Confessions of a Sociopath (2013) is the account of the author’s life as a diagnosed non-criminal, high-functioning sociopath.
M.E. Thomas explains how her charisma and Machiavellianism allow her to influence and seduce others, offering insight into how sociopaths think and behave, while advising readers on how to manage a relationship with a sociopath.
About The Author: M. E. Thomas is a pseudonym, it’s not the real name of the author. But we do know that she founded the website Sociopathworld.com.
She seems proud of how many people populate her blog, but it has gone dead now for quite a while and there is no forum anymore.
Sociopaths Are Obsessed With Power…
The author says:
Power is all I ever cared for in my life.
Physical power, the power of being desired and admired, destructive power, knowledge and invisible influence…
Also ruining people for Thomas is a display of power.
(…) or ruin them however I like.
Not because I want to witness the results necessarily, but because I want to exercise my power.
The acquisition, retention and exploitation of power is what motivates a sociopath
Thomas says that one of her expressions of power is to feel like her ideas are shaping the world around her.
And that’s why she writes.
Seduction is also a big game of power for sociopaths (see dating power dynamics).
They see the thrill of catching the fish, getting the fish hooked… And enjoying having that fish hooked.
Until they tire of it…
Power Over Oneself
High-functioning sociopaths also seek to overcome their limitations and control their urges.
That might include forging long-term relationships.
Sociopaths who truly seek to cultivate power realize that the greatest power is power over themselves
… Even As Kids
Since a young kid Thomas has been all about manipulation.
She wanted to ingratiate her parents and discussed with her siblings about who was the father’s favorite or the mom’s favorite, and plotted on how to win their favor.
Thomas was surprised when her sibling wasn’t interested in playing the same game of parental manipulation.
My Note: Had the same experience
I dated a female sociopath who candidly admitted of her manipulation to become her father’s favorite against her mother.
You can read it here.
The author was obsessed with the power structure of the adults and found all her peers unbearingly simple-minded.
Thomas sought to learn how the world worked at both the micro and macro level.
Not just for knowledge’s sake, of course, but to use it for her own machinations.
Every time she’d hear something the adults seemed so interested about, especially so scared and mystery about, she wanted to know everything.
The “kids’ explanations” for AIDS and nuclear bombs weren’t enough for her, she wanted the adult versions.
The author also says that manipulating adults as a child was much easier than manipulating other children.
Adults forgot what it means to be a child and they expect “quirky” behavior from children.
But other children, they would know what was “off”.
And They Love Scamming & Shortcuts
Thomas loved being first in class.
But most of all, she loved getting top grades and top jobs without putting in the work.
My career trajectory was astonishing. Especially because it felt like a scam. And I loved to play that kind of game.
What motivated Thomas was not getting the top grade, but to study as little as possible and still pull out an “A”.
Thomas had great university grades and extra-curricular activities, including performing at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
How did she get it?
“Through well-placed allegations of gender discrimination at her school”.
She campaigned to be elected to the school’s board, again campaigning against gender discrimination.
Basically, she leveraged feminism and affirmative action as tools to get what she wanted, without caring one bit about diversity (of course).
She loved the office politics and power games in the office and relished playing them herself.
Thomas would try to uncover personal secrets and insecurities from her colleagues and use them to gain leverage over them.
Of course, the actual performance was difficult for Thomas because she wasn’t interested in doing the work.
She was all about the form, not the substance.
Sociopaths Enjoy Ruining People
The author says:
Ruining people is delicious.
Even as a kid, she liked being in a group of at least three so that she could create drama
The author says that for some people, it’s shocking to hear that there are people who are plotting against them.
And it’s even more shocking when they know they might do it for no apparent reason other than the pleasure of flexing their power.
Ruining People in Seduction
The author describes how she tried to get back a female lover, not because she missed her, but because she missed having power over her.
So she crafted a well-thought-out email to change her mind and run back to her.
Which she did, breaking up with the new girlfriend, which made the author feel even better.
Ruining Her Teacher
Sociopaths sometimes target people who stand in their way or whom they simply take a dislike to.
Thomas describes her manipulation strategy to oust a teacher she disliked.
Since the teacher had a bad reputation, the easiest way was to come up with a case of inappropriate behavior.
She started taking notes in class of all his dubious comments, made friends with all the other women, and started forming a clique to comment on the “disgusting” teacher.
She started a rumor that he put in the front row the girls who used to wear spandex and who had bigger cleavage.
Finally, one day the teacher commented on the dance class project and told Thomas that she was tacky, “letting it all hang out, not like all other girls”.
He was trying to get the class against her, but it was too late because she had gotten to them first. And he had just overstepped the boundaries in front of everyone.
She sympathized with all the other dancers, was all ears, and convinced one of them to come out with a formal complaint.
This is exactly the technique I discuss in “how to destroy a bad boss“.
