October 5, 2011

The Kids are All Right; The Sociopath Next Door

I've been watching The Kids are All Right, and OMG AWKWARD/TENSE.

(photo from Amazon.com)

Do you see on the cover, how the two mothers and two children are having a lovely laughing lunch on the patio with the sperm donor? NO. The whole lunch is an interview of awkward bad questions and awkward unexpected answers that go over poorly ("But I distinctly remember you said in your donor profile that you were interested in international studies?" "Nah, I just ditched all that, because college is a waste of time!" "...I see"), and I just wanted to be ANYWHERE BUT AT THAT LOVELY LUNCH.

And then throughout the movie there is all this snippy bickery unreasonable psychobabble between the two women, and then there is teenagery mouthing off from the kids. And the sperm-donor guy is all laid-back and go-with-the-flowish, and sometimes people were finding it awesome that he was like this and sometimes they were finding it intolerable, and I found them annoying no matter WHAT their reaction was.

Multiple times so far while watching it I have said OUT LOUD, "Oh no no no no no" accompanied by HEAVY WINCING, and I am only on the first hour of it. I don't like the parents or their relationship, I don't like the children or their attitudes, and I don't like how the donor is changing everything around. Also: gratuitous sex. BUT: I keep watching. Because I want to know what happens, and because this is interesting subject matter to mull when I'm not wincing.


Next! I finished reading The Sociopath Next Door.

(photo from Amazon.com)
(also, I am kind of done seeing those creepy eyes now)

As with other sociology/psychology-for-the-masses books, it seems like it's one chapter's worth of material forced by necessity into book-length. I always imagine the authors repeatedly using word-count: "CRAP, still 70,000 words to go!!!...*checking again*...CRAP, now it's 69,901 to go!! I'll take out all the contractions, that'll...I mean THAT WILL help!" I did a ton of skimming: I'd hit a section that was such a total repeat I thought I must have mis-marked my place in the book, and I'd just glide past until it got back to something new. Or I'd get to a case study that was so drawn out I felt like I was reading an actual transcription of that person's life (MUST WE read EVERY LINE of the NEIGHBORS' dialog? MUST WE read what they were EATING as they TALKED?), and I would skimmmmmmmmm until I got to the next little burst of actual material. I also skipped right past stories of animals being hurt/killed: I'm familiar with that part of sociopaths, and I don't need a several-page description to remind me. It's too upsetting to read, and not necessary.

But I strongly recommend that you read skim/read the book too, because the actual material SHORTED OUT MY CIRCUITS. I think of sociopaths as being, you know, the cold-blooded serial killers who as children tortured animals. But the author says that about 4% of the population qualifies as sociopaths, and that the definition includes a lot more than our stock image: most sociopaths aren't violent; they marry and have children; they have jobs as teachers and psychologists and managers. In fact, ESPECIALLY those jobs.

The gist is that a sociopath is someone who understands concepts like love and empathy, but doesn't feel them---and furthermore thinks those concepts are for idiots and cattle, and doesn't WANT to feel them. They tend to be bored, so they play life like a game. Sociopaths can't be "fixed," or trained to feel those feelings. It's not a matter of explaining how they're hurting you so that they'll stop, because they already know that they're doing it, and they're doing it on purpose for that very reason. Most mind-blowing to me: most sociopaths are excellent at FAKING that they DO feel love and empathy: tears, declarations of love and friendship and admiration, being charming and friendly and sweet, etc. If you accuse them of the things they're doing, they'll act hurt---while behind the scenes, they're wondering how far they can push you to believe them instead of yourself, and whether they can make you believe you're the crazy one. As in a mystery novel, such false clues are there for camouflage, and as part of the game. CRAZY.

Reading it, I recognized one of my mother's former co-workers. It was very, very odd to read each sentence and think "Wait!! That's what happened with HER!!" "Wait!! That's EXACTLY how things went!!" I told my mother about it over lunch, and she was remembering little details and pretty much every single one was IN THE BOOK. I found it a huge, huge relief to read it and know that there was an EXPLANATION for why the world seemed to go nuts for awhile there, while other people just WATCHED---and in fact GATHERED AROUND the sociopath in support. It was so perplexing and stressful, and it makes more sense now. It was all a game, a very cleverly played GAME.

