The Sociopath Next Door
By Martha Phd Stout
(Harmony, Hardcover, 9780767915816, 256pp.)
Publication Date: February 8, 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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. He’s 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. They’re 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.
Martha Stout, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice, served on the faculty in psychology in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School for twenty-five years. She is also the author of The Myth of Sanity. She lives on Cape Ann in Massachusetts.
“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
“The Sociopath Next Door is a chillingly accurate portrayal of evil--the decent person’s guide to indecency.”
“A remarkable philosophical examination of the phenomenon of sociopathy and its everyday manifestations…Stout’s portraits make a striking impact and readers with unpleasant neighbors or colleagues may find themselves paying close attention to her sociopathic-behavior checklist and suggested coping strategies. Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A chilling portrait of human beings who lack scruples the way someone born blind lacks eyesight…Stout describes respected professionals who tell outrageous lies simply to confuse colleagues… authority figures who deceive, seduce and even murder just to relieve the boredom that is the usual state of the sociopathic mind. A useful—if appalling—guide to help you recognize conscienceless individuals.. [and] a heartening affirmation of the empathic mindset that comes naturally to the vast majority of humans.”
—Martha Beck, O Magazine
“The Sociopath Next Door is a chillingly accurate portrayal of evil–the decent person’s guide to indecency. Martha Stout draws upon sound scientific data and clinical experience and her writing is graceful and compelling.”
—Jonathan Kellerman, author of Therapy, When the Bough Breaks, and Monster.
“[Stout] provides provocative discussion about the role of conscience in the ‘normal’ world. Highly recommend.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“One in 25 Americans is a sociopath–no conscience, no guilt. It could be your mean boss or your crazy ex. [The Sociopath Next Door] is an easy-to-follow guide for spotting them.”
“I recommend this book, especially to those who think they may be vulnerable to sociopaths. It contains good stories, useful advice and clinical and scientific nuggets.”
Winner of the 2005 Books for a Better Life Award