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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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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 parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. The latest scientific research, now making headlines, supports what many have long intuited—that traumatic experience can be passed down through generations. It Didn’t Start with You builds on the work of leading experts in post-traumatic stress, including Mount Sinai School of Medicine neuroscientist Rachel Yehuda and psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score. Even if the person who suffered the original trauma has died, or the story has been forgotten or silenced, memory and feelings can live on. These emotional legacies are often hidden, encoded in everything from gene expression to everyday language, and they play a far greater role in our emotional and physical health than has ever before been understood.
As a pioneer in the field of inherited family trauma, Mark Wolynn has worked with individuals and groups on a therapeutic level for over twenty years. It Didn’t Start with You offers a pragmatic and prescriptive guide to his method, the Core Language Approach. Diagnostic self-inventories provide a way to uncover the fears and anxieties conveyed through everyday words, behaviors, and physical symptoms. Techniques for developing a genogram or extended family tree create a map of experiences going back through the generations. And visualization, active imagination, and direct dialogue create pathways to reconnection, integration, and reclaiming life and health. It Didn’t Start With You is a transformative approach to resolving longstanding difficulties that in many cases, traditional therapy, drugs, or other interventions have not had the capacity to touch.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published April 26, 2016

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About the author

Mark Wolynn

7 books152 followers
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, The New York Open Center, The Omega Institute, The California Institute of Integral Studies. His book IT DIDN’T START WITH YOU: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle (Viking/Penguin) is the winner of the 2016 Silver Nautilus Book Award in psychology. Mark specializes in working with depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, fears, panic disorders, self-injury, chronic pain and persistent symptoms and conditions.

Mark is a Summa Cum Laude graduate in English and Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. His graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Arizona was also in English. Mark has published poetry in The New Yorker.

“As creator of the Core Language® Approach, I’ve spent the last 20 years observing how language and trauma intersect—how patients’ presenting symptoms, specifically the language they use, can lead us to the root of the issue, often to a trauma in the family history or in early childhood. Uncovering our core language can free us from reliving traumas that don’t belong to us.”

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,738 reviews
790 reviews18 followers
July 29, 2016
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 involved.

Read "fix" as: don't blame parents for any abuse; no one is responsible or guilty for abusing you; just get over it; there is no choice; it's just an event from the past rearing its head and it's your fault if you let it get to you; you have to make amends for the past.

Now, some of the activities he lists are just cognitive behavioral therapy that he's twisted to fit his "therapy". I know, I've done some it before but not with the intention of finding past life trauma. Finding those thoughts and feelings is fine but then I've learned to recognize what type of thinking it is, then counter it with actual things I've done that discredits that false belief. It works and doesn't require a trip into New Age garbage which is what the author peddles.

What really pissed me off was the minimization or even outright dismissal of abuse. When a parent abuses a child, the parent is responsible for their actions, their choices. The author puts forth the idea the parent isn't guilty because they are just reliving a past trauma and that the child is the one guilty of triggering the abuse (just look at the four core complaints; if a child detaches due to abuse, the child is at fault for the abuse rather than the adult choosing to abuse and that the child needs to reattach to the abusive parent; hell no). For example, a father sexually abuses his ten year old daughter. He's not actually abusing her (what any child abuser says) but really is just acting out a past trauma in the family history (can be technically accurate (a few abuse victims do go on to abuse others) but that's not what the author is implying). The ten year old victim needs to figure out what past event her abuser is living out (again making an innocent child take responsibility for an adult's behavior), permit whomever caused the living trauma to now "access" and become a welcome part of the family, and allow the abuse to continue until the father stops acting out the past trauma. And, oh yeah, just get over it because the abuse wasn't that big of a deal. Where the hell did this guy get his psychology credentials, again? Did he download them off the Internet?

Do not read this book. Anything that promises a "magic cure" approach, like this book, to mental health is something to be avoided at all costs. There is no "magic cure" for mental health. Anyone who says there is is selling snake oil like this author.
Profile Image for Rachel.
44 reviews
July 16, 2017
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 psychologist. He does have a lot of training in a lot of areas, but this explains why a lot of his language in the book is pretty out of touch with current research and standards. But, I'll get to that.

First what I liked about the book: Intergenerational trauma and epigenetics are fascinating. The explanation of the Yehuda studies is very solid and the cursory lit review is solid. I wish there was a broader focus of mention of intergenerational trauam's impact on Communities of Color. The questions to ask oneself about family trauma is great for people who are trying to understand their family history. I'd even encourage families to go deeper because systemic oppression, be it slavery, segregation, antisemitism, etc. would be indicated to also impact epigenetics. The first half is a great introduction for a layman or a professional looking to get a quick overview.

I love narrative things. At my core I deeply love family systems therapy and understanding that because I work with teenagers. I spend a lot of time with my students framing and re-framing their own narratives to find resilience, agency, and empowerment. And I found that while the questions may have been good overall, a lot of Wolynn's interpretations are judgmental as hell. I notice this a lot in a specific type of self-help books (which is why I tend not to read them) that are targeted at vulnerable populations: no one talks about how abuse is different from conflict. I recall a specific part where he characterized a sister using the term "emotionally abusive" as lacking compassion or being in pain and needing to basically get over that and use less judgmental language. This was the first instance and there is no separation in his work from "my parents were detached or cold" and "my parents were abusive and neglectful". There is lip service paid to setting boundaries when it comes to emeshed relationships, but people who "reject" their parents apparently don't get to do that. The heavy emphasis on reconciliation which needs to look a certain way bothered me deeply. It is entirely possible for you to have compassion for the awful stuff in your family and not hold it tight and own it as yours and still decide that it is not healthy for you to have a relationship with the person who hurt you. It's charitably clueless and at worse gaslighting. Also how he orders and presents his case study examples is disorganized overall and feels cherry picked.

