“The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout is an eye-opening book not about the people we typically think of with this personality trait. Upon hearing “sociopath,” we tend to think about serial killers, con-artists, and criminals. Yes, those types of people are sociopathic, but so are these others that Stout describes in the book. She claims that 4/100 Americans are actually sociopaths and could be a coworker, neighbor, or significant other. They are people absent of a conscience, unable to attach emotionally, and only interested in winning or dominating over others.
Stout provides several vignettes of sociopaths of different forms such as a harmful neighbor, high powered executive, and a high school principal. All fiction of course since she is a Psychotherapist, but descriptive enough to understand the various ways sociopathy can show up. She explores various ideas of how it is developed, moral development, and cultural issues. I found it interesting that Eastern cultures that practice Mindfulness tend to have fewer sociopaths as even if some do not have a conscience, they can develop one from a thinking brain.
“Sociopaths are infamous for their refusal to acknowledge responsibility for the decisions they make, or for the outcomes of their decisions.”
Overall, I was interested in her perspective of the more “covert” sociopath as I typically have thought of the more “overt” ones described earlier. She provided types on identifying as well as the “Thirteen Rules for Dealing with Sociopaths in Everyday Life.” The statistics she provided, show us that there are more people out there than we have expected and most likely have interacted with many throughout our lives.
Read this book if:
- You are a Psychotherapist
- Feel you may have encountered or currently encountering a sociopath
- Interested in personality traits
Stout, M. (2006). The sociopath next door: The ruthless versus the rest of us. New York: Broadway Books.