Cain's Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage, Shame, Secrecy, and Regret

Cain's Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage, Shame, Secrecy, and Regret

by Jeanne Safer

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Shining a light on the darkness of failed sibling relationshipsSee more details below


Shining a light on the darkness of failed sibling relationships

Editorial Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews
“An important contribution to the self-help bookshelf.” 

Reeve Lindbergh, author of Forward From Here and Under a Wing 
Cain’s Legacy is a compelling, deeply intelligent book about a subject all too often avoided: how destructive relationships between siblings can be, how much a bad sibling relationship can hurt us long after our childhood years are over, and what can be done to acknowledge and repair the damage. Dr. Jeanne Safer has made another courageous, illuminating journey into the dark places of family life.”

Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, author of The Empty Room: Understanding Sibling Loss
“In Cain’s Legacy, Jeanne Safer goes where at least a third of Americans fear to tread—to their troubled and seemingly intransigent relationships with their adult siblings. Safer makes the powerful argument that our brothers and sisters have a profound influence on who we are—even when we appear to be disconnected. For siblings in strife to make peace with the past, and even forge a new present, requires clear-eyed plumbing of the nature of the connection, says Safer. Cain’s Legacy shows you how.”

Douglas Mock, George Lynn Cross Research Professor of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, and author of More Than Kin and Less Than Kind: The Evolution of Human Conflict
“In Cain’s Legacy Jeanne Safer unravels the complex emotional dynamics of human sibling relationships.  And I’m glad she does—while most of us make a hash of our dealings with sibs, it helps to know that others are muddling through these issues as well. Her insights on family social tensions help us to understand the incomprehensible.”

New York Journal of Books
“Psychotherapist Jeanne Safer’s Cain’s Legacy is highly recommended for those who want to think about siblings in a new way, as well as get critical insights into the area of sibling strife, its causes, and potential remedies.  Dr. Safer digs deep into the world of sibling strife and makes this complex, emotionally charged area accessible to the reader through exceptional organization and conceptual clarity.”

Winnipeg Free Press
Cain’s Legacy is an engaging albeit sometimes disturbing exploration of the complex lives of human siblings.... For those suffering troubled relationships with brothers and sisters, Cain’s Legacy may open a door to understanding why and just perhaps the path to reconciliation.”

Midwest Book Review
“Case studies and interviews blend with insights from the author’s own psychotherapy practice in this powerful guide.”

Library Journal
The biblical sibling strife of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, and Joseph and his brothers dramatizes family problems that afflict one-third of Americans, according to psychotherapist Safer (Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult's Life—for the Better). The author interviews 60 people whose stories illustrate themes of jealousy, competition, money, illness, and communication. Reconciliation happens, but tension and estrangement seem to dominate and persist in these relationships, mostly the fault of parents, including those who (mistakenly) think they can distribute love equally. Safer calls that a "false leveler," since all kids have individual qualities. She advises readers: "Addressing unfinished business with one's own siblings is the best way to foster mutuality in the next generation." Many detailed, melodramatic cases dominate the book. The relatively brief advice is sensible, but more examples of happy sibling relationships would have helped. VERDICT A useful text for lay and professional readers about a common but neglected relationship problem.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
A psychotherapist identifies how unresolved, destructive sibling rivalries play a special role in our adult lives, shaping both our sense of identity and how we deal with work, marriage and parenthood. Safer (Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult's Life—For the Better, 2008, etc.) suggests that Sigmund Freud, a favored son, was unable to deal with his own guilt toward his sister. In his opinion, this left him blind-sided when he probed the crucial role of childhood experience and developed his theories about the Oedipus conflict, penis envy, etc. Today, writes the author, a shift in psychotherapy has occurred "from intrapsychic processes to interpersonal transactions," which has led to more consideration of the importance of sibling relationships. Safer provides anecdotes—taken from case studies, interviews, experiences related to her by friends and her own disturbed relationship with her brother—to provide a road map to help readers identify the hidden dynamics within families. She also gives examples of successful efforts to achieve reconciliation between adult siblings—with and without professional help—and calls attention to pitfalls that can short circuit the sometimes-slow process of building a healthy new relationship. In families, not only may certain children be favored, creating guilt on the one hand and animosity on the other, but parents may unwittingly chose favorites on the basis of their own unresolved sibling relationships. Safer references the biblical stories of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers to show how such intergenerational conflicts can persist but also be resolved. She also offers several contemporary examples of successful reconciliation efforts. An important contribution to the self-help bookshelf.

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