8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
For many years we've been friends with this guy whom I'll call Steve. Steve is an upstanding member of the community, has a picture-perfect All-American family, a respectable job, and a wide circle of friends. He comes across as charming and very friendly, and seems to be very eager to help and please those around him. However, after getting to know him just a little bit...
Published 5 months ago by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
63 of 81 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Opinionated and misleading
I find it a bit surprising to see this book receiving such high marks. I agree it's easy to read, but it's also shallow, opinionated, biased and even misleading.
Perhaps the reviews here on this book, are quite telling regarding how easy it is to convince someone. If one were tricked into believing in this book and even giving it the highest mark, I can only...
Published on 5 Dec 2007 by Swedish reader
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read,
For many years we've been friends with this guy whom I'll call Steve. Steve is an upstanding member of the community, has a picture-perfect All-American family, a respectable job, and a wide circle of friends. He comes across as charming and very friendly, and seems to be very eager to help and please those around him. However, after getting to know him just a little bit better all these aspects of Steve's life appear to be an act. Steve is in fact extremely competitive even over the dumbest things, scheming, and manipulative. The more I got to know him, the less I wanted to know about him. His constant scheming was eventually too much to handle, and we were forced to cut all personal ties with him.
All along I was wondering what is it that made Steve act in the way that he did. A few years ago I came across an article on Wikipedia on psychopathy, and that's when things finally started making sense. It turns out that psychopaths/sociopaths are actually very common in the society at large. Most of them are not Hannibal Lectors of Hollywood's imagination. They are not serial killers, nor are the majority of them necessarily physically violent. All of them, however, have one main thing in common: they wreak havoc on almost all lives that they touch. Most disturbingly, there are surprisingly many of them around: one to four percent in the US, depending on how rigorous your classification criteria are.
"The Sociopath Next Door" is in many ways the best book on sociopaths/psychopaths that I've read. What distinguishes it from many other similar books is its very practical and applied approach. Furthermore, Martha Stout is an excellent writer in her own right and this is an eminently readable, even literary, book. Book's a pleasure to read, and were the subject matter not this serious and frightening, this would make a great pleasure read.
There are three main things that I loved about the book.
1. Stout reduces psychopathy/sociopathy to just one most salient feature: lack of conscience. She argues, quite persuasively, that all other features of sociopaths are secondary. This insight alone can explain why sociopaths come in so many different guises.
2. Stout provides a very easy and counterintuitive way of identifying sociopaths. One thing that really gives them away is the "pity play": all of them to various extents tap into their victims' compassion in order to manipulate them.
3. Stout provides an excellent and very effective thirteen-point list of ways in which we can deal with sociopaths. Unfortunately there is no way of "curing" these people, so the best we can hope is to try to reduce their effects on others. I have been practicing pretty much all of the recommendations on my own to begin with, and I can assure you that they are very, very effective.
So if this is such a wonderful and useful book, why did I give it only four stars? Because I fear that Stout had overreached. If this had been only a book about individual sociopaths, who they are, and how to deal with them this would have been a wonderful and self-contained book. However, it seems that one of the main motivations behind writing this book had been to denounce wars, and the wars waged by the United States in particular. I have no doubt that many politicians and World leaders are in fact sociopaths, including some US presidents. Nonetheless, reducing all of warfare and a pretty big chunk of international relations to psychological defects of a few individuals, without providing a single concrete shred of evidence for such a claim, is at best intellectually questionable. I am afraid that this other underlying theme has a potential to seriously undermine Stout's main points and insights about sociopaths. Fortunately, this part of the book can be to a large extent ignored.
73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight,
Martha Stout provides a clear explanation and description of 'the sociopath' that ranges from simple examples of the devastating impact people without conscience are able to have, to an incisive and broad ranging overview of our understanding of morality. Dealing with sociopaths is tough, not least because they are arch-manipulators who know how to shape our emotional responses unseen and un-noticed by us because we make the assumption that they are driven by the same impulses as we are. This book makes it clear that this error is the most destructive one we can make - sociopaths are not 'like us', they can not 'be reasoned with' or 'reformed'. This knowledge is invaluable for anyone whose life comes in contact with a sociopath, but also fascinating for all who seek to understand human nature and why people do what they do!
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading!,
This review is from: The Sociopath Next Door (Hardcover)
This book should be part of the school curriculum. It is compelling reading for anyone who is interested in 'what makes people tick'. It serves as a warning to us all, and I wish I'd been able to read it years ago.
They say psychiatrist's waiting rooms are full of the victims of sociopaths. If more people read this book, they will at least be armed with the knowledge to help identify such people.
A serious subject, turned into enjoyable reading.
67 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!,
We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals like Hannibal Lechter or Ted Bundy.
Martha Stout in this book reveals how a shocking 4 percent of the population have the same chief symptom, namely a complete lack of conscience. The difference is that the majority with this mental disposition operate within the laws and only rarely get caught.
The book is easy to read without having a psych degree and Martha Stout uses many examples to show how these people charm and deceive their way through life in total disregard for the impact on other people.
