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!!! Výcvik v existenciální hagioterapii !!!

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11. – 13. 9. 2020 otevíráme další sebezkušenostní seminář akreditovaný MPSV (16 hodin), tentokrát v Brně

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    Jaromíra Odrobiňáka
    Rok na psychiatrii


Rozhovory o hagioterapii

The Syndrome of Cain

The story of Cain and Abel is most often interpreted as jealousy between two young men where one hates the other because he thinks that God the Father loves him less than his brother. Further psychological motives can be uncovered under this dimension, i.e. the image of Cain’s egoism or the aggressive affection that is commonly described as anger, although it in fact includes a wide range of emotions – embitterment to rage and outrage to fury.

Let us look more closely at the above-stated emotions. Anger, rage, and aggressive tension represent the emotional “centre” of the story. The story of Cain and Abel describes and evokes all these feelings at the same time. The feelings of embitterment, anger, and rage are most often heard when participants of our groups describe their emotions when reading this story. When God asks Cain: “Why are you angry? Why are you downcast?”, our readers often relate this sentence to themselves. As if the story – in a new and uncommon way – also brings question they need to answer themselves: “Why are you angry? Are you angry with God? And what in fact is the meaning of your embitterment?“

The most common explication of angry feelings is as follows: “God is unfair to Cain! He repudiates him without any reason and prefers his brother Abel. No explanation is necessary here as every normal human must be enraged by God’s attitude.” Although this may sound like an appropriate answer, it encompasses several hitches. Isn’t it strange that we are so embittered about God’s injustice when nothing bad really happened to Cain? In which way was God unfair? How could Cain conclude that God had repudiated him? The “I am the victim” feeling is often a manifestation of the feeling of being hurt and suffering an inner-life pain”, which, in accordance with anger and rage, make up something like “communicating vessels”. Through this connection, pathological anger differs from normal aggression. Instead of it being a defence against the threatening danger this kind of anger emerges only after having been hurt. The mere anger would not bring Cain to become a murderer. Had Cain not had the feeling of embitterment in addition to his pain, he would never have killed Abel. Hardly anyone is so reckless that they would not try to persuade themselves that their aggressive behaviour is a just revenge. If a man wants to hit, he has to have a feeling that such act is ethically legitimate. If he is angry and wants to kill someone, he must always have the feeling of moral embitterment. “He deserves it, he is a crook”, is the often wording of the moral justification.

Harm, angry emotions, and moral discourse represent the triad of indications that we summarize as “the syndrome of Cain”. It is the way of rationalisation of one’s aggressive motives and behaviour, which can be expressed by self-justification: “It’s not my fault, I am only rightfully indignant…It is all God’s and Abel’s fault…, I am so upset about the injustice!” This triad appears in those situations when one experiences the disintegration of his self-respect and feels rejected and worthless. Almost automatically he asks who is behind his pain. When he voices his question, someone to blame quickly comes to mind. And then everything unwinds with a firm belief: There is no other way than to punish him in the name of justice and order. Many times a person affected by the syndrome of Cain, who regards himself as being “morally clean”, carries out the punishment.

The “syndrome of Cain” term does not appear in psychological manuals. Rather than a mental disease, the syndrome is a way of rationalisation that perceives human frustration and the harm resulting from it as inappropriate, which should be measured by good and evil. None of us are far removed from such thinking. It is the inwardness of our Shadow, in which even a little stress induces an angry reaction that we see as – the redemption of injustice. There lies the trickiness, which we very seldom recognize in ourselves although it is so simple: Who feels authorized to decide what is moral and immoral for others? It is always someone whose self-worth was wounded; someone who never disputes his right to remedy the world, to educate and punish others, i.e. someone with the syndrome of Cain. Such people regard their acts as just under all circumstances.


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