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Pirani, A. (1991). Cain and Abel: A case for family therapy?. Free Associations, 2(1):47-64.

(1991). Free Associations, 2(1):47-64

Clinical Paper

Cain and Abel: A case for family therapy?

Alix Pirani

The story of Cain and Abel is the first biblical account of fatal conflict between brothers. It is frequently referred to but commonly misread, and I have often asked myself why Cain and Abel's parents did nothing to avert the tragedy. In particular, where was Eve when all this was happening? For it reflects for me our present-day situation: we are everywhere imperilled by wars between men who cannot make good brotherhood, and the women's influence and what are thought of as feminine qualities are apparently powerless to prevent meaningless murder and destruction. This story of the first family seems very much the story of the ‘family of man’ — and I note the gender designated there.

Bible stories have, I believe, a far greater influence on the western psyche than is often acknowledged. I have explored episodes from Genesis in psychodrama groups and participants have found in them profound meaning and relevance — which surprised them — as well as an urge to change the story for our contemporary context: to revise, re-vision.

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