The author says that one of the odd things about experiences with sociopaths is that people don't DO anything about it. They can't believe it could actually be happening, and they can't understand how a sociopath's mind works, so they keep thinking "But how could someone do something like that? How could someone have so little regard for someone's feelings? And WHY would they do something like that to someone who never did anything to them?" It makes no sense, so we conclude it isn't true. And the way a sociopath sets things up, WE'D look crazy if we said anything. So we don't, and we fit into the game.

One of the most helpful parts of the book for me was how to figure out if you're dealing with an actual sociopath, as opposed to someone kind of mean and thoughtless, or someone you just have a personality conflict with. A sociopath will (1) repeatedly do mean or inexplicable or thoughtless or inconsiderate things, AND (2) do a "pity play" so you don't do anything about it. The author says: "...bear in mind that the combination of consistently bad or egregiously inadequate behavior with frequent plays for your pity is as close to a warning mark on a conscienceless person's forehead as you will ever be given."

Anyway. I think you should read it. I felt like after I read it, I had a very different outlook on a lot of things, and felt more aware of things around me---but WITHOUT suddenly feeling paranoid about everything. It was more like "Oh!! I felt crazy about ditching that friendship/boss/boyfriend, but this is exactly how it was happening!" And also a good reminder that just because it knows how to quack like a duck doesn't make it a duck: those of us who tend to be a little trusting of smiles and nice words can use a reminder from time to time that we can't let those things distract us from actions that don't match.

58 comments:

Nik-Nak said...

While I LOVE the cast of The Kids are All Right there is no way in hades I would actually sit down and watch it. Just too much squirmy going on for me to be able to enjoy it.

M.Amanda said...

I'm now wondering how many sociopaths have crossed my path. A few names come to mind quite easily. It's an interesting subject.

I'm a pretty easy-going, trusting person by nature, a great target for people like that. I often remind myself that people always reveals their true selves, so I need to examine all actions and not just direct interactions with me when they most likely have an agenda/may be trying to manipulate me.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I really REALLY want to read Sociopath Next Door Now. (I mean, I saw it at a bookstore and wanted to read it. And then you mentioned somehow/somewhere you were going to read it, so that upped my interest. But now that you described it, even the poor reading experience, I really REALLY want to read it.)

It is pretty horrifying that there are all these people wandering around without a conscience. Does the book address the difference between your average sociopath and those that tip over into being Charles Mansons? (I guess, in a more in-depth way than noting, as you did, that most are NOT killers but are instead perfectly "normal" people.) I think that's what I find most freaky: that there must be some sort of line between the sociopath and the murderous sociopath. But where is that line and how easily is it crossed?

This is one of the more disturbing comments I've ever left.

Reading (and chickens) said...

I misread Nik-Nak's comment and thought she said there was too much spermy going on for her.

And now the comment I was going to make is lost to the sperm.

lisak said...

The Kids Are All Right made me squirmy and icky and I am a lesbian mom with two teen/tween kids who has been with her partner for 19 yrs! I am sorry, but the affair with the donor--NO, just NO. The sex btwn the women (was that even in the movie for any good reason?)? No lesbian couple I have ever known watches gay male porn while having sex. Just. doesn't. happen. Ew, ew, ew. The whole thing seemed written for hetersoxual men. I know it was written by a lesbian, but if I hadn't read that before I saw it I never would have believed it. And to think this is how Hollywood is portraying my family. Definitely not reality based. Ugh.

Superjules said...

I was in a two year relationship with a sociopath. It was exactly how you (and this book) describe: He would do and say things that made me feel like he was uncaring and unfeeling and inconsiderate and then play on my emotions to make me feel sorry for him. And he was really good at faking emotions, or at least being really charismatic and faking that he had had painful experiences and shifting the situations around onto other people. And I never did anything about it; I couldn't believe that he could be so uncaring and it would have seemed crazy if I said anything. Indeed, I FELT like I was crazy but I couldn't figure out why.

But I actually think he was (is?) dangerous-- he was manipulative and slowly tried to isolate me from my friends and family. He cut down my self esteem. Oh and after I broke up with him he stalked and harassed me and threatened to stab me. Fun times.

Beylit said...

