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It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
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It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  5,193 ratings  ·  675 reviews
A groundbreaking approach to transforming traumatic legacies passed down in families over generations, by an acclaimed expert in the field
Depression. Anxiety. Chronic Pain. Phobias. Obsessive thoughts. The evidence is compelling: the roots of these difficulties may not reside in our immediate life experience or in chemical imbalances in our brains—but in the lives of our
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Viking
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Champa Sheltso Rachel Yehuda does very cool research on intergenerational trauma at an epigenetic level. As far as I know she hasn’t written a book but she did do a …moreRachel Yehuda does very cool research on intergenerational trauma at an epigenetic level. As far as I know she hasn’t written a book but she did do a Ted Talk and you could easily get her research via sci-hub.(less)

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Start your review of It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
May 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
While the first few chapters provide some useful information about how genetics and epigenetics play a role in our health, the author goes off into kookyville with his personal therapy. Honestly, the author focuses too much on how you need to fix and have a relationship with your parents and that if you fix this relationship then you will never be mentally ill again. Mind you that not everyone can fix or wants to "fix" the relationship with their parents, especially if there's severe abuse invol ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I thought when I started the book I would be giving it more stars. I'm a school psychologist and a PREPaRE trainer (school crisis work) and do a lot of reading about trauma. My orientation tends to be more in the cognitive behavioral area however I deeply believe in the purpose of narrative in therapy and that how we tell our stories matters. That being said, a lot of this book really got under my skin and made me say "a psychologist should know better"... except Mark Wolynn is not a psychologis ...more
Sep 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
No book (self-help or otherwise) should so strongly suggest that children reestablish contact with their parents. A parent-child relationship if severed is done so for a good reason and after much consideration and effort towards other solutions. Toxic individuals are best left out of the healing process.
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bonnie Mattson
Feb 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book has the distinction of being among the few I have not finished. I tried. I really did. But I can't keep going with this nonsense. It starts out all scientific with genetics, but quickly veers into woo-woo territory. Look, if blaming your problems on some unknown trauma that happened to your grandmother helps you move on, great. It's barely better than past-life regression bullshit. But, the authors insistence on reconciling with parents is frankly, toxic, especially to victims of abuse ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I would love to read an incisive book about epigenetic trauma because there is still so little known about the subject. This book just didn't cut it for me. The first red flag was when the author wanted the reader to believe that someone experienced residual trauma because an uncle (not even a direct patrilineal carrier of their DNA) froze to death. Logistically that doesn't make sense - wasn't even true epigenetics. More self-help and pseudoscience than edifying. There were some interesting sto ...more
Reading Cat
I made the mistake of reading Goodreads reviews of this book.


The main bashing this book comes in for is that 'oh if your parents are toxic this book is *dangerous*' because he suggests reconciling with family and family issues.

Sweet Christmas, people, can you actually read the book? Can you use your brain at all?

He CLEARLY states that for some people they can't actually reconcile with family (dead, estranged, etc) and then outlines a way to work through his process so
Aug 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
The author oversimplifies and makes unfounded, unscientific extrapolations on the current science behind epigenetic inheritance. Dr. Yehuda, who is doing a lot of important and fascinating work in the field of genetics, had certain papers that the author of this book points out were labeled as controversial. And then he sides with Dr. Yehuda's hypothesis and conclusions without a true scientific eye for why the conclusions haven't been widely applied (small sample sizes, manipulated p values). T ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it

I found this book to be quite helpful! I was able to link my core statement to my past family trauma. I will say that the author gave TONS of examples in this book. However, every few examples I was able to dig deeper into more traumas that my family had experienced. What an eye opener! I want to know everyone’s biggest fear now. I’m nosey like that... lol

Note: Some people have estranged relationships with their parents & that’s
May 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I do think the author was too forgiving (even dismissive) of abuse, and parts of the book felt kind of new-agey or otherwise hard to believe, but it gave me some things to think about.
Joy Matteson
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pyschotherapy
A fascinating in-depth look at inherited family trauma. Mark Wolynn is the Director of the Family Constellation Institute, where he and his colleagues delve into 3 and 4th generational family issues to help heal or resolve trauma that does not have an immediate understandable cause. He believes that we all have a "core language" that we unconsciously use to speak of our deepest fears (i.e., "I don't deserve to live", "I'll never be good enough", etc) that may have been used by a previous family ...more
Feb 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
I wish Goodreads had an "abandoned" option... I've gotten about halfway, and may finish just for kicks and giggles, but within the first 10% of the book, Wolynn draws a wholly unscientific and even anecdotally-sketchy conclusion regarding the accidental death of the uncle of one of his patients-- an uncle who passed before the patient was born, making it impossible for that "trauma" to have been passed from the uncle to the nephew in any way (not to mention the fact that there is no direct genet ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Trauma is one of those words that instantly send a shiver up the back. Those battling PTSD and other trauma related instances know this shiver very well. Wolynn seeks to find the root of trauma and why some people experience it more than others. In this book, he traces the roots of trauma to traumas one's parents experienced as well. He argues that not only do we experience it in the womb, but also in how we were reared. If our parents had traumas, more than likely they were transferred to us so ...more
Interesting and thought-provoking ideas and theories that are still only partly supported by the sciences as of yet.
It went a little downhill for me when the author recommended bonding with your parents (/family) to resolve inherited family trauma. This is not and should not be presented as the only solution to heal mental or emotional health issues based on such trauma.
It is a slap in the face of every child who was physically, verbally or especially sexually abused to even suggest such a thi
Veronica F.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Despite the great reviews, as soon as I started reading, this book started brushing me the wrong way. What a waste of $5.24. As early as page 1, the author makes claims about the "latest scientific research" and offers no citation. On page 10 he claims a miraculous recovery of his vision. Are we to believe he ever had any eyesight loss at all? I don't. Chapter 2 is inundated with internet articles as his "scientific" sources. On page 29 he makes a strange claim about junk DNA being influenced by ...more
I started out thinking this was going to be a 4 star read. Really.