Another note, if I had to read one more bit overemphasizing mother as primary caregiver whose disrupted bonds ruin us I was going to throw an attachment theory book at him. Attachment literature tends to use the language of "primary caregiver" and recognize the expansive family systems that may exist. We can have different attachments to different people. It is possible that if you are not securely attached to your mom that you will be securely attached elsewhere depending on the health of the system. He often sounds like someone who read a lot of early psychodynamic work but didn't keep current with it. Psychodynamic's most important contribution, I would argue, is that what happens to you in the past and in your family's past matters. Also, some of his examples of epigenetics are not epigenetics. Based on my understanding, which is imperfect, an uncle dying at a certain point would not maybe influence genetics though it influences the family system. Maybe because of his training or experiences, Wolynn doesn't know how to differentiate these.

Read the first few chapters, look up the Yehuda studies. Your narrative and what you do with them is valid. We are impacted by what happened in our families before us, as well as by society around us. But you do not have to reconcile or forgive or "heal" that relationship if it doesn't feel safe for you.
Profile Image for Cadence.
19 reviews4 followers
December 24, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Reading Cat .
318 reviews11 followers
December 6, 2019
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 sort of in absentia. Gosh, I mean, half of his examples are people who are carrying the trauma of grandparents and great grandparents. Surely they're not all alive, right?

Now, I've had a pretty toxic relationship with my mother, myself, which is one of the reasons I picked this book up. And yes, I felt an instinctive NOPE in my belly at his suggestion that I imagine my mother touching me. However, that's not a sign that this book is putting me in any danger. If anything it's proving to me that this healing is going to take some guts on my part.

But say I never get there. Okay, does that mean this book is worthless or dangerous? No. Because just his whole idea of the Core Sentence and the Core adjectives you discover by describing (and then studying your descriptions) of your parents, just that much? INCREDIBLY helpful to getting some perspective. You don't need to visit your toxic mom to work with and try to heal how you describe her and if you can separate her truth from your response to it (for example, my mother never wanted kids, and boom got preggos. As such she was not well equipped to become a mother, and spent a lot of raising her kids in resentment. I can see that, and it's still true. But I can separate that reality from my childish perspective (that my mom was mean and cruel and pushing us away).) One is the perspective of an adult, the other of a child. I want to be an adult, and that means putting aside that childish perspective. Now, I can realize that my mom didn't MEAN to be as cold and hard as I felt her to be when I was a kid. I can realize my mom did her best with what she had. That doesn't mean that I'm saying she was a great mother or she gave me all I wanted.

In one of the later chapters (which I wonder if critics read) he has a list of suggested statements, and some really rocked my world--like he has one where you acknowledge that you actually, BECAUSE of X treatment, gained a lot of inner strength and self reliance--that positive spin really reframes everything.

But the really interesting part of the book, of course, is the generational stuff. The stories seem almost unreal. But...I realized that my cousin's suicide and addiction were almost an exact copy of his mother's behavior. I realized that I had had a wave of suicidal ideation...at the same age that a great uncle of mine was when he died. And I realized (to bring this full circle) I realized that my mother suffered her own generational trauma Core Sentence. How can I hold her wound against her and hope to heal myself?
Profile Image for Cwilson466.
56 reviews16 followers
June 29, 2016
There are some useful pieces of information in this book, but the majority of it is pseudoscience. The author points to "empirical evidence" in support of his assertions that are either not empirical at all, or that conclude something not quite relevant for the author's assertion.

I would sum up the useful information this way:
1. Your parents weren't perfect, no one's were perfect.
2. They had trauma and difficulties when they were growing up as well, and they probably (unintentionally) passed their crap down when raising you because they didn't know any better.
3. Forgive them, not for them but for you.
4. If you visit a therapist and don't feel at least some relief after several sessions, try a different therapist.
5. You have to do homework to resolve your issues, it doesn't come from outside.