That movie left me rather unsatisfied all around. I wanted to like it, I really did. The cast is amazing and all, it just did not sit well with me. It was to the point of awkward that I wanted to turn the movie off or leave the room. Never a good thing in a movie.

My biological father is a clinical sociopath. I thankfully had minimal exposure to the man, but my mother was not so lucky (I mean she stayed with him long enough to have two children). The scary part is they seem so normal. You really just don't realize something is wrong until it is too late, and then you have no idea what to do about it. My mom has always said the only way she could think to handle it was to leave and never look back. I think she might have been right.

Giselle said...

We saw this movie at the theatre...and we were literally the only people under the age of 50 there. It was...awkward.

I will say that each individual performance by the actors was phenomenal. But only if you could remove their performances from the actual story line. Which was uncomfortable and unneccesarily graphic and unlikely.

Swistle said...

lifeofadoctorswife- There IS some talk about that, but I may have skimmed a little heavily. The essence I got out of it is that sociopaths vary tremendously in intelligence, motivations, goals---just like everyone else. So one sociopath might just not want to work (and so is "too depressed/misunderstood to work" and mooches off a series of women), but another might be an insatiable thrill-seeker---but without a conscience (so goes more for the torture/kill thrill than the bungee-jumping thrill).

Alice said...

man, that book sounds FASCINATING. maybe i can just convince my friends to read it for me so i don't have to deal with the skimmable parts, and they can just tell me all the good/interesting parts later.

jonniker said...

Sociopaths are FASCINATING to me, and I find their existence vaguely comforting. There is a relatively well-known blogger who is, I am convinced, a sociopath, as I've fallen into her traps MANY TIMES and it fits the pattern so perfectly, I feel validated by the fact that no, really, IT IS NOT ME.

However, I am terrified of accidentally raising a sociopath. I know this sounds ridiculous, but do they just SHOW UP? Or is it something that raising a child in a loving home can PREVENT?

And do these sociopaths also not REALLY LOVE THEIR CHILDREN?

Swistle said...

jonniker- There was a big section on the origin of sociopaths, but I did a lot of skimming there because it seemed like the answer was "No one really knows, but probably the usual combination of nature and nurture." It looked to me like it was MOSTLY nature: there were theories that it might be connected to childhood abuse, but they found sociopaths from bad and good childhoods---and also, of course, that people with abused childhoods could be either sociopaths or not. It sounded to me like it was probably going to turn out that it was unpreventable/unfixable, but that there was still a ton of uncertainty: that although they think it Just Happens, there could be an inborn POTENTIAL for someone to be a sociopath, and that potential could be ACTIVATED by a certain upbringing. (But again: sounded to me like NOT. Sounded like it's "being born without a conscience.")

Jennie said...

I really didn't like The Kids Are All Right. I mean, switch around these roles and the storyline and make the main couple a husband/wife and no one would buy that the husband would have an affair with another man or the wife with another woman (without then assuming some things about their sexuality), but it's totally ok to assume that a lesbian would have an affair with a man because she's confused and overwhelmed and struggling with her new business?

I found it strangely dismissive of homosexual relationships being just as legitimate as heterosexual relationships.

Swistle said...

And yes! YES: They DON'T LOVE THEIR CHILDREN. And they're not ABLE to. That repeatedly blew my mind. They DON'T. They CAN'T.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

Oh man, for some reason your response to me gave me some crazy giggles. Just the thought of some sociopaths not applying themselves, like a kid who isn't living up to his full potential to be, like, a math genius or whatever.

It's not ACTUALLY funny. But this whole subject gives me the willies.

Gina said...

My uncle (my father's only sibling) is a classic sociopath. He hasn't killed anyone (that I know of) but he is the meanest person I know in real life as well as playing the "victim" better than anyone else I know. My mother recognizes this, I and all my siblings recognize this, but sadly my father does not. Despite all the horrible, illegal (bribing police officers, stealing my parents identity - more than once!) things my uncle has done to my family and others my father will forever be convinced that somehow all of it is his fault.

My dad loves to read, maybe I should get him a copy of that book.

Swistle said...

lifeofadoctorswife- Oh, man, now you've got ME doing it. Sociopath Aptitude/Achievement Tests! shudder/giggle

samantha said...

