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The Sociopath Next Doorby Martha Stout
Synopses & Reviews
We live in a dangerous world, threatened by international terrorists, corrupt politicians, unethical corporate executives, and street criminals. But there's another type of dangerous person who often goes unnoticed — the sociopath next door. According to the latest research, four percent of the population has an antisocial personality disorder, leaving them with no conscience, no sense of guilt or shame. They could be the people we encounter daily in our neighborhood, school, workplace, or even in our family.
The Sociopath Next Door is the first book to take a hard look at the sociopaths in everyday life. Martha Stout, a practicing psychotherapist and Harvard Medical School instructor, explains that these people learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath live only to dominate others and win. The fact is, statistically, we each know at least one sociopath, and readers will have an “a-ha!” moment of recognizing that someone they know — someone they worked for, or were involved with — is a sociopath. Unfortunately, one of the chief characteristics of a sociopath is a kind of glow or charisma that makes them more charming or interesting than other people. They are more spontaneous, more intense, complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. But The Sociopath Next Door teaches us to recognize the ruthless among us.
Filled with vivid case studies from contemporary life, the book helps us understand where so much of the cruelty and suffering in our world comes from, and reaches out with sympathy and constructive advice to victims of the tyrants, powerful and petty, who haunt our lives. Ultimately, The Sociopath Next Door gives a sense of satisfaction from knowing that, in the end, the ninety-six percent of us who have a conscience are happier than the sociopaths, for it is our intimate connections with others, through feelings of obligation, friendship, and love, that are fundamental to a life well lived.
"Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Stout says that as many as 4% of the population are conscienceless sociopaths who have no empathy or affectionate feelings for humans or animals. As Stout (The Myth of Sanity) explains, a sociopath is defined as someone who displays at least three of seven distinguishing characteristics, such as deceitfulness, impulsivity and a lack of remorse. Such people often have a superficial charm, which they exercise ruthlessly in order to get what they want. Stout argues that the development of sociopathy is due half to genetics and half to nongenetic influences that have not been clearly identified. The author offers three examples of such people, including Skip, the handsome, brilliant, superrich boy who enjoyed stabbing bullfrogs near his family's summer home, and Doreen, who lied about her credentials to get work at a psychiatric institute, manipulated her colleagues and, most cruelly, a patient. Dramatic as these tales are, they are composites, and while Stout is a good writer and her exploration of sociopaths can be arresting, this book occasionally appeals to readers' paranoia, as the book's title and its guidelines for dealing with sociopaths indicate." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A fascinating, important book about what makes good people good and bad people bad, and how good people can protect themselves from those others." Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
"[A] remarkable philosophical examination of the phenomenon of sociopathy and its everyday manifestations....Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical." Kirkus Reviews
Just as you suspected! You neighbor/ex-husband/boss isn't just misunderstood. He's a sociopath. A revelatory look at the 1 in 25 ordinary Americans who secretly possess no conscience, no sense of guilt, shame, or remorse — the sociopath next door.
Who is the devil you know?
Is it your lying, cheating ex-husband?
Your sadistic high school gym teacher?
Your boss who loves to humiliate people in meetings?
The colleague who stole your idea and passed it off as her own?
In the pages of The Sociopath Next Door, you will realize that your ex was not just misunderstood. Hes a sociopath. And your boss, teacher, and colleague? They may be sociopaths too.
We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.
How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. Theyre more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win.
The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know—someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for—is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.
It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.
About the Author
Martha Stout, Ph.D., was trained at the famous McLean Psychiatric Hospital andis a practicing psychologist and a clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is the author of The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness and has been featured on FOX News, National Public Radio, KABC, and many other broadcasts. She lives on Cape Ann, in Massachusetts.
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