Here is where I have some real issues with the book:
1. The Jungian theories about inherited memories are not well supported. I completely buy that some major trauma that happened 3 generations ago is still probably having an effect on my family, but not because our genes carry the memory forward. Instead, it is the behavioral and emotional response that the people in the family exhibit that passes down the effect.
2. Saying that one is afraid of, say, suddenly freezing to death starting at age 19, is genetically encoded is just kooky. Additionally, if we buy the premise that it is genetically encoded, just understanding that you only have the phobia because your great uncle froze to death when he was 19 (even though you were unaware of this occurrence) will not make your (genetically encoded) phobia disappear. This argument makes no sense at all. If it were true then one would expect that an understanding that your chronic depression is likely a result of too little serotonin your brain should be sufficient (without any other treatment) to make the depression disappear.
3. Phobias, anger, depression, mental illness of all sorts require treatment, from real experts. You cannot read a book and resolve these issues on your own. Even if the book contains evidence based exercises (as this book does) that can be helpful, you still need a person skilled in therapy to walk you through.
4. Forgiving your parents for their abuse, neglect, failings,etc. is not the same as "building a new relationship" with your parents. I think the author is just not communicating this well. I truly can't fathom that the author would suggest a woman build a new relationship with a father that sexually abused her, and start hanging out with him as if nothing happened. That would be insane! You can forgive without letting an abusive person back into your life. You can understand why a person might have acted without accepting the excuse and absolving them of guilt.
5. My biggest problem with this book is that the author pretends to have based all of this on legitimate psychological research, well established principles that all psychologists know, but are inexplicably keeping from you. Trauma recovery is not easy, mental health recovery and treatment are not easy, none of this is simple, but the author wants you to believe it is.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Megan.
362 reviews913 followers
May 3, 2022
Update: I keep getting angrier and angrier about this book! 😡 I just found out that Mark Wolynn’s graduate degree is in EDUCATION, not social work/psychology/counseling! Also, there doesn’t seem to be any peer-reviewed papers backing up the claims Wolynn made in this book!

As a social worker, I have a lot of beef with this book! Can someone please rewrite this from a REAL trauma-informed lens? This books starts off great, but it turns very toxic in saying that someone can only heal if they fix their relationship with their parents. Sometimes parents are abusive and/or neglectful and reconciliation would be MORE harmful. Instead of reading this book, read Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, and/or Mothers Who Can’t Love.
Profile Image for Bonnie Mattson.
66 reviews8 followers
February 24, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Prettywitty77.
96 reviews41 followers
December 13, 2019

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 okay. Skip the parts about speaking to the parent who is toxic. A lot of people complained about this... when they could of just skipped it...
Profile Image for Marly.
7 reviews
June 13, 2017
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 stories but ultimately this book did not live up to its thesis.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
137 reviews12 followers
August 25, 2017
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). Then, what really bothered me was that after all this discussion of genetics, the rest of the book seemed to come as a non sequitur. there was very little to no discussion, let alone citations for, the vastly more important environmental influences and generational repercussions of having a crappy parent. It was all anecdotal stories of clients the author saw who magically developed mental health troubles at the same time as certain terrible events in their family's past. ( FYI, your DNA doesn't track this stuff - a point not emphasized by the author). His interpretations of these stories and the application of them were horoscope like in nature. "Leos have a tendency to overdramatize" Okay sure but lots of people who aren't Leos do also. "Such and such patient said she was scared she was going to die, 'surprisingly' at the same age that such and such relative died - she has never considered the connection before and got totally better as soon as she made that connection. SIGH. Additionally, I found the author's attitude towards damaged relationships with parents harmful and as a dangerous door towards exposing oneself to more harm at the hands of an abusive parent. Overall an incredibly disappointing book.
Profile Image for Joelle.
9 reviews
December 19, 2020
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 genetic connection there). While he starts the book by citing the work on epigenetics being done (specifically on Holocaust survivors and witnesses to 9/11), he very quickly takes a hard left into what can only be described as Freudian Psychoanalysis (complete with a focus on his patients' mothers), leaving any actual science or fact behind in favor of anecdote and speculation. Overall, this book was a disappointment at best, and a therapeutic tragedy at worst. The connection to what actually amounts to genetics is nonexistent, and the present work is sure to leave the uninformed reader with a plethora of unscientific and flat-out wrong ideas about the nature of genetic research specifically, and the scientific reality of psychological research more generally.
Profile Image for Tasha Driver.
Author 2 books23 followers
August 12, 2018
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 position???

In addition to the horrible "fixes" the author encourages, the audiobook promises PDF worksheets with the purchase of the audiobook, but never gives you the link to them, so half of what's supposed to help you can not even be accessed.
Profile Image for Maria.
112 reviews837 followers
March 15, 2022
// the following book discussion includes topics of trauma, abuse, childhood. //

// if this is a subject that triggers you, please skip this review <33

it’s really not worth it, i promise. //

personally, i was coming to this book to understand trauma better from a victim’s perspective. i think a great book that i read that i can give an example was by Marie-France Hirigoyen: “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity”. I read this a few years ago and it really shone a light on emotional abuse and how emotionals abusers work, how victims cope.

this though... i didn’t like this book.

i’ll start with the good takeaways from the book:
(1) the general idea that there are illnesses that have a genetic component, which give you a bigger PREDISPOSITION to have a mental illness, i.e. bipolar, depression, anxiety. (the author distorts this greatly though).

(2) making peace with past trauma that happened in YOUR life and you can’t change is important. taking steps to live in a loving, empathetic way, to yourself and others. being there for yourself.

what i didn’t like:

(1) it’s not our “job” to heal a relationship with an abusive parent.

“The last thing parents would want to see is their child suffering on their behalf. It is arrogant and inflated to think that we, as children, are better equipped to handle our parents’ suffering than they are. It is also out of tune with the order of life. Our parents existed before we did. They provided for us so that we could survive. We did not, as infants, provide for them.”

sir— just because someone can become a parent doesn't mean they know how to be a parent.

“Whether they’re dead or alive, whether they’re distant from them or our relationship is amicable, our parents — and the traumas they’ve experienced or inherited — hold the key to our healing.”