So Jonna touched upon a question I had in that yeah, does the tendency just show up on day or are they like that from birth? What if you recognize your kid IS one--then what? If they can't be cured OMG WHAT DO YOU DO? can you prevent them from getting worse? I guess if you had to pick the kind of sociopath to get (OMG AM I ACTUALLY SAYING THESE THINGS) lazy and a mooch would be better than a stabber, obviously.

My head is about to explode. Now I want to read the book. BOOK CLUB! WOO!

Joanne said...

I hated that movie. I wanted to like it but I really hated it. And what's up with all the straight porn for lesbians? Lame.

Swistle said...

samantha- I think one reason I got verrry skimmy is that I started getting verrrry nervous. I mean, she kept saying they CAN'T BE CHANGED. And I kept thinking, "Can't? I mean, CAN'T? Like....CAN'T? But...what if...wait, CAN'T??" And then one of the sociopath composites in the book involved his mother's reaction to him, and I found that difficult to read---on par with reading about the animals.

Plus, I saw that movie with Macaulay Culkin (The Good Son) (IMPENDING SPOILER ALERT FOR THAT 17-YEAR-OLD MOVIE:) where the mom ends up LETTING HIM FALL OFF A CLIFF when she realizes he's a sociopath, and OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.

Tess said...

I love this sociopath topic, because it reminds me of the Flicker thing! I mean, it's way more INTENSE than the Flicker thing, in general, but there are many shared characteristics. The manipulation, the complete and unapologetic lack of empathy, etc.

BUT, the CAN'T LOVE YOUR KIDS thing? That throws me for a complete loop! It's like I can't imagine ANYONE, EVER who would fit that mold! AND YET!

meanliving said...

I am right now in the middle of The Psychopath Test (http://www.amazon.com/Psychopath-Test-Journey-Through-Industry/dp/1594488010) and it is super interesting. I'm still not even sure what the book is about, exactly, other than the author's path of discovery about socio-/psychopaths. So far he's talking to academics, psychologists, mental patients, and, well, Scientologists. (They deserve their own category, right?) I recommend it if you're interested in delving in deeper.

As a side note, I have also heard it mentioned that The Sociopath Next Door is somewhat flimsy on the science. I do not speak from a position of authority, this is just what I've heard/read. For example, that 4% of the population figure is thought to be a little high. But then again I'm sure that antisocial behavior falls along a broad continuum, and exactly where you draw the line will decide how many people have those tendencies and deserve the label.

Sourire11 said...

Ok now I really want to read/skim that sociopath book. Your description sounds EXACTLY like someone I know. Especially he inconsiderate/pity combo. Ho boy.

Cherie Beyond said...

Long, long ago I used to read the blog of a woman who was the mother of a sociopath. I can't remember if she used the word exactly, but the implication was there. The daughter actually died in her teens of cancer, and the mother, although heartbroken, was also strangely relieved that she wouldn't have to worry about her daughter as an adult.

I'm making the mother sound like she was glad her daughter died, which isn't true! It obviously ripped her apart and there was a huge hole in her life. But she also felt that things may have gotten much, much worse. The whole situation was just heartbreaking.

It has stayed in my mind for years. (She no longer blogs, I don't think.)

Jenny said...

I just read a big biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery (it was excellent) and the author hinted around and around that her son, Chester, was a sociopath. From your description, it sounds exactly like he was. Not a killer, but egregious behavior, compulsive liar, manipulator, thief, cruel, and always the victim, always able to fake love for his mother so he could get more out of her. Very interesting.

Jenny said...

I'm a nursing student and as part of my pediatric clinicals we went to some of the local schools and spent the day with the school nurses and one of them told me about a student who would be coming in for his medication. She said that he was clinically diagnosed as a sociopath after his mother started noticing that his behavior was so different from his siblings (such as showing no sort of conscience whatsoever). So I was like, oh make sure you point him out to me when he comes in! And the school nurse was like "no, you will know him when you see him". AND I DID. And ladies, if you have to wonder if your child is a sociopath then they are not, because you would know if they are. I'm just saying.

Melissa Haworth said...

So my friend has a daughter who based on her descriptions and this description is a kid sociopath. She is incredibly smart but seems to have no empathy at all and manipulates her classmates to tears. Her parents and brother are lovely, caring folks so maybe it's nature? I feel very bad for her mom!

