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on 12 February 2015
This book has been so helpful. I have a family member who seems to generate far more chaos and upset than any other person I know. Sometimes these are big explosions and sometimes they are more subtle tricks or lies which gradually come to the surface, making me feel a pin prick of shock in my heart when I realise the detached coldness behind the action. My family member also has a wealth of sympathy searching 'poor me' stories at the ready, which is another trait outlined in this book. It may feel rather melodramatic and silly to consider the possibility that someone you know is a sociopath, but as Martha Stout points out, the majority of them are not raging serial killers, they live amongst the general population, spending their time scheming, competing, dominating and spoiling - just for kicks. If you know someone around whom you must tread on eggshells, or who makes you feel physically and emotionally ill at ease and yet you can't exactly say why, then I implore you, dear, lovely nice person, to read this book.
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on 16 June 2017
I didn't like the way illustrations of sociopathy were given through little stories about people - some people like this technique and think it makes theory more accessible - I don't. The book was more or less completely written in this style and as such I didn't finish it. I think The Empathy Trap: Understanding Antisocial Personalities - by Jane McGregor, is a much better book on sociopathy.
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on 12 May 2017
Increase your awareness of the people with no conscience that will drain every precious resource you have, stab you in the back and leave you for dead.. Sociopathy is hard to explain and if you've found this book.. then you are a lot closer. Martha fills in all the gaps. Protect yourself always.
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on 5 February 2017
This book was a holding experience in trying to understand my penchant for Sociopaths, or perhaps I can now say an understanding of their attraction to me.
As a therapeutic counsellor (ironic I know) I would recommend this book as a phenomenal aid to support learning in relational therapies . In the Times we are living in, this gave me a greater and deeper understanding of exactly why we find ourselves where we are. A must read!!!
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on 15 June 2017
This subject was well introduced without too much repetitive emphasis on sociopathy. Take heart in yourself, these people cannot be helped.
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on 19 January 2017
This is a vital read for anyone seeking to understand human nature a little better, and an excellent way to guard against the toxic people that we all encounter.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 2014
I enjoyed this actually rather disturbing book on a number of levels. Having found that a friend had been deeply damaged by a psychopath/sociopath, I wanted to understand this chilling and disturbing condition as well as I could, and the book did this brilliantly - it is succinct, clear and illuminating. It is also beautifully written, and as a writer myself I enjoyed reading something so well-crafted. The book is intelligent and humane, written with deep compassion. Martha Stout is clearly a very intelligent and thoughtful lady, a psychologist with an extensive and profound knowledge of her subject. More than this, however, she is able to stimulate thought about what it means to be human and her discussion of conscience as a humanising factor, founded in love and interconnectedness, is beautiful and moving. She gives an evolutionary account of the development of conscience, which was not of great interest to me because I am not a specialist in the subject and am much more interested in what it means to live now, but it did give a context to her book and show that the lady knows what she is talking about, in terms of academic study. And I just loved the final chapter!
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on 6 February 2017
I was looking forward too this book after hearing how good it was, but it is absolute rubbish dont waste your money. I know a lot on this subject after 35 years knowing a sociopath, the book does give a little insight into how they can fool you and get away with it but the way it is written is long-drawn out and boring. you will get a better insight into this subject by looking up Donna Anderson, love fraud on google she has two good books out @ the moment, that read better than this.
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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 sociopathy 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.
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on 8 December 2013
If you really want to learn/discover something about psychopaths/sociopaths I recommend 'Without Conscience' by R. Hare or 'Snakes in Suits' by Hare and Babiak. This book could be summed up as: Say a lot about little. Very disappointing for me. I expected something more factual and straight to the point as when I read Hare's and Babiak's books, not just paragraphs full of academic words combined into almost-nothing-to-convey-sentences. So far the worst book I have read regarding this topic.
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