“summon the courage to let go of our judging minds, open our constricted hearts, and regard our parents and other family members with the light of compassion. Only by doing so can we resolve the pain that prevents us from wholly embrancing our lives.”

“Your job is to reconnect with the love you naturally felt for her when you were small. In this way, you can let go of what you might be carrying that actually belongs to her.”

“It will be important not to expect your parents to be any different from what they are — the change will occur in you. The relationship dynamics may remain the same, but your perspective will be different.”

it’s not a victim’s “job” to heal a relationship. it can take so much time to heal a wound like family trauma. and it takes efforts from both sides to make that relationship work again.

all i could think of when he went on and on about how a stronger & closer relationship with our parents make “healthier” people, was: what if the reader was physically, sexually abused by their parents?
situations of rape, assault.
these situations are not uncommon at all.

for someone to write a book with such a title and never address this once? on the contrary, writing a book where all of the responsibility to do and be better is on the victim?? completely baffled me. and the author could not stop talking about this epiphany of his of reconnecting, rebonding, relating again... in all of the chapters. it’s all this book is about. i’ll give examples but i just want to say that for this reason alone, i wouldn’t recommend this book to any trauma survivors from parents/tutors because it can be triggering, in my opinion. i would get it if one of the chapters was about reconnecting when ready, when advised, preferably with help from a psychiatrist, in CERTAIN types of trauma, with social support.
but nope.

“In order to end the cycle of inherited trauma in my family, and ultimately for my own healing, I realized that I needed to heal my relationship with my mother. I knew I couldn’t change what had happened in the past, but I certainly could change the relationship we had now.”

“It didn’t matter how they could or couldn’t love me. What mattered was how I could receive what they had to give. They were the same parents they’d always been. The difference was in me. I was falling back in love with them, the way I must have felt as a baby before the break in the bond with my mother occurred."

it’s just baffling to me that this whole book is about how good it is for a trauma victim to HAVE to reconnect to the abuser 10/10 times, no matter the circumstances.
sometimes distance from an abuser and making peace within ourselves is the best thing we can do heal.

(2) pseudoscience

the main point the author wants to drill through his readers, in which he truly believes, despite any evidence whatsoever, is that there is a way, through “genetics”, that a relative of yours, any generation, can give you their trauma. literally, if they lived a situation, like a war, or other horrid circumstances, that they can pass you their symptoms exactly, even the age of when it started! and so that’s how you get it. that’s it. pretty simple huh?

moreover, the author believes that just by him explaining that, people can heal. because if now they know that the source of their suicidal tendencies, anxiety, depression, insomnia, you name it, was their great-great-uncle, they can “make peace with their family history” and it just goes away. 🙂

how, you may ask? by “creating personal healing sentences” and “rituals, exercises, practices and healing images”, like placing a photo on the desk, lighting a candle, writing a letter, placing a photo above the bed (that’s different than on the desk), creating a boundary.

THERE’S SO MUCH WRONG WITH THIS that i don’t even know where to begin or start, and frankly, i don’t care enough to. i think it’s pretty evident the numerous flaws of this reasoning but what irked me the most was how the author used “science” to back this up and how an inexperienced reader can quickly trust him. and it’s what ultimately made me give this one star. it’s just not okay.

he references a few studies but none of them refer to the treatment of the diseases the author claims to see heal in the users of this technique or evidence to his idea of generational trauma.

there is one interesting molecular mechanism referenced: measuring the level of cortisol levels in family members of holocaust survivors: cortisol levels were diminished. HOWEVER, big HOWEVER, NO conclusions were taken from this study the way the author wants to: it doesn’t LINK our mental illness to a relative's or DERIVES any sort of treatment such as making peace with past abusers. it measured cortisol levels. that's it. just because a long distant relative of yours had PTSD or was a murderer, in no way means you or generations to come will display symptoms BECAUSE of the said relative.
the way he draws these studies to suit his conclusions is painful.

(3) let’s give a moment of silence for the way the author dismisses medical treatments.

“Gretchen had been admitted several times to a psychiatric hospital, where she was diagnosed as bipolar with a severe anxiety disorder. Medication brought her slight relief, but never touched the powerful suicidal urges that lived inside her.” “I asked if anyone in her family was Jewish or had been involved in the Holocaust. Gretchen started to say no, but then stopped herself and recalled a story about her grandmother.” “As I explained the connection, Gretchen listened intently. Her eyes widened and color rose in her cheeks. I could tell what I said was resonating.” “As Gretchen absorbed this understanding, seeing the family story in a new light, her body began to soften, as if something inside her that had long been coiled up could now relax.”

the simple SUGGESTION that you can heal bipolar disease by this method, and that medication is dispensable - just for a “slight relief”, is offensive, ignorant and i really really really don’t like it. let’s remind ourselves Mark has no medical qualifications.

“Typically, they might consult a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist and receive medications, therapy, or some combination of both. But although these avenues might bring some relief, generally they don’t provide a complete solution.”
constantly dismissing medical care like this? we love to see it 😍

“Somewhere along the way, I had even stopped thinking about my eye and worrying about whether it would improve or worsen. I no longer expected to be able to see clearly again. Not long afterward, my vision returned. (...) Ironically, after scouring the distant corners of the planets for answers, I found that the greatest resources for healing were already inside me just waiting to be excavated. Ultimately, healing is an inside job.”
the author decides that the reason why he’s not blind is because of meditation and foreign gurus 😩

(4) extremely repetitive book !!!
i felt the author go in circles and circles, and tell a bunch of stories to reach the same conclusion, this idea that he really wants to drill in our brains, grasping at straws, and really enforcing that he's the one who knows how to cure this.