And The Kids are Alright hits a bit too close to home for me so I won't be seeing it :) Glad to know I'm not missing much.

meanliving said...

Another very interesting (to me) aspect of this idea of sociopaths rising to the top (in business, politics, etc.) is that the lives of so many people are, indirectly, in the hands of these people who are not making decisions from the same vantage point as the rest of us. I often wonder about why certain traits persist in modern populations, despite the fact that they seem maladaptive. Psychopathic individuals may not suffer at the hands of natural selection, but it's also interesting to see how they can shake up societies in big ways. Those big shake-ups can be good or bad, but it's introducing variation into an otherwise more static environment.

See also this article about orchid/dandelion children (I know I've trotted that article out before, but I love it so): http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/the-science-of-success/7761/.

Sarah said...

Oh my gosh, I both SO want and SO do not want to read that book. The existence of people like this is one of the most mind boggling things I can think about. I can't tell you how many conversations Jim and I have had, usually starting with one of us reading some horrifying news piece, and ending with me saying over and over again, like a stuck record, "...but, HOW does someone DO that? How can you STAND to be so CRUEL? Much less WANT TO??!" And he'll just sigh and say, "Not everyone is like you. There are bad people." And then I'm all, "I don't want to live in a world with bad people! I don't want my kids to!" And yet there is nothing to be done. Except to be informed about their warning signs, I guess. Gah.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

One of my former stepbrothers was/is a sociopath. He was younger than me, but we could see it an early age. My mom eventually divorced his dad, which was a relief because i think my younger sister would have been at some kind of risk.

We don't know exactly what has happened to him, but we do know that when he grew up, he did commit acts of crime and has spent time in jail.

The coldness, the lack of emotion. Yep. That was him to a T.

JeannetteLS said...

Scott Peck wrote "People of the Lie." I think that was the title. And it was about how it was impossible to treat sociopaths.

Sociopaths, unfortunately, are born into families and get, sometimes, to practice on siblings and hone their skills.

THe thing is, they show themselves to be that really early. My older brother was/is a sociopath. While my dad was dying he was around being all compassionate and helpful. And when, a year later, my mother started succombing to cirrhosis of the liver, he would try oh so sweetly to get her to sign things over to him. then, without blinking, throw a large bowl past her head. I had to change the locks.

After her death, he was pretending to be concerned about my back and I said, "Why the hell are you acting oh-so caring?"

I he looked at me as only a sociopath does, when they let down the mask to reveal the blankness, and said, "I am whatever is expedient for me to be."" And he went back to sorting.

Those were the last words between us.

As for the movie, I found it thoroughly annoying from start to finish and frankly didn't give a rat's patoot what happened to any of the characters... but I'd paid my money, dammit, so my friend and were gonna stay.

L said...

I totally want to read this book now....but am a little scared.I just don't know much about sociopaths. I hear people use the phrase a lot but I don't know that I could spot one. I agree that they should just sell these books as pamphlets given the lack of content, Malcolm Gladwell especially OMG.

Maggie said...

I thought The Kids Are All Right was, well, alright. I can't remember where the scene I'm thinking of in the movie is so I won't say more than there was one scene in it that caused me to believe that Annette Benning deserved the Oscar nomination. She completely nailed a certain rush of emotions without saying a word. Incredible.

As for the sociopath thing, I had an acquaintance years ago who fit the description to a T. I couldn't believe that everyone couldn't see what a manipulative and kind of awful person she was. Many years later her act was finally revealed. On the one hand, I felt so much better that everyone realized they had been used, but on the other hand, she has a child and my heart goes out to him. Being raised by a mom without any compassion has been a disaster for him.

Susan said...

The once had a sociopath in my life (a boss) who for several years had a fair amount of power over me. She may not have killed me outright, but she left deep emotional wounds -- and I believe enjoyed inflicting them. One result: It caused me to be much more open to allowing God into my life, resulting in more gained than lost. Nevertheless, if I encounter another sociopath, I'll take pains to avoid her. Or him.

CARRIE said...

I have enough mental illnesses but I couldn't help, while reading your post, wondering if I am a sociopath. I think I'm not, so that is good. I am a hypochondriac, so perhaps I should not read the book....just in case I decide to develop symptoms of the disorder. Although it sounds fascinating!

meanliving said...

