Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

It’s hard to believe but the BPL Bookblog has been around for over a decade!  Our first post was in June 2009.  We were reminiscing about some of our favorite reviews over the years.  Here’s one of them:

Reviewed by Nancy

There’s a lot of psycholobabble going around these days, with people tossing out terms just like they really know they mean. Believe it or not, some of those Hollywood screenwriters don’t actually have a degree in psychology. So let’s start out with the basics: What is a sociopath?

Someone who can stab you in the back, literally or figuratively, and never feel guilty, never look back.

Okay, now try this little fact on for size. According to The Sociopath Next Door, four percent of the population is sociopathic. So, let's see. Four percent. That's one in twenty-five. Hmmmm. How many people do I work with? Fifty? Uhoh. How many people in my extended family? Fifty? A hundred? Whoops! Come to think of it, Cousin Clyde sometimes does have a really weird look in his eye that makes me feel uncomfortable. And what about that boss I had who was always bragging about all the ways he had found to cheat the freight companies? I always wondered how he could sleep at night. Bingo!

So here's the sneaky thing about sociopaths. They act so darn nice. Picture an embezzler's neighbor talking to the police. Some sweet little lady wringing her handkerchief in her hands, an anguished expression on her face, saying, "But he always seemed like such a nice young man."

And it’s not just your neighbors and co-workers you have to worry about. What if you went on a little errand with someone you thought was just a “good ol’ boy” buddy and found out too late that you were not going to buy cigarettes, but were going to drive the getaway car?

Stout's book lists the seven characteristics of a sociopath as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association. The presence of any three of these characteristics in a single individual would raise the eyebrow of any psychiatrist who is paying attention.

Of course, the first thing I did was check the list to see which of these characteristics I possess. Well, there's failure to conform, irritability, and if you count that little spell back in the eighties... but that was so long ago. Well, anyway, moving right along, sociopaths are easily bored, hence they become thrill seekers, willing to put themselves and others at risk. Now here's another factor. Sociopaths are usually quite charming. I have been known to be a sucker for a charming thrill seeker myself, but what if one of these charming thrill seekers gets me in trouble, or even better, gets me DEAD?

I can picture myself ruefully shaking my head as the car I'm in careens over a cliff, thinking, "I knew something about this guy seemed a little off. I should have checked that sociopath characteristic checklist."

I would say this book is “must reading.” Learn to recognize sociopaths and how to deal with them. Of course, running as far as you can as fast as you can is the best way to deal with them, but if the sociopath is your boss, a law enforcement officer, a coworker or your Aunt Tinkerbell, running away may not be an option. Better read the book.

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