(5) sooo many personal stories. everyone who knows a tiny bit of science knows that reports of one patient’s story is NOT a good way to do science. it doesn’t provide evidence of anything. there needs to be a controlled study. the stories of the patients all went like:
a) patient X presented with Y symptoms
b) i asked them if anyone in their family had Y.
c) patient X said a distant relative of theirs actually had that exactly at their own age !!
d) i told them that’s why they had it and that their “core language” is messed up.
e) patient X has an epiphany and is cured.

finally, i would like to mention that obviously Mark Wolyyn is not!!! a doctor!!! he doesn’t give proper disclaimers for that, or explanations on how he learned or got these conclusions from. he mentions in the first lines of the book he works (or owns?) an "institute”, and later that is a "clinician" but he is not!! a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

"It was through language that I entered the world of psychology. Both as a student and then as a clinician, I had little interest in tests and theories and models of behaviour. Instead, I heard language.”
holding that you don’t believe in models of behavior to your chest is NOT THE FLEX YOU THINK IT IS!!!!! these are incredibly important for the medical field and how we have continued doing better for our patients and having better standards of care.

so disappointed.
Profile Image for Degenerate Chemist.
833 reviews18 followers
October 2, 2021
I'm gonna skip rating this one. It is a self help book on dealing with intergenerational trauma. I was more interested in the scientific discussions on emotion, genetics, and epigenetics. That took up the first 50 pages. The rest was the technique wolynn uses to treat his patients.

I think the technique Wolynn uses is probably effective. However, it depends on what kind of relationship you have with your parents and how much information you have on your family history.

I have issues with this for a few reasons- 1) insisting on mending fences with your parents no matter what is a bad idea 2) knowing your family history back to 3 or 4 generations is not possible for some people.

So possibly a worthwhile book, it just didn't have the kind of information I was interested in.
Profile Image for Charlie.
512 reviews27 followers
May 26, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
August 29, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Catherine.
294 reviews3 followers
May 25, 2018
The heavy emphasis on reconciling with parents without regard to abuse was alarming and made me question his further advice.
Profile Image for Benan.
208 reviews24 followers
December 19, 2018
Bazı depresyon süreçlerimize eşlik eden sebebini bilemediğimiz olumsuz duygularımızı atalarımızın çözülmemiş travmalarından aldığımızı ileri süren ancak bunun nasıl gerçekleştiğini bilimsel temellere tam olarak oturtamadan açıklamaya çalışan bir kitap. Başından itibaren şüphe ile okudum diyebilirim. Biraz da vakit kaybı gibi geldi ama bitirdiğimde, kalıtım mekanizmasının nasıl çalıştığını az çok hatırlamama ve epigenetiğe daha detaylı bakmama vesile olması açısından kitabın hoşuma gittiğini farkettim.

Duygularımızı etkileyen epigenetik faktörlerin açıklandığı ilk bir kaç bölümü okurken somut biyolojik ve kimyasal olayların detaylı olarak açıklanacağı beklentisindeydim ancak olumsuz duyguları olumlu yönde nasıl dönüştürebileceğimizin açıklandığı bölümlere geçtikten sonra bu beklentimin boşa çıkacağını az çok tahmin ettim. Tabiî ki, stres altında bir hamilelik dönemi yaşayan bir annenin bebeğinin kanındaki kortizol seviyesinin gerektiği şekilde olmayabileceğini anlayabiliyorum. Bu arada, bilim dünyasında kortizol seviyesi ile ilgili birbiri ile çelişen bilgiler olduğunu da görmüş oldum. Ayrıca, anladığım kadarıyla, ihtiyaç duyduğum detaylı bilgilere ulaşabilmem için epigenetiğin önünde alması gereken bir hayli yol var. Annenin kaygısının devam etmesi halinde bu kaygının çocuğa beden ve sözlü dil ile bulaştırılabileceğini de bu kitabı okumadan önce, epigenetiği hiç hesaba katmadan tahmin edebiliyordum. Bu kitapta epigenetik veriler üzerinden yapılmaya çalışılan bilimsel açıklamalar ile anlatılan vakalarda önerilen iyileşme yolları arasındaki bağlantı bana pek net görünmedi. Yazar psikolojideki bazı genel geçer doğruları tekrarlarken yeni bir bilim dalı olan epigenetiği kullanarak yepyeni bir iyileşme yöntemi geliştirmiş gibi mi yapıyor acaba diye kötü kötü düşünmedim desem yalan olur. :-) Sonuçta, sebebini bildiğimiz olumsuzluklar karşısında çoğunlukla daha az korku hissettiğimiz ve duygularımıza serinkanlı yaklaşabildiğimiz genel bir gerçek değil mi? Kendisinin ve çevresindekilerin davranışlarını geçmişten gelebilecek bazı problemleri düşünerek sorgulayıp değerlendiren bir bireyin zaten sorduğu sorular kitaptakiler. Kitap  kendimiz, ebeveynlerimiz ve onların anne babalarının çözülmemiş travmalarından söz ediyor. Diğer aile bireyleri ile az çok zaman geçiren ve sorgulama yapmaktan kaçınmayan bir bireyin kendisinin ve diğerlerinin davranışlarındaki dinamiği şöyle böyle kestirmesi çok da zor olmaz diye düşünüyor insan. İşte, yazarın depresyondaki bir kişinin sormasını istediği sorular, yeterli iletişimi kurmayı becerememiş bu kişiyi zaten diğer aile bireyleri ile iletişim sağlamaya itiyor. Geçmişte olan bitenin canlı tanıkları olan diğer aile bireyleri ile doğru sorular eşliğinde iletişime geçmek depresyondaki kişiye ihtiyaç duyduğu huzuru ve güveni zaten veriyor yanlış anlamadıysam. Depresyonda göz ardı edilebilecek gerçekleri hatırlatma işlevi de görebilir bu sorular belki. Sebebi epigenetik faktörler olsun ya da olmasın olumsuz duyguları iyileştirebilmek adına geçerli bir adım gibi görünüyor.

