le 31 mai 2014
Ce livre est écrit à l'américaine, avec des exemples , une écriture fluide et prenante. Il décrit bien les comportements de sociopathes, s'intéressant surtout à ceux qui n'ont pas en plus de ces caractéristiques, la soif de sang qui génèrent les tueurs en série. Il s'agit de la personne qui, dans notre entourage, pourra nous détruire avec une froideur glaciale, pour le plaisir de se sentir puissant, par besoin de carrière ou autre motivation "socialement acceptée". Je n'en suis qu'à la moitié, mais il semble que à la fin, cela nous donnera des clés pour se gérer face à de telles personnes, ou bien pour de telles personnes de se reconnaître et d'apprendre que leur impression d'être au-dessus des autres relève d'un trou dans leur personnalité.
Ce qui rend ce livre si intéressant, c'est que l'auteur donne (par touches) une dimension sociale à ce trouble mental, expliquant comment il permet à ce genre de personne qui en plus on une bonne intelligence (ce qui n'est pas le cas de tous), d'accéder aux postes de pouvoir. Nous sommes nous mêmes (non sociopathes) de temps en temps sans conscience, suivant les conditions physiques, morales ou environnementales que nous traversons.
Bref, ce livre me fait réfléchir en plus qu'il m'apprend, c'est donc un "j'adore". Pourquoi pas 5 étoiles? Parce que les exemples me paraissent parfois trop longs, mais , comme je lis beaucoup, je sais souvent ce qui va se passer dans quatre phrases. Donc, je recommande sans réserve.
le 22 avril 2014
For many years we’ve been friends with this guy whom I’ll call Steve. Steve is an upstanding member of the community, has a picture-perfect All-American family, a respectable job, and a wide circle of friends. He comes across as charming and very friendly, and seems to be very eager to help and please those around him. However, after getting to know him just a little bit better all these aspects of Steve’s life appear to be an act. Steve is in fact extremely competitive even over the dumbest things, scheming, and manipulative. The more I got to know him, the less I wanted to know about him. His constant scheming was eventually too much to handle, and we were forced to cut all personal ties with him.
All along I was wondering what is it that made Steve act in the way that he did. A few years ago I came across an article on Wikipedia on psychopathy, and that’s when things finally started making sense. It turns out that psychopaths/sociopaths are actually very common in the society at large. Most of them are not Hannibal Lectors of Hollywood’s imagination. They are not serial killers, nor are the majority of them necessarily physically violent. All of them, however, have one main thing in common: they wreak havoc on almost all lives that they touch. Most disturbingly, there are surprisingly many of them around: one to four percent in the US, depending on how rigorous your classification criteria are.
“The Sociopath Next Door” is in many ways the best book on sociopaths/psychopaths that I’ve read. What distinguishes it from many other similar books is its very practical and applied approach. Furthermore, Martha Stout is an excellent writer in her own right and this is an eminently readable, even literary, book. Book’s a pleasure to read, and were the subject matter not this serious and frightening, this would make a great pleasure read.
There are three main things that I loved about the book.
1. Stout reduces psychopathy/sociopathy to just one most salient feature: lack of conscience. She argues, quite persuasively, that all other features of sociopaths are secondary. This insight alone can explain why sociopaths come in so many different guises.
2. Stout provides a very easy and counterintuitive way of identifying sociopaths. One thing that really gives them away is the “pity play”: all of them to various extents tap into their victims’ compassion in order to manipulate them.
3. Stout provides an excellent and very effective thirteen-point list of ways in which we can deal with sociopaths. Unfortunately there is no way of “curing” these people, so the best we can hope is to try to reduce their effects on others. I have been practicing pretty much all of the recommendations on my own to begin with, and I can assure you that they are very, very effective.
So if this is such a wonderful and useful book, why did I give it only four stars? Because I fear that Stout had overreached. If this had been only a book about individual sociopaths, who they are, and how to deal with them this would have been a wonderful and self-contained book. However, it seems that one of the main motivations behind writing this book had been to denounce wars, and the wars waged by the United States in particular. I have no doubt that many politicians and World leaders are in fact sociopaths, including some US presidents. Nonetheless, reducing all of warfare and a pretty big chunk of international relations to psychological defects of a few individuals, without providing a single concrete shred of evidence for such a claim, is at best intellectually questionable. I am afraid that this other underlying theme has a potential to seriously undermine Stout’s main points and insights about sociopaths. Fortunately, this part of the book can be to a large extent ignored.