Sociopath At The Top of Corporate Ladders (?)
The author quotes Rober Hare when he says that sociopaths are four times more likely to be at the top of the corporate ladder, than in a janitor’s closet.
However, that statistic says absolutely nothing.
Sociopaths, easily bored and interested in power, might simply never end up in a janitor’s closet.
So 4 times almost zero would still be next to nothing.
Also read “How to Lie With Statistics“.
Thomas also mentions Albert Dunlap, a former high-flyer in business who prided himself on being a sociopath.
Dunlap said that:
Manipulation can be translated into the ability to inspire and lead others, and overblown confidence is necessary (..) because you gotta like yourself if you’re going to be a success
And the author says:
If you combine the propensity for manipulation, dishonesty, callousness, arrogance, poor impulse control and the rest of the sociopathic traits, you could end up with a socially dangerous individual… Or the next big thing entrepreneur
As much as I still believe that sociopaths at the top are more the exception than the norm, it’s still possible that some of them do end up leading companies or big startups.
The author says that what characterizes a sociopath is a predatory mindset, and that can be very helpful in business.
Or sometimes, I’d add, it might be both.
As it happened to Elizabeth Holmes, for example, the founder of Teranos (also read “Bad Blood“).
If we don’t crash and burn, we have the potential to achieve dizzying amount of success
Sociopaths Have Difficulties in Social Relations
It’s not easy for sociopaths to fake emotions.
They feel fewer emotions than most, have little or no empathy, and have little or no sense of guilt.
They have difficulties contextualizing the emotions they feel. Sometimes Thomas cannot even recognize or understand some of her emotions, or why they originated at all.
For example, it’s hard for her to say “I am sad because of X”.
Since they have limited emotions and a different understanding of them, it’s hard for socipaths to understand empaths (i.e., “normal” people).
Faking a Difficult Interaction
Thomas describes a few situations where she had no idea what to say or do to come across as “normal”.
One of them was talking to a student whose grandmother had just died. She tried to fake a sad expression, then said a few things, then probed for a reaction, then said a few more things… And panicked that she was coming across as “not normal”.
Then she abruptly interrupted the conversation.
Another one was dealing with the police after a break in. Thomas knew she “should” have looked scared, but she didn’t feel anything.
She says she ended up maybe being too friendly and slightly flirty with the agents, but that was the most “normal” she could enact at that time.
Most People Can Tell There’s Something Wrong With Sociopaths
The author says that it’s not easy for sociopaths to fake “being normal”.
She says that people don’t exactly know what’s wrong with them, but somehow they can see that something is not quite right.
Sociopaths’ Manipulation For Good
Thomas respected her sister, Catherine.
Her sister’s husband thought Catherine was more sociopathic than the author herself.
But, as the author says, Catherine manipulated for causes she considered good and right.
While the author only targets people who strike her fancy, Catherine only targets bad apples to ruin them and to see the good embodied by her, triumph.
While the author’s self-image was that of a pagan god, Catherine’s self-image was that of an avenging angel.
Catherine was always ready to fight for a righteous cause, defy authority whenever it was exercised unjustly.
Basically, the author’s sister is the embodiment of The Power Moves.
- Sociopaths make terrible employees because they:
- focus on power
- cheat and look for ways to swindle their employer
- look for shortcuts,
- heavily engage in office politics
- don’t want to work hard
- get bored quickly and can’t stay with tasks
- Therapy only teaches high-functioning sociopaths what’s expected of normal people.
- Thomas wasn’t afraid to look like she was begging for a job if that helped get her: a few looks of disgust didn’t matter to her
- Sociopaths have no fixed sexual sense of identity, and Thomas believes that’s one of the most constant traits in sociopaths
- To find out if someone is a sociopath, Thomas asks about their sexual past and makes fun of their homosexuality. If they take it personally, they’re probably not sociopaths, because sociopaths wouldn’t be offended
- Beating up a bully makes you a hero in people’s eyes, says the author (and that’s why Batman probably does, she adds)
- Talking about a bad teacher, the author says she couldn’t stand that unfit people had authority over her (which is a feeling I can relate to)
- Some sociopaths have moral principles with which to approach to life, some of them based on religion (like the author)
- Thomas talks little because she’s not interested in conversation. She prefers listening to gather information about others, which she can use -knowledge is power, she says-
- The author -and her sister- seem to see children as their replicas to control and own the future, and they want them to be as perfect as possible, almost robot-like
On hurting people and “normal people”:
I intentionally hurt people sometimes, but don’t we all?
On the normalcy of sociopaths:
We can function, we just function differently (…), it is just that we think, live and make decisions in a way that some people find loathsome.
On being a lawyer:
When I finished law school, I landed a prestige whore job. Every lawyer is a prestige whore
On parenting a non-sociopath child
I have no idea how could I be a good parent to an empath child, how to love and respect it.