Yazarın, depresyondaki kişinin hayatta olmayan ve travmasından izler devraldığı kişiye ritüel eşliğinde söylemesi gereken cümleleri hazır bir şekilde sunması garip geldi bana. Bir kitap okuma ile travmanın izlerinden çözülüp tamam iyileşme fikri çok da ikna edici gelmiyor bana. Mesela bir yakınınızın öldüğü gün yemek yemekte zorlanabilirsiniz. Yaptığınız şeylerden suçluluk duyabilirsiniz. Ölen kişinin kendisi hayatta olsaydı sizin aç kalmanızı  istemeyeceğini aklınızdan geçirdiğinizde bu duygunuz yatışır. Yazar bu tip bir durumu incelerken size o kişinin ruhunun sizinle birlikte olduğunu hayal edip ona bunu söylemenizi tavsiye ediyor yanlış anlamadıysam. Ancak tam bu noktada, bazı okurların bu durumu, ruhlar ölmez ve bizimledir gibi algılaması çok da ihtimal dışı değil bence. Bu da kitabın biraz spiritüel tarafı olduğunu söyletebilir insanlara.

Ölümden sonra ruhların var olabileceğine hiç inanmayan biri olarak kitap bu yönüyle biraz itici de geldi bana. Elimden geldiğince dikkatli okumaya devam ederek ruhçuluk barındırıp barındırmadığını düşündüm. Barındırmadığını ama okurlarına ve danışanlarına tavsiye ettiği  ritüellerle psikoterapistin yanlış anlaşılabileceğine karar verdim. Bir insanın kendisine yöneltilen doğru sorularla kendi kendine çıkarabileceği teselli verici bir takım gerçekleri bu tür ritüellerle hatırlatmak da bir yol olabilir belki ama bana pek tekin gelmedi doğrusu.

Sebebi belirsiz olumsuz duygularımızın kökeni bilimsel olarak epigenetiğe bağlanıyorsa, bu duyguların olumlu yönde dönüştürülmesi işi de bir şekilde epigenetiğe bağlanmamalı mı diye soruyor insan. Tam olarak hangi genlerde hangi  kimyasal reaksiyonun olduğunu göstermediği sürece yazarın travmalar konusunda epigenetiğe yaptığı gönderme ile ikna olmam pek mümkün değil. Örneğin korkunca bedenimizde bir takım kimyasal reaksiyonlar olur ama bu reaksiyonlar korktuğumuz nesne veya olaya göre değişiklik gösterir mi?! Jesse'nin daha önce hiç tanımadığı ve hakkında hiç bir şey bilmediği amcası 19 yaşındayken donarak ölüyor. Jesse'nin kendisi de tam 19 yaşındayken uykuya dalarsa kendine kötü bir şey olacağını düşünerek ve üşüyerek uykusuzluk çekmeye başlıyor. Bu durumda, 19. yaşı da hesaba katan hangi spesifik genin ekspresyonu hangi kimyasal reaksiyonla değişime uğruyor? Anılar yanıltıcı olamaz mı? Jesse çok küçük yaştayken yanında hiç kimsenin ölen amcadan hiç bahsetmediğine bu kadar emin olunabilir mi?

Kitapta bahsedilen epigenetik yaklaşımı daha iyi tartabilmek için youtube'da epigenetik, DNA'nın kalıtımdaki işlevi, protein sentezi, metilasyon gibi konular üzerine 10-15 civarında video seyrettim ve sonuçta bu kitapta açıklanan vakalarla epigenetik değişiklikleri bağdaştıramadığımı farkettim. Bu kitabın geçmişte atalarımızın yaşadığı travmaların izini taşıyabileceğimiz konusunda beni ikna edebilecek somut açıklamalar sunmadığına karar verdim. Konu ilginizi çektiyse, aşağıda belirttiğim videoları da izlemenizi tavsiye ederim.