I was recommended this book by a friend after talking about how I've been experiencing anxiety since I was a small child. Wolynn makes several strong points about how mental health issues and family trauma can be passed down the generations, but I can't get behind his mentality of trying to get his patients to make amends with obviously toxic family members. It angered me how he pushed so hard this belief that people need to make
Oct 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a layperson's introduction to the study of epigenetics, the research which has shown links from the traumas of previous generations to physical and emotional effects on their descendants. In particular, studies of these connections for Holocaust victims and their children and grandchildren have made some surprising connections, ones that could help many people in their effort to deal with the challenges in their lives. That being said, some of this book veers from the science into self-d ...more
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I understand that there are professionals who have issues with the methodology of this treatment approach and I defer to them. I also do not buy some of the connections made by Wolynn in the book, but overall I think this is a very worthwhile book. I do think that trauma can be passed down subconsciously and I like the exercises in the book on bringing these histories into consciousness so that you can let them go.
May 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
The heavy emphasis on reconciling with parents without regard to abuse was alarming and made me question his further advice.
Yesenia Cash
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very detailed and the pacing was perfect to understand!
Nathan Albright
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2018
I think I would have liked this book a lot more had the author been more interested in the spiritual and moral bent that occurs in people through the actions of their ancestors than in psychological speculations about entanglement between minds and an inherited unconscious memory of the lives and sufferings of one's ancestors and those who interacted with them in momentous ways.  To be sure, more than most people I am deeply interested in ancestral traumas [1], and have a full store of ones from ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Thought I'd be giving it more stars but I just can't bring myself to, and honestly the 1 star is there because up until page 66/67 it was OK. After? I usually keep all my books regardless if I liked it but I'm definitely giving this away (if I don't decide to burn it).
The author focuses too much on their own trauma, which wouldn't be a problem except they use it to push the absolute need to re-establish broken relationships with parents.
I love genetics and I absolutely agree that trauma can pa
Tasha Driver
Aug 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobooks
I have severe Depression, PTSD, OCD, and Anxiety/Panic due to physical and emotional abused I suffered at the hands of my malignant Narcissistic Personality disordered mother. From the title, I really thought that this book was going to help me to overcome many of my issues.


It advises the abused to rebuild a relationship with the abuser. I'm flabbergasted. NPD's fight to control even their adult children with brainwashing and gaslighting. Who would suggest that I put myself back in that po
Elizabeth Andrew
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
An excellent book on intergenerational trauma--although I suspect a lot of the same principles apply to inherited values and joys. This work has radically changed my perception of my own struggles and even my sense of identity. I really am all those who came before me.

"If you look deply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
Aubree Deimler
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wellness
I find the subject of epigenetics to be fascinating and have become even more intrigued after reading this book. Mark digs deeper into the impacts of past family trauma. If this trauma is not dealt with, it gets passed on subconsciously to reappear in future generations.

To decipher this, he's big on the evaluation of language. Many times past hurt and trauma can be revealed in the way that we speak or write about our troubles. The included writing exercises were eye opening for me and helped me
Sep 21, 2016 added it
Shelves: 2016, audiobook
interesting bits about epigenetics and the inheritability of traumas but how to put it... very American, and cery self-helpy
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, mental-health
In order to really get the best understanding of this book as possible, I took copious notes while reading and completed the included exercises. I found the book generally well-written. However (and it's a big however) - I just couldn't buy into the author's overall thesis that family trauma is clearly passed down generationally to the extent that he postulates. Certain elements I could accept - such as the fact that a child born after their mother had traumatic experiences while pregnant may ha ...more
Stephanie Held
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
I got through it, it did make me think, but the first chapter on genetics was really the only reputable content. I agree with Wolynn's overall perspective on family trauma and healing, I just couldn't fully get behind his writing style and the qualitative studies were not relatable enough for an every day reader. ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This ended up being a theory about trauma and epigenetics that I am highly skeptical about. It seemed like he was pulling in the cases that supported his theory rather than being more objective. Basically, it felt like a book of confirmation bias on a topic I'm skeptical of. ...more
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I appreciate the main concept of everyone carrying their family trauma and the examples given, but the book didn't give me much more than that. ...more
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Director of The Family Constellation Institute, The Inherited Trauma Institute and The Hellinger Institute of Northern California, Mark is North America’s leader in Inherited Family Trauma. A sought-after lecturer, he leads workshops at hospitals, clinics, conferences, and teaching centers around the world. He has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, the Western Psychiatric Institute, Kripalu, ...more

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What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
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“What I failed to realize at the time is that when we try to resist feeling something painful, we often protract the very pain we’re trying to avoid.” 8 likes
“The emotions, traits, and behaviors we reject in our parents will likely live on in us. It’s our unconscious way of loving them, a way to bring them back into our lives.” 7 likes
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