biased info. One of the most interesting aspects in the book include Thomas’ detailed explanations into her schemes that she does for her pure amusement. Her blatant disregard for her own safety is alarming, yet it has led her to some great opportunities.
Thomas succeeds in providing her own input on how sociopathy has affected her life, and her research on other sociopaths. We get the opportunity to see how she has used certain aspects of sociopathy to get ahead professionally and socially. She provides plenty some examples of other sources that contain tales about sociopaths which help show how things could have gone in a different direction if it hadn’t been for her upbringing which played a part in helping her become a successful sociopath.
I thoroughly believe that anyone that reads this book will come out with a different perspective on sociopathy and the world around them. Through this book one can come to the conclusion that feelings play a much larger effect on our lives than we’d care to admit. It opens the reader’s eyes to how there are people that don’t see the world the same way that we do, showing us how we take things as small and critical as feelings for granted. As one reads this book they can gain an better understanding upon themselves as they either relate to or simply witness Thomas’ thoughts and actions.
Despite sociopaths continuing to be largely overlooked in society, we know they exist and that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. They’ve integrated themselves almost seamlessly, and hopefully after reading this book, the reader is better able to identify the sociopaths in their lives. Once they can identify sociopaths, they can avoid getting scammed by them. After reading this, the reader identifies traits that they can bring into their own life and thus take more advantage of opportunities. This book provides several examples of her success and the dirty ways in which she achieved it.
Works Cited
American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2016, psycnet.apa.org/record/2013-09812-000.
Anonymous, “A Guide to Psychoanalytic Criticism.” A Research Guide for Students, 30 Aug. 2018, www.aresearchguide.com/psychoanalytic-criticism.html.
Cowen, Tyler, et al. “*Confessions of a Sociopath*.” Marginal REVOLUTION, 16 June 2013, marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/06/confessions-of-a-sociopath.html.
Goleman, Daniel. She Jiao Shang = Social Intelligence. Zhong Xin Chu Ban She, 2007.
Domachowska, Irena. “Book Review.” The Inquisitive Mind, 8 June 2013, www.in-mind.org/book-reviews/confessions-of-a-sociopath-a-life-spent-hiding-in-plain-sight.
Oxford. “Psychoanalytic Criticism – Oxford Reference.” Psychoanalytic Criticism – Oxford Reference, Oxford University , 16 June 2017, www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100352643.
Shehamlet, ~. “The Origins of Psychoanalytic Criticism.” SHE Hamlet Blog, 27 Jan. 2015, psychoanalytichamlet.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/the-origins-of-psychoanalytic-criticism/.
Thomas, M. E. Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight. First edition. Crown Publishers, 2013.
Thomas , M. E. Sociopath World. www.sociopathworld.com/.
Y., M. “Be a Sociopath-or Just Act like One.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 15 Aug. 2013, www.economist.com/prospero/2013/08/15/be-a-sociopath-or-just-act-like-one.

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