Öte yandan, yazarın geleneksel konuşma terapisinin çektiğimiz acının ana nedeni olarak anne-babalarımızı görüp onları suçlamaya odaklandığını söylemesi de pek etik gelmedi bana. Bir psikiyatristle bir kaç seans geçirmiş biri olarak bunun doğruluğuna pek inanamadım. Bir zamanlar travma sonrası stres bozukluğu teşhisi konmuş biri olarak tedavi sürecimde, kan bağım olan insanlar hiç bir şekilde gündeme bile gelmedi. Hatta yanlış hatırlamıyorsam, varoluşçu psikoterapide bundan özellikle kaçınılır. Danışanın eskiden yaşamış olabileceği herhangi bir travmayı hatırlatabilecek ya da tetikleyebilecek sorulardan psikoterapistler özellikle uzak durur.

Psikoloji eğitimim yoktur, sadece zaman zaman insan psikolojisi ile ilgili kitaplar okurum. Sıradan bir okur olarak diğer insanların özellikle de psikoloji eğitimi almış kişilerin bu kitapla ilgili neler düşündüklerini de merak ettim. Şunu gördüm ki, bu kitap Türkiye'de diğer ülkelere göre çok daha fazla kabul görmüş. Benzer travmaları sıkça yaşamış ve öte dünyaya inancı kuvvetli bir toplumda yaşadığımızı düşününce çok da şaşırmadım. Kitap sanırım koçluk eğitim çalışmaları da olan bir kurum tarafından Türkçeye kazandırılmış. Türkiye'deki koçluk kurumlarına da pek güvenmediğim için bu kitabın insanların yaralarından faydalanabilecek kişiler için bir araç olmamasını diliyorum.

Geçen sene  okuduğum Yardım Etmenin Düzenleri isimli kitabın yazarı Bert Hellinger'e bu kitapta sıkça gönderme yapıldığını görmek de büyük bir tesadüf oldu benim için. Yardım Etmenin Düzenleri ile ilgili yazdıklarıma bakınca okumayı planladığımı hatırladığım Sevgiyle Yükselmek isimli kitabını okuma listemden çıkarmaya karar verdim.

Kolektif travma ile ilgili olarak somut açıklamalar okuyabilme ümidim de boşa çıktı.

Sonuç olarak; sadece biyoloji bilgimi kısmen tazeleme ve epigenetiğe biraz daha yakından bakma fırsatı verdiği için kitabı okuduğuma memnun kaldım.
Profile Image for Joy Matteson.
591 reviews54 followers
September 30, 2021
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 member--a mother or father, most likely, but also a grandparent or other relative who's been traumatized. Wolynn believes that this language is the key to resolving these family issues, especially if the trauma has never been brought up in a family of origin. For instance, if a mother had a miscarriage or stillborn death in the family and never spoke of it again to her next-born daughter, that daughter may one day carry the guilt and shame of being "invisible", just like her long lost sibling was.
The best piece I took away from this book was that the individuals who suffered the most from this inherited family trauma came from ancestors who NEVER spoke of the trauma, except in bits and pieces that most likely terrified the young child who heard of the family lore that never got resolved. Wolynn's whole practice is dedicated to helping make these familial connections to trauma to help individuals let go of the anxiety, depression, or suicidal guilt that may actually have little to do with their own traumatic events. Wolynn is convinced that reconciliation with these family members, especially estranged parents, is the key to helping adults resolve their problems.

One caveat: I wish deeply he would have covered is a family history of sexual abuse. He covers almost every other area--murders in the family, alcoholism, etc, but how do you reconcile with a parent (or parents) who sexually abused and manipulated you? Especially if sexual abuse runs for several generations, as it often does? Unfortunately, he doesn't cover this topic in the book, which is a shame. Because I believe there are ways to come to deep compassion and forgiveness to help an individual let go of their trauma that was inflicted on them by their parents so that they don't have to repeat the abuse.

Overall, this book is recommended for counselors, and those individuals who've suffered trauma that they cannot easily find cause for.
March 25, 2023
Насправді, я розумію про що пише автор.
Але те, ЯК він це пише - оцього не розумію.

Приклади були схожими на "битву екстрасенсів", а ще... автор все намагався проілюструвати прикладами з життя, і всі вони мені були схожими на трохи іншу проблеми - так, на тяглість поколінь. Але не тому що гени, а тобі що всі ми родом з дитинства, нашого дому і підсвідомого переосмислення тих дитячих спогадів. Хіба ні?

Profile Image for Leila.
16 reviews49 followers
September 27, 2019
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 pass through generations. But to so strongly suggest that you need to make peace and just move on, to mend a broken relationship with a parent no matter what because boohoo they probably have been through a/the trauma too? Fuck no.

Profile Image for Floralisa.
53 reviews10 followers
May 2, 2019
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 peace with their abusers in order to overcome their problems.

I wanted to give this book a fair shot because some of it resonated with me, but I skimmed through the second half. I just couldn't take it.
Profile Image for Gabrielė Bužinskaitė.
174 reviews56 followers
January 11, 2023
Rubbish. I had such high expectations for this book, yet it ended up being nothing but pseudoscience with invented (?) stories of his magically cured patients.

I give credit where credit is due—the research in the beginning was enlightening. I learned a few things about genetics that I had no clue about, and it opened me up a whole new field to explore.

However, two major red flags.

Firstly, the author, with all respect, is a terrible writer. He struggles to convey his ideas in a precise manner. He over-explains and repeats himself so much; I kept getting confused if I’m again reading the same page I had just read. Where was the editor? This book could have been half its length without losing any important information.

