A dangerous person without a conscience rarely looks that way. They often seem like the most charming and attractive among us. It is only when we are used or targeted that we learn who we're really dealing with - and often much too late. A trained mental health professional shares candidly about his personal and professional experiences with sociopathic individuals. Some basic guidelines for understanding this infamous personality style.
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I received this audiobook for free from the author/narrator in return for an unbiased review.
This is a short book, just over an hour, and unfortunately is lacking in useful content. The first half of the book is taken up by three stories from around the authors college years and just beyond. All three relate to drug dealers, two were friends and the third he met while working with mentally ill people.
From the narratives I don't feel especially convinced that these three were definitely sociopaths (even using the author's own criteria) the first is perhaps the most fleshed out both as a story and as potentially being a sociopath. At one point he suggests the second drug-dealer was potentially violent because he had a knife hidden away, which could indicate a potential for violence, or maybe just that being a drug dealer could be dangerous and he wanted to protect himself.
Throughout the first half, (which I subtitled in my head, 'Drug dealers I have known and regretted later') the author says he was used as camouflage and a shill to help these sociopaths find and use con victims. That may have been the case in reality but it doesn't really come across in the stories at all. What he seems to describe is being friends with some shady types who were popular and attractive and that he at least partly wanted to be. He doesn't really show them using him in that way. Also the author states of his college-age self, that he was not as dumb as he looked, shortly after recounting taking some (free) white powder without asking what it was, but assuming it was Coke and then being messed up because it was actually PCP. Which kind of undermines that assertion.
He repeatedly explains how during the 70s and early 80s everyone was doing drugs and having lots of casual 'pre-marital' sex (leading to a weird comment implying causal sex isn't really possible these days) including staff at a private psychiatric hospital he worked at. I felt during this first half that the author was not really taking any personal responsibility for his own actions or choices, beyond claiming a naivety and susceptibility to not seeing what was wrong with these particular friends. Whether or not they were actual sociopaths almost feels irrelevant, and these anecdotes certainly don't seem helpful to anyone who isn't hanging out with a bunch of shady types, who you should expect to come with a bunch of complications and problems.
As a side-note, women in this book are only really mentioned as objects of lust or victims of serial killers, which is pretty weird, the author refers to a college girlfriend he had as 'pretty cute' and that he took her for granted, not realising getting her was 'beginners luck' and says she later left him (after the pcp incident) for a guy she could better trust with her safety. Considering this book was published in 2017 this guy seeks to have retained some odd ideas regarding women.
There is briefly a bit of potentially useful stuff in the middle, a few indicators that could suggest a problem in a friendship, though (in my opinion) not necessarily sociopathy.
There is a strange and unnecessary anecdote of more recent times when an elderly friend tells him of having been (unknowingly) best friends with a serial killer and his feelings of guilt at not somehow knowing and preventing the deaths, this doesn't tell us anything useful, and feels pretty awful as the author inadvertently (and in a way that I find worrying considering the author is a professional mental health worker/professor of psychology) causes more distress to the friend by first googling the serial killer and then thoughtlessly telling the already distressed friend that the serial killer had eventually been paroled and gone on to kill another victim.
There is some stuff at the end saying if you suspect someone is a serial killer to not confront them, which is good, (but hopefully unnecessary?) advice, and in general to avoid confronting non-killer sociopaths with their lies or other stuff in case they turn violent. Which I would agree with.
Scattered throughout are moments of bizarre, or just inappropriate, waffle. There is an implication at the start that the snake in eden is a sociopath from 'dawn of time' which hurts my brain on so many levels. The author wildly claims that Jack the Ripper had 'countless' victims, and that (in the bible story) Abraham killed his son for God, and the Son of Sam killed because he thought God spoke to him through a dog (actually he claimed it was a demon possessing the dog who ordered him). If nothing else this would make me worry about the general accuracy of the book.
In conclusion, if you are looking for information on sociopaths this is not a good choice, there is little information and what there is could be gleaned more easily and quickly elsewhere. It is also not a good choice for recognising if someone you are friends with, or work with, is potentially a sociopath, since, in my opinion, nothing about the anecdotes as given actually help with that.