Martha Stout further teaches how to identify a sociopath and how to protect oneself from the impact of one.
I found the book clear and light and also a celebration of the 96% who do have a conscience.
The book is well worth reading along with "In sheeps clothing" by George Simon, "Political Ponerology" by Andrzej Lobaczewski, "The mask of sanity" by Hervey Checkley and "Without conscience" by Robert Hare, that all deal with different aspects of the phenomenon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for surviving an encounter with a sociopath.,
This review is from: The Sociopath Next Door (Kindle Edition)
This is a great read for someone who is getting divorced from a husband who I believe is a sociopath. When reading about characteristics if a sociopath in the book you can literally tick them off one by one as I can see and have experienced them in my soon to be ex-husband.
I've not been able to confide in many, even therapists seem a bit fazed when I've spoken to them about my experience, but this book has supported my understanding of sociopathy and how to survive an encounter with a sociopath.
It's true that they lie as if it's second nature without batting an eyelid, cheat, steal, put on the waterworks to manipulate you and your loved ones that even your own mother and grandmother believe their lies over you ( I have lived this).
This book gives hope and reassures you that you're not bonkers and how to move on and protect yourself from any future encounters.
57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exellent overview,
In 'The Sociopath Next Door', Stout concentrates on those sociopaths who are not violent but who remain hidden amongst us. She estimates that 1 in 25 of the US population are sociopaths meaning that they have no concience.It's a claim that you might easily dismiss before reading the book, but haven't you met someone who seems to undermine your efforts at work for no apparent reason, who makes you feel sorry for them so that they can manipulate you, or someone who only thinks about themselves without an aparent care for anyone else?
Stout explains quite complex theories in language that is easy to understand. She looks at historical and Freudian theories about the nature of conscience. One of the most interesting parts for me was her consideration of the impact of Millgram's Obedience experiments and what this means for the general populations' risk of being manipulated by these people.
She also includes a handy 13 point plan that will prevent you being targeted.
An excellent study which is really easy to read. Recommended.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessity,
A friend recommended this book to me, and I came away with my world-view significantly altered. That very fact chilled me to the core; that I thought for so long that I was safe and could funtion effectively in the world and not be harmed. But after reading "The Sociopath Next Door" - and shattering that illusion instilled into most of us about what a psychopath is - I saw how the force of evil literally has its agents installed within the world, and how they're the chief cause of humanity's long history of perpetual suffering.
Along with this, I would recommend Robert Hare's "Without Conscience" and Andrew Lobaczewski's "Political Ponerology" to see how this shadowy ruthless hydra grows and spreads like a virus in the body.
If it goes untreated any longer, a significant majority of humanity will walk straight into the meat grinder purely from ignorance. It has happened before, and it WILL happen again. Don't bet for a minute it won't be you, or somebody you love.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter a Cul de Sac,
A popular romp through sociopathy bringing conceptual ideas to the layperson; those most affected.
An amalgam of themes, seemingly enlarged and emboldened bringing the CEO, the professional carer, the headmaster and the "poor me" to life but within certain shortsighted parameters. These are not spelt out but careful reading within the subtext allows them to finally emerge. They are archetypes of people the reader may either know or have met. This is a welcome shift from the Hare over concentration on serial killers.
However socipathy is not a genetic condition as the author assumes drawing on the Hare brained world. These tendencies are socially constructed resulting from negative life experiences. There is no gene for sociopathy nor will there ever be. The analysis is deeply and fundamentally flawed because it is based on this act of faith. Sociopathy is not a drive that flourishes as a result of the "Bad Seed".
Serious students need to turn to Renee Spitz, John Bowlby, Harry Harlow to gain a wider understanding of the social construction of anti social personality disorders. James Gilligan and Alice Miller provide a far more comprehensive understanding of how people with no empathy are able to survive and thrive.
This is pop psychology aimed at those people who have been fleeced by a sociopath, the most vulnerable who will imbibe any explanation seemingly chiming with their experiences. This ironically is a sociopathic book.
The people most vulnerable from those with an empathy bypass, the victims of the con drift into composed dream worlds where they are easy prey. Vulnerable when they are emotionally capsizing; bereaved, divorced, stressed, pressurised, over weight, lacking in confidence and feeling old, all can be targeted and manipulated.
Correspondingly those people who have ASPD also despise people who are witty, clever, good looking, empathic and intelligent. These are the main targets within an office environment. The work of Tim Field in highlighting "mobbing", workplace bullying, coupled with the analysis of Heinz Leymann are far more important and cogent than this piece of pop psychology.
The book highlights how people move into the care industry to wield power over weaker individuals. The fake health professional arises in different guises. They abound as psych nurses, psych doctors, PCT Managers and so forth. They also come together in university departments, the feminist, marxist, pro trade union, let's save the world sectors are replete with people creating this disguise. This is not a form of behaviour the Right has a monopoly over. Although arguably those on the left who display ASPD are undermining their belief systems far more effectively than Hayek, Friedman or Smith.
