Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review: Almost a Psychopath by Ronald Schouten and James Silver

My rating: 4/5

From Amazon: "Do you know someone who is too manipulative and full of himself? Does someone you know charm the masses yet lack the ability to deeply connect with those around her?

"Grandiosity and exaggerated self-worth. Pathological lying. Manipulation. Lack of remorse. Shallowness. Exploitation for financial gain. These are the qualities of Almost Psychopaths. They are not the deranged criminals or serial killers that might be coined 'psychopaths' in the movies or on TV. They are spouses, coworkers, bosses, neighbors, and people in the news who exhibit many of the same behaviors as a full-blown psychopath, but with less intensity and consistency—and with a higher degree of awareness of the impact they have on others. They possess charm, glibness, and a lack of empathy that allow them to live their lives somewhere between the boundaries of commonplace 'not-so-bad' behavior and psychopathy.

"In Almost a Psychopath, Ronald Schouten, MD, JD, Harvard Medical School, and James Silver, JD, draw on scientific research and their own experiences to help you identify if you are an Almost Psychopath and, if so, to guide you to the interventions and resources you need to change your behavior, creating a better life for yourself or those around you. If you think you have encountered an Almost Psychopath, they offer practical tools to help you recognize the behavior, attitudes, and characteristics of the Almost Psychopath; make sense of interactions you’ve had with Almost Psychopaths; devise strategies for dealing with them in the present; and make informed decisions about your next steps."

This book wasn't quite as helpful as I'd hoped it would be in learning to deal with "almost psychopaths," but it is helpful just to know that you're not crazy when you think there's something off about someone with these qualities. It does have suggestions for how to handle certain situations, but unfortunately the ultimate answer seems to be that there isn't much that can be done, short of getting away from the person or people if you can.  The book is easy to read though, and does discuss other psychological conditions that display similar characteristics, which are helpful. Also helpful are the case studies, which sometimes show examples of how a situation with an "almost psychopath" could actually be worse than what you may currently be experiencing, which can be a sort of silver lining.

I think this book would be very helpful for anyone dealing with someone they think might be an "almost psychopath," especially if that person is a significant other or a coworker/boss. There are many more suggestions dealing with these situations (which seem more destructive and even dangerous) than with others.