Psychopath. Now there’s a word that gets tossed out pretty often. As in, “Hey! Gimme’ back my frisbee, you psychopath!” or “Yeah, I was lucky to get dumped when I did; my ex was such a psychopath,” or, in passing, as a generically cruel remark, “Ugh, what a psycho!” As it turns out, the usage of the word that’s vaguely synonymous with “crazy” is, well, wrong. The Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation (Aftermath) is a non-profit organization dedicated to informing people like most of us (who know basically nothing about social disorders) about what it actually means, but the scope of their purpose, mission and goals are, necessarily, much broader than that.
On their homepage they say that their “ultimate goal is to reduce the negative impact of psychopathy on the families and victims of psychopathic individuals.” To the lay person, that statement raises a lot of difficult questions. Understanding what psychopathy is, and knowing some of how it affects people, it’s much easier to understand why it’s so important for an organization like Aftermath to exist.
Between perusing their website and the compelling conversation we had with Aftermath’s president, Dr. David Kosson, Chicago Non-Profit got a fascinating crash-course on what psychopathy is, the impact it has on individuals and society, and how the “Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation” works toward achieving its whole mission.
What is it?
On their website, the experts at Aftermath give a brief synopsis that I won’t try to improve upon. Its brevity is relative, though, and the language is dense, which clues readers in on the complexity of the disorder. It’s under the right-hand column on their homepage where it asks “What is Psychopathy?”
Now I’m not a genius, but I’m no dummy either, and I have no problem admitting that this definition caused me to sit back and scratch my chin. When I spoke with Dr. Kosson, I told him that some of this just doesn’t make sense to me. How could someone lie, be promiscuous, arrogant, have no self control etc, be that way to a long string of people, feel no remorse for it, and do it in a way so that nobody catches on? “That’s the scary part,” he said. They’ve had a lifetime to practice deceiving people; they’re usually very good at it.
To better understand the disorder, Doctor Kosson recommends a visit to the “Resources for Victims” page. There readers can find professionally written papers meant to be understood by lay-people. The most initially informative is the bottom one, “A Primer on Psychopathy.”
A more in depth knowledge of the disorder lends a lot of significance to what Aftermath is trying do, and the way they’re doing it. Primarily, says Dr. Kosson, they educate the general public through the links afore mentioned on their website. Professionals, though, they educate through workshops. These workshops are populated by groups of professionals who, once educated, will be better able to protect potential victims from harm. For instance, they held a workshop for court professionals whose responsibility it is to decide how parents in a divorced couple should split custody of their children—or not. If that person is not trained to recognize psychopathic tendencies—and they’re usually not required to be—then a parent with psychopathic features will likely be able to take advantage of the situation and gain custody. Other groups include clergy, leaders of addiction support groups, and employers at senior living facilities.
The ways that psychopaths negatively impact the people and world around them are legion. Through education, prevention, and treatment, Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation will help to reduce and repair the effects of those negative impacts.