I have one sister, a tearful hugging woman whom I regard with a great deal of disdain.
What would I do with a child that needs constant emotional suckling?
Is Thomas A Real Sociopath?
Some commentators have called into question whether the author is a real sociopath.
Some of the doubts include:
- She has strong emotional reactions to her parents, especially hatred for her father
- The existential crisis seemed to come from an emotionally sad, depressed and needy place
- She seems to use her blog as a way to self-actualize.
- Thomas seems to seek community through her blog; she says she feels more connected to the sociopath community than to any gender or country
- She says that the purpose of her existence is to be admired and always assumes people have crushes on her, which sounds very narcissistic
However, personally, I don’t much doubt the author is a sociopath.
And I think it’s idiotic of reviewers to read a book and shout, “she is NOT a sociopath”.
What the hell do they know?
The author does acknowledge that sociopathy is partly nature and partly nurture, and she describes plenty of parental mistreatment to cover the “nurture” side.
But ultimately, we can’t make final diagnoses from afar.
And from my non-final point of view, albeit there definitely were some bits that made you think of “narcissism”, 80%+ of “Confessions of a Sociopath” is still far into the sociopathy spectrum.
- Anonymity casts doubts
It’s understandable that Thomas uses a pseudonym.
But that also casts doubt on her story because nobody can check or corroborate her claims.
- You must wonder how much is true and what’s in her head
The author says it herself:
The stories I tell to explain my actions are self-aggrandizing. I spend a lot of time spinning stories in my head to make me seem more powerful and accomplished than I am in reality
- Failed attempt at relativizing what’s wrong with sociopaths
The author attempts to “devictimize” sociopathy.
She criticizes Marta Stout since in “The Sociopath Next Door” she talks about “identifying” sociopaths instead of “diagnosing”.
She might be right there.
In certain passages, she implies that violence is certainly not the prerogative of sociopaths and empaths, who go on all kinds of killing sprees because of their emotions and feelings.
She’s not wrong there, either.
Yet, I don’t buy this relativization.
Sociopaths, as a group, are potentially more dangerous than empaths, and, on balance, they probably take more from society than they give.
- Confuses risk-seeking with stupidity and/or incapacity
As an example of her risk-seeking behavior, the author talks about a summer in which she gambled her savings in stock options by holding them when she should have sold them and put all her eggs in one basket.
As if without a risk-seeking approach, she would have known the correct time to sell.
Nobody knows the “right” time to sell, and her experience trading is the experience of pretty much every single newbie starting out.
- Pointless bragging
In the same book, she confesses to having lost all her savings trading and also brags about her stock returns.
She started investing seriously in 2004 and averaged 200% more than the S&P 500.
The author brags that she manages it in spite of being “relatively unsophisticated”. But she doesn’t trade on knowledge, but on “special vision”.
She seems to imply that the numbers back her up.
She talks about “every year” and “long term success”.
The book was published in 2013, which is less than 10 years of data.
Again, I must add a “LOL” here.
- Deep misunderstanding of evolutionary psychology
The author brags of superior intelligence, but often gets it wrong.
She says the “most aggressive predators” are those who survive and thrive, which is a typical misunderstanding.
Aggression can provide an advantage, but not always.
Plenty of aggressive predators have gone extinct, and plenty of “wait to eat” life forms exist today (i.e., spider’s webs).
- An overblown sense of one’s own accomplishments
The author talks about the “ridiculous amount of money she was making” and her “astonishing career trajectory”.
But she couldn’t hold onto any of that to save her life.
- Her effectiveness might be overblown
You also must wonder about her stories of “ruining people”, which might prove a vastly overblown picture of her effectiveness.
For example, after she describes ruining her professor, she also says that after many complaints, she started losing credibility.
And that raises quite some doubt as to whether she was ruining the teacher’s reputation or her own in the process.
This is simply the best book I have read to understand sociopaths.
Before, the crown was held by Kiehl’s “The Psychopath Whisperer“, but he focused on violent people and convicts.
Confessions of a Sociopath not only deals with a different type of sociopath, but gives you the blow-by-blow description of the inner feelings and drives of a sociopath that no other “normal” researcher could.
If you want to understand sociopaths, this is your book.
And if you want to understand power and power-hungry individuals, this is also your book.
My Personal “Aha-Moment”
On a personal level, “Confessions of a Sociopath” was eye-opening.
It showed me that early in my career, before I found what I really loved, I was effectively functioning as a sociopath at work.
I only worked hard to get my first job, but never on the job.
I couldn’t care less about IT or doing work I considered meaningless.
My goal was to do as little as possible, and I took pride in what I was getting compared to what I was giving.
I couldn’t care less about IT, but I enjoyed the easy life of corporate life, the life in Prague, and the standard of living I could afford.
Me too; I was all about the form, disregarding the substance.
Thank goodness, I eventually found my way.