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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Sociopath Next Door (Psychology)

By: Martha Stout, ph. d.

Publisher: Harmony Press (2006)

Softcover 256 pages.

Finished 2/28/2017

Amazon Listing

          “After listening for almost twenty five years to the stories my patients tell me about sociopaths who have invaded and injured their lives, when I am asked, ‘How can I tell whom not to trust?’ the answer I give usually surprises people. The natural expectation is that I will describe some sinister-sounding detail of behavior or snippet of body language or threatening use of language that is the subtle giveaway…. The best clue is, of all things, the pity play. The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.”
          A fascinating look at the nature of the sociopath which, the author contends, makes up one in twenty five of the current population- or roughly four percent of the country, close to 14 million Americans. The sociopath does not just simply lack a conscience, but is unable to process any emotional encounter. It simply slides off of their brain. The sociopath cannot feel the emotions of others, but learns to mimic them in order to become the social chameleon and manipulate others.
Martha Stout- Author
          The above quote sheds light on my previous research on a book about serial killers.  One of the things that struck me was how they were all such whiners. Once captured they always attempted to curry sympathy, even they had committed the most horrific of crimes. I had always assumed it was a manipulation, or they lacked any emotion but self-pity, but to see that it was endemic of a wider pathology was fascinating.
          It covers several case studies of different sociopaths, their methods, and how they manipulate people. Apart from their remorselessness, what they all seem to have in common is a general unhappiness, an inability to commit to anything, an unwillingness to do any hard work if there is a dodge around it, a love of mind games, and a life that generally is always destroyed by their own actions.
          The only problem I had with this book is the author’s occasional tendency to knock Western culture, suggesting that we are fundamentally flawed for being descended from Europeans. She suggests that our culture produces more sociopaths than our cultures, which is ridiculous, nor borne out by the statistics. She compares American society to Indian culture, stating the stereotype that service to the family is inbuilt into their culture as it is not in ours. She then speculates that the Indian culture would have prevent the individual from becoming a sociopath, or at least curbed some of their activities or they would less of a burden on society. She offers no specific study for these ideas and must be considered spurious. These parts do not fit in with the rest of the book and seems to have been inserted to either pad up the book or appease some leftist editor.

           For more readings, try my collection of books. 

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