Carrie--I just read something (in The Psychopath Test) that said that if you're feeling a little worried that maybe you're a sociopath, you're not.

Linda said...

But, the best part of that movie is when Julianne Moore is having sex and they show her cellulite. I rewinded it like 5 times and thought, wow she is awesome for allowing that not to be edited out. So, that's worth something at least.

Jenny Grace said...

Gabriel's dad is a sociopath! I mean, actually, in a qualifying way. It's upsetting when I make myself think about.
Just thought I'd take that opportunity to share.

Jenny Grace said...

Also, totally recognize all the...bad that means for Gabriel. Sigh.

jonniker said...

Since at least five people have asked, I feel UTTERLY COMPELLED to point out that the sociopath in question I'm referring to is NOT THE MOST FAMOUS OF THEM ALL.

Because THAT is a tangle I don't feel like getting into again. No, I don't think Dooce is a sociopath. TO BE CLEAR.

jonniker said...

Also, Carrie, I'm dying, because even though LOGICALLY I know I am not a sociopath, I found myself asking if I REALLY LOVE OTHER PEOPLE as much as I think I do.

Um, I do. I am merely highly suggestible. And not a sociopath. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

Nic (NotPerfect) said...

I'm fascinated by the concept of the book but my real question is, what do you DO when you have a psychopath in your life? I mean, obviously if it's your child you get lots and lots of help, asap, but how do you cope with your colleague, parent, sibling, or other unavoidable person?

I do know someone well with an alarming lack of empathy. It is distressing, it is something I don't understand, and yet, there it is. Do I think it's full-blown psychopathy? I don't know. But the label doesn't really affect how I allow this person to affect my life or how I protect myself emotionally.

One of my main gripes with psychology-for-the-masses books is that everyone reading them feels qualified to diagnose, rather haphazardly. If you read the DSM-IV, you'll be able to diagnose everyone you know with something. for example, read about Borderline Personality Disorder and you will identify multiple people in your life with it, when, in fact, the incidence is very low. It's like a form of the Forer effect. And what benefit is there to armchair diagnoses?

Swistle said...

Nic (NotPerfect) - I know: right now, EVERYONE I KNOW is getting evaluated for Being A Sociopath! But I find that tends to wear off with time: like, at first I'm looking at everyone sideways, but then after awhile it only occurs to me if I notice something really odd.

I think the main good to come out of a book like this is that people who are getting involved with someone dangerous might get red lights triggered ("Wait. That thing he just did, it was just like in the book...") before things get too bad. And that people who know someone telling them about this kind of situation will be less likely to dismiss it with words like "But who would behave that way? That doesn't make sense. You must be wrong."

And for me, a huge part of it was that I hadn't understood that a sociopath wouldn't necessarily look like a sociopath: that they can fake emotion so that it looks real.

Cayt said...

Michael and I used to have this flatmate who I am convinced was a sociopath. She would behave in ways that just left us blinking and saying to each other, "Who DOES that?" She would pretty openly just take advantage wherever she thought she could. Thief, liar, manipulator, yes. Her performance of emotion was frequently just... off. Like she had learned how to display it through watching soap operas. We asked her to leave after only a couple of months. She was terrible.

Lisa said...

I'm pretty sure my Stepfather was a Sociopath. He's dead now, but holy crap he put me and my brothers through the ringer while he was around. I'll need to read this book now for sure!

Stephanie Sharples Francis said...

So I am kind of obsessed with the show Criminal Minds, which is, obviously, All Sociopaths All The Time, but there is one episode in particular that haunts me. It is kind of along the lines of what Jonniker was talking about with the "what if one of your KIDS is a sociopath?!" Basically this little boy "went missing" and ultimately it turned out that the older brother killed him (viciously, horribly), the parents found him and figured out what happened, they were friends with the local sheriff who helped cover it all up. There was a scene where one of the investigators was talking to the sociopathic brother about his dead brother and he was SO COLD. SO EMOTIONLESS. He asked for a bag of chips. He wasn't yet old enough (apparently? Or perhaps just conveniently for the show.) to fake emotions, etc.

That episode haunts me so much. WHAT IF ONE OF MY KIDS TURNS OUT TO BE A SOCIOPATH????????

