The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

sociopathnextdoor.jpgI read this non-fiction work on sociopaths to help me better understand the villains in the fantasy series I have been reading. That and because Ben made me. He wanted me to read this book and a graphic novel series wherein one man anally rapes another with a jackhammer. I chose to delve into this one first. Go figure.

Martha Stout, who is a clinical psychologist, specializes in helping people who have suffered from “psychological trauma” which sometimes happens in the form of being manipulated by a sociopath or a person who has absolutely no conscience, no capability to love, and no ability to form real bonds with others. In addition to the infamous sociopaths Ted Bundy and Charles Manson whose sociopath ways cause them to murder and maim, there are many sociopaths who simply go undetected even though they are also manipulating and controlling others, just generally on a smaller scale.

The book is filled with many case studies, and tips on how to detect and how to handle the “next door” sociopath. I’ll spoil the tip on how to handle them – you don’t. You simply cut your losses and run – without associating any more or trying to best the other.

Also, a lot of the suggestions in the Thirteen Rules for Dealing with Sociopaths in Everyday Life are common sense or at least things I naturally do any way. Rule #5 is “Suspect Flattery.” I almost always distrust compliments, especially if egregious. Rule #9 is “Question your tendency to pity too easily.” Sociopaths work through getting others to pity them. If they find themselves trapped or their game coming to an end, they will try to extort you with pity:

“If, instead, you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath. Related to this – I recommend that you severely challenge your need to be polite in absolutely all situations. … Sociopaths take huge advantage of this automatic courtesy in exploitive situations. Do not be afraid to be unsmiling and calmly to the point.”

I’ve always found that while I always try to be a good person, which I know it’s sometimes safer and wiser to not always be a nice person. Although, I am never overt about this. I’m not a bitch. I’ve been told many times that I’m “too nice” but I’m never really too nice. Not in situations where other people might naturally think I’m cruel. It might be common sense to me because I grew up in circumstances where I learned some things a bit earlier than others.

The book isn’t as paranoia inducing as it sounds, although it does point out that 1 in 25 Americans are sociopaths. It’s just a very easy and interesting to read primer on Sociopaths and how to deal with them, which is handy when statistics say you will most likely know at least one in your life.

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