The need to cauterise empathy is embedded within the social sphere. The CEO perceives people as chess pieces because he is a product of his family, schooling and belief systems. This is not genetic but socially constructed. It allows capitalism to work because it is a redundant quality when dealing with objects. This form of behaviour becomes lauded and is socially embedded.
There is a nod to culture in the book but this eventually signposts another theoretical malaise. Attachment theory and the effects of childhood abuse are swept away by the author as non starters. This is a serious theoretical problem highlighting the extreme limitations of the authors personal therapeutic practice. She has already created a series of assumptions before listening to the evidence of the client. All creating untold psychological damage to someone who came for help. A huge problem in the psychotherapeutic field as counsellors/therapists with pre conceived assumptions do not listen, they only force the client into a pre-existing framework whether the client fits or not. Imposing a framework causes alienation and further wounded feelings of not being understood.
People who exhibit ASPD tendencies do have emotional worlds, they are replete with rage and revenge. These are not positive emotions but they highlight the rationale for an appetite for destruction. Most people people vaciliate in and out of empathy according to internal/external forces. The ASPD personality oscillates between hatred, supplication and revenge.
The assertion "sociopathy" does not occur in Far Eastern cultures is completely false. It is embedded and endemic. Read the works of Yukio Mishima, he describes this emotional state constantly in Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Acts of Worship, Patriot and Forbidden Colours. This man exposes the emotional, albeit ice tundra worlds of the isolated unempathic individual, this sociopath is based upon himself.
When Mishima is ingested a vast vista of emotions tumble out. Perhaps gazing at the aftermath of the Japanese prisoner of war camps, the Rape of Nanking and the vivisection experiments of the Japanese death camp doctors may assist in corrective thinking? I have worked with Vietnamese drugs workers and a vast array of nationalities who display ASPD. Unfortunately it is endemic in the charitable sector.
The revenge motif, people exhibiting psychological violence, acting out a previous life of humiliation. This is a key psychological concept in sweeping away this pop notion of "sociopaths". Their lives may appear ordered on the outside to the unaware stranger but this is camouflage. Concealed to hide their inner turmoil.
Humiliated in the past as children, they become fully armoured as adults so as not to get hurt again. In future they will win every battle through deceit, ruse, guile, camouflage and strength. Can they be saved by psychotherapy?
They do not attend therapy until they are exposed, exhausted, uncovered as a swindler, faker, charlatan or bully. Pretending to seek redemption is a huge problem for the practitioner. It takes different therapeutic techniques to engage and ensure change is initiated. These people resent those who can feel, they replace this with objects paraded as idealisations. They know they are empty because they are an advertising man's dream. They live a fakir's life, trapped within objects. Their world is a child' life of toys. They are dressed up as adults but stuck in a malevolent stage of childhood; objectified, then reflecting this objectification onto others.
These are the emotionally stunted actors, paraded as the signifiers of dreams the advertising/media industry holds as stars shining as beacons. The sociopath is a true believer, they can be identified by their reading matter, music taste, social/political views. These will be caricatures of some accepted lore of left/right/feminist/free market/socialist/patriarchal/fundamentalist dogma. They can exist on the right or left of the political spectrum. Although the former is their comfort zone, I have met plenty of false consciousness lefties who believe in a Bolshevik ideal. Naturally they direct operations espousing themselves as both brothers and sisters.
ASPD is gender blind, an ice cold tundra of frozen emotional wastes shrouding a volcanic anger and a deep chasmic sense of entitlement throbbing just below the surface...anger and jealousy make a sociopath active, two of the most basic destructive emotions, the significant clue to the origins.
This book pretends to open a door but in reality it leads straight into a blind alley.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware,
I would recommend this book to anyone who fears that may have got involved with one of these parasites and so to know what to look for to avoid them in the future for it is hard for a "normal " person to imagine that these people exist but they do
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you think you can see through a person, think again...,
This review is from: The Sociopath Next Door (Hardcover)
...because sociopaths (though i prefer the older term: psychopaths) are looking so much like everyone else, are behaving exactly like everyone else, hiding so perfectly their conscienceless/heartless interior world, that walk invisible among us. And if it was only that they walk... it is in their nature to abuse everyone they come upon in order to gain money, fame, sex, whatever their deviant mind decides it wants. With no quilt, no shame, no remorse. So, they are dangerous, and they are invisible. We can't win, here can we?
Yes. By reading this book, where Martha Stout so simply and eloquently describes the characteristics of these people and how to identify them, providing case studies and examples, you gain ammunition towards preserving yourself against sociopaths. And they compose 6% of the population... it's very likely that you will come up one someday (if not already), so better be prepared. And if you already met a person whose behavior was so unlike anyone else, and caused you or people in your life pain and suffering, while he/she walked out completely detached and as if nothing ever happened, you need to read this book.
We owe it to ourselves and the people we love to know who are the predators in our world. In the animal kingdom a species knows their predators from birth. We don't. We have to read to learn. Start with this book.
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The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout Ph.D.