By Tully Mahoney ’23
Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas is an eye-opening book that sheds light on the reality of sociopathy from the perspective of a clinically-diagnosed sociopath.
Hollywood often depicts sociopaths as stone-cold killers who lack the ability to blend into society. In her memoir, Thomas challenges those stereotypes: she details her life as a successful law attorney, a devout Mormon, and an appreciated sister.
Thomas is incredibly candid about her attempts to conceal her sense that she was abnormal throughout her early life as well as how she felt like a social outcast until she was properly diagnosed with sociopathy in college. She explains how although she felt very alone, 1 percent of the population, 4 percent of corporate America, and possibly more than 10 percent of Wall Street employees are camouflaged sociopaths. After learning these facts, many readers will not only be surprised, but also perhaps even be prompted to look deeper within their own natures and those of their family, friends, and coworkers.
Despite Confessions of a Sociopath’s allure, however, the book is not without its faults. On multiple occasions in the memoir, Thomas explicitly states that she aims to provide a firsthand account of a true sociopath’s life. With this in mind, readers might expect an honest, unfiltered account of all her secrets, yet when she discusses exploiting people for her own benefit, she holds out on readers, writing, “I wish I could tell stories of ruining people, but they’re the stories most likely to get me sued—situations that involved the police and restraining orders and professional lives derailed.” Since Thomas previously claims—at multiple moments —that she will provide a fully-disclosed account of her life, her failure to do so with regard to her treatment of other people cheapens her memoir. It is important to note, however, that Thomas does uphold her promise in the book as it pertains to other, less salacious areas of her life.
Another issue with Confessions of a Sociopath is that although the memoir is altogether captivating from beginning to end, there are periods where Thomas draws out her ideas for too long. These sections of the memoir become unfocused: Thomas attempts to highlight her key points, but they are hard to comprehend. At the end of the exposé, she finally states her official “thesis,” but the account would be much clearer if she had done so earlier on in the book.
Notably, Goodreads reviewers express frustration with Thomas’ bluntness, self-centeredness, and her tendency to obscure herself in her writing. These readers clearly did not pay attention to Thomas’ discussion of the attributes of a sociopath, as such a person lacks the empathy and social awareness they ironically fault Thomas for failing to exhibit. They do not realize that it would be impossible to read a memoir from the perspective of a sociopath that includes those qualities, unless it were severely edited, as the absence of these traits often defines a sociopath’s personality. Indeed, it is unfair and ignorant to fault Thomas for presenting a sociopathic personality and perspective in a memoir written by a sociopath about sociopathy.
Overall, Confessions of a Sociopath calls attention to the presence of sociopaths in society and identifies some of these people’s key traits that may typically go unobserved. As this memoir was quite enthralling and stimulating, it deserves 3/5 stars, regardless of its sometimes unfocused nature and lack of promised full disclosure.