The term scapegoating comes from the Hebraic tradition of the Day of Atonement. The patriarch Moses would take a goat and curse it with the sins of the people of Israel. This would then be followed by sending the goat, laden with the sins of the people, into the wilderness alone to die for them. The goat’s symbolic sacrifice was a way of removing the year’s evil thoughts and behavior from the people and transferring them to the innocent goat so that the people could move forward in a new way.

In family therapy, the concept of scapegoating has a similar origin, and potentially a similar effect, both for the family and the scapegoat. Typically, the family will target, though not intentionally, at least not ...

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