Can You Relate to a Sociopath?

Aug 15, 2014

Credit Kevin Hutchinson / Creative Commons

"What is your value to the world or to anything if you're not useful?" asked M.E. Thomas, a self-proclaimed sociopath, and author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, on The Colin McEnroe Show Thursday. She continued, "It gets to the fundamental question of what makes humanity valuable, and why we should treat anyone as a person."

It was shocking to hear these words. Valuing people based on an objective measure of usefulness signals a lack of emotion in the calculation. It's scary to contemplate people who lack the ability to understand the emotions that make us human. Yet, how could it be? She was also intelligent and endearing and confident. It was eerie. 

Thomas continued, "I'm curious for the answer too. You know, having come out as a sociopath, people no longer think that I am valuable according to their criterion. It can't just be that other people don't have criterions [sic] and I do, but that they have different ones than I do."

In one way, I can't argue with her logic. Society has a long history of judging value based on lineage, race, and gender. But, that's the way of the sociopath. They are intelligent, charming, and able to mimic social cues well enough to keep their secrets. Eventually, if the conversation is long enough and deep enough, they slip. They say something you can't understand, relay a chilling difference that separates them from you, her from me. The logic lacks a moral frame. 

Thomas said, "If somebody's useful, then I don't care if they're a criminal, or I don't care if they're gay, or if they're living in sin, or if they're Catholic, or Jewish, or any number of these different characteristics of people that we've come to sort of vilify over the years, I don't care about that sort of stuff. I just think they're useful to me."

Earlier in the interview, Thomas told us that stealing her neighbor's bicycle was a good thing because she cleaned it up before returning it, which fits her logic perfectly. She was useful.

Listen to a short clip of her conversation with Colin below, or listen to the whole show here