Secondly, the author claims to have a magic cure. All his patients could not be healed in any other institutions, but once they stepped into his room, bam! Suicide plans gone, life-long traumas forgotten, saved and reborn. Seriously? Guys, it takes a second to google. He’s the director and founder of many psychiatric institutes in America. He has his own website. I don’t have to point out the obvious, do I?

Anyway, the worst of all, his stories were not even believable. One of his patients gambled his life away at 26. The author helped him find out that his absent father, too, did just the same at 26. They reconnected, the patient was cured. Then, the same story again: the patient at age x starts having y issues. Then, the author finds out his parent or grandparent or even uncle, too, had y issues at age x. They restore the relationship. The patient is healed.

I admit I have not googled anything about the book nor have I checked any reviews before I read it. It seems I’m one of many dissatisfied with this book. Eh.
Profile Image for Driver.
556 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2018
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 thing and claim there was no other way than to basically re-traumatize yourself and get yourself into a possibly still abusive and dangerous situation.
This was indeed the reason I couldn't rate this book 3.5-4 full stars as initially intended but it barely made the 2.5 mark.
Profile Image for Aviendha.
306 reviews18 followers
December 9, 2018
Kitabın bilimsellikten uzak, kutsal kitaplarla ilişkilendirilmiş anlatımı ile verdiği örneklemeler bana yeterli gelmedi. Kaynak belirterek yaptığı çıkarımların ardından, İncil’den sunduğu alıntılar resmen ne okuyorum kaygısına düşme sebebi. Keşke yalnızca araştırma kitabı olarak kalsaydı.
Profile Image for Figgy.
678 reviews220 followers
August 17, 2021

Yeah, so my suspicions about this being a lot of pseudoscience the author himself doesn't seem to grasp fully, and over which he would exercise some "handwavium" to make it fit his narrative, does seem to have panned out.

There was some useful stuff here, but from about two or three chapters into the book through to two or three chapters from the end... It was all filled with talk about how the onus to repair the relationship is on the child. That child sometimes being the victim of emotional or physical abuse at the hands of their parents. And it's okay that the parent did that because... there were happy times, too, right? And they weren't ALWAYS abusive. And if you think they were, that's because an ingrained negativity-bias means we remember situations in which we feel in danger, not the good times, as a means of survival. And even if they were always abusive, it's because stuff happened to them first. And it's up to YOU to fix it.

When a child decides to end a relationship with their parent, they don't tend to do so lightly.

Proper review to come... this was just me spewing out my immediate thoughts.


There are some interesting references so far, but I don't entirely think they back up Wolynn's message like he thinks they do.

He talks about epigenetic trauma as though it was almost a "haunting".

A life completely devoid of trauma, as we're learning, is highly unlikely. Traumas do not sleep, even with death, but, rather, continue to look for the fertile ground of resolution in the children of the following generations. Fortunately, human beings are resilient and are capable of healing most types of trauma. This can happen at any time during our lives. We just need the right insights and tools.

Yes, he's right, it does depend on having the right insights and tools, but I would posit that the reason trauma travels through generations is not because it's "searching for fertile ground" like a sentient being, but rather because as humans reproduce and perpetrate their own traumas on their children (sometimes, not always, and not always intentionally so much as a subliminal message conveyed to our children that carries with it our own fears), that trauma continues, we gain access to more resources, and people start to look into the mechanisms behind trauma, enabling that generation to be the one to stop the cycle.

I think it has a lot to do with timing and resources, and not so much to do with that sentient trauma crying out to be heard, looked at, and healed.

Yes, it IS our responsibility to heal our trauma, including the stuff passed onto us by previous generations, so we don't pass it onto our kids. But that also doesn't mean that envisioning our ancestors and telling them we can't carry their trauma any more is a magical cure.

Also, that stuff about people inheriting trauma from family members who died and were not in the direct blood-line, as opposed to the parent who had survivor's guilt, grief, and fear of their own mortality backs up the speculation that Wolynn thinks trauma is more akin to a sentient spirit that will haunt your family.

Still reading, but with eyes open.
Profile Image for Justin.
414 reviews
November 28, 2016
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 we experience trauma more easily or more abundantly. The same with our parents parents and so on. Trauma spans generations.

The book itself was well researched and the premise was well argued. At times, the writing was a bit dry, but that is expected in a book covering this topic. There isn't really a way to jazz up childhood or adulthood trauma. I would imagine a small group would get a lot out of this and I know I certainly did. The great thing to note, while reading it, is you are reading an expert on trauma. Make note of that.

I gave this one 4 stars.

*I wish to thank NetGalley and Viking for the ability to read this. It was received for free in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Andrew.
Author 6 books121 followers
January 7, 2019
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."
--Thich Nhat Hanh, A Lifetime of Peace
Profile Image for Aimee.
416 reviews8 followers
December 31, 2019
I stopped reading this a few chapters in due to the author's belief that you can inherit trauma through an UNCLE who died before you were born. There is some interesting information though in the book and this is a very exciting field, however the author casts doubt on everything that he has written when he proposes this sort of "inheritance".
Profile Image for Angela.
602 reviews1,286 followers
January 2, 2023
You have to really know, and talk to your family for this to work. I’m not talking like your brothers and sisters. I’m talking mom, dad, uncles, aunts, grandma, grandpa, Greats and so on.

For most, this isn’t realistic.

If you’re looking to heal, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.
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