So disturbing. I want so much to believe that it's 100% nurture that creates sociopaths but...it's not. That's just not how it is.

Yikes. I think I shall have to skim-read this book even though it disturbs me. Face my fears or something.

Josefina said...

My husband and I have been wondering, nay, HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS, that someone in our lives is a sociopath. After discussing together years of behavior, this is the conclusion we are (slowly, thoughtfully) coming to. I think I will read this book in order to help us determine if we are interpreting our evidence correctly or not.

Josefina said...

So, I've been thinking about this post for the last few hours, and I have a question: Did the book discuss a need among sociopaths to relocate? I mean, because they were found out by so many people that it just became unpleasant to live where they did? I am wondering if they don't care enough to bother to move around, or if it becomes necessary at times in order to, I don't know, do what they do.

vanessa steck said...

I also suggest Jon Ronson's new book pn pyschopaths (they are basically the same as sociopaths, I gather). It's fascinating.

I'm surprised you didnt like the Kids Are All Right--I love that movie. Annette Benning is just...well. Brilliant. I'd watch her in anything, though.

I love your reviews!

artemisia said...

Jesus Christ. My partner stated that he thought our brother-in-law-ish/sister's-baby-daddy is a psychopath.

And your descriptions in your post? SOUND EXACTLY LIKE HIM. Goddamnit. Every time she works up the nerve to get the kids from him he f*cks with her mind and she ends up FEELING SORRY FOR HIM.

F***************CK.

Also: fascinating stuff. Scary, too.

artemisia said...

Jennie - regarding your comment on The Kids Are Alright. WORD.

Jessica said...

The Kids are Alright doesn't get any better. Don't finish it!

I can't stop thinking about what would be the appropriate marital status for a sociopath. Should they not marry? Marry another sociopath? That would mean they're on even footing in the marriage. But what if they have kids? No kid should have TWO sociopathic parents. Besides, a sociopath would probably gravitate towards someone they can manipulate and wouldn't have much interest in another sociopath, right?

Marie Green said...

Well, I've been over just about everyone I know, wondering if they are a sociopath or not... fascinating/disturbing!!

Also, I really liked The Kids Are Alright because I LIKED how awkward it all was... like, it felt real to me, instead of scripted. The thing that really pissed me off about that movie (SPOILER ALERT!) was that the infidelity just HAD to be cheating with a MAN. Here's this movie that is portraying a lesbian couple as a fairly normal, functional family with normal, every day family issues (minus the sperm donor story line, of course), and then she HAS to cheat with a MAN. I felt like it reinforced any public stereotype that lesbians really are just craving a little dick.

Ahem. Sorry.

Metacognitivethoughts said...

I wonder how many reality TV stars are sociopaths? It seems like both the game show/contest ones would be a perfect place to attract them, and it seems like the ones where people runaround and talk about their life would be a good way to manipulate their audience. This is what I was thinking of when I was watching Project Runway last night.

MegglesP said...

Ok I had to come and comment. I am one chaper into the book, based on your blog post. And holy mother of god, I'm pretty sure my brother fits the bill for this "antisocial personality disorder." I am nervous to keep reading. What if he is a sociopath?? Ok back to the book.

St said...

I loved the acting in that movie but the story was depressing and awful and annoying and cringy.

I met a girl once who I am convinced was a sociopath. She could work your emotions but I was convinced she never truly felt anything. Put the book on hold at the library thanks for the rec!

shriek house said...

This is terrifying. And of course I am going to read it now (actually I am downloading the free sample for my kindle at this very moment) but if there is a chapter on pediatric sociopathy I reserve the right to skip that one wholesale.

(I also cringed so hard all the way through The Kids Are Alright that my neck muscles took a week to recover.)

SarahSews said...

I sorta wish I hadn't seen this post and Jonniker's tweet about it. The list of things to look for (thanks google) in kids is not what you want to read about while parenting a pissed off 3 year old is all I'm saying. Yikes.

Many of the stuff I found online basically said if you wonder about your kid, then you shouldn't write it off. Which is exactly the reverse of the advice about yourself it seems (if you wonder about yourself then you are not?). Um, thanks?

And I'm still thinking about all the adults in my life too. Too many quirks to sort through and think about. Am scared to get the book and delve deeper.