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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

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,961 ratings  ·  258 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
Kindle Edition, 251 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Viking
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  1,961 ratings  ·  258 reviews

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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
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 ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sep 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bonnie Mattson
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 ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, egalley
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 ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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). ...more
Joy Matteson
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nathan Albright
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
May 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Floralisa Ortega
May 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
Passenger B.
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
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
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 ...more
Aubree Deimler
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephanie Held
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.

Shakespeare said, “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” Often repeated and even more often actualized, this concept of the transference of “sins” through a generation is now supported by scientific evidence, as explained in Mark Wolynn’s It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.

This groundbreaking work on generational trauma educates, comforts, and empowers individuals from all
Elizabeth Andrew
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."
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.
Veronica F.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tasha Driver
Aug 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm interested in reading more about intergenerational trauma and epigenetics, but I don't think this book does any favors to this subfield of emerging research. This particular text feels more like metaphysics.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the concepts in this book interesting, but I can't say I completely agree. There were parts that made perfect sense and other parts that were too far fetched.
Anne Hamilton
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The practical examples of how epigenetics unfolds down family lines (and sometimes not through direct descent) are illuminating and thought-provoking. The concept that, by listening closely to the wording people use, to their specific choice of language, it's possible to gain deep insight into the original trauma is one I use constantly myself - but have never before seen articulated in print. The challenge is implicit: if nothing is ever truly forgotten, but simply manifests itself in different ...more
Ramona Mead
May 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF at p50. The material here is much denser than I expected, and not quite what I was looking for. It's interesting to consider how trauma our ancestors faced affects us, and maybe it's simply not the right time for me to take in all this info. I had to keep re-reading passages to understand the technical terms.
Jenn Sarich
Started off strong. I am fascinated by epigenetics and inter generational trauma, the creation of new neural paths etc. but I got lost about half way in, maybe because it wasn’t relatable, eg. My parents were always there and supportive, whereas narratives in the book weren’t so much.
I give 5/5 to the concept of the book but 3/5 based on my personal experiences w the book.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
Very useful for getting a basic understanding of how family trauma influences your present with advice for approaching that trauma and letting it go in a healthy way. A focus on building awareness and a compassionate guide to working yourself through some ways to release family trauma.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting food for thought about how our family’s history may form some of our unconscious beliefs and motivations.
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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
“The words we use to describe our worries and struggles can say more than we realize” 2 likes
“Written Exercise #1: Investigating Your Core Complaint Focus on a problem that’s most pressing in your life right now. It might be an issue with your health, your job, your relationship—any issue that disrupts your sense of safety, peace, security, or well-being. What is the deepest issue you want to heal? Maybe it’s a problem that feels overwhelming to you. Maybe it’s a symptom or a feeling you’ve had all your life. What do you want to see shift? Don’t edit yourself. Write down what feels important to you. Write it down as it comes to you. For example, you may carry a fear of something terrible happening to you in the future. It doesn’t matter what comes out; just keep writing. If nothing comes, answer this one question: If the feeling or symptom or condition you have never goes away, what would you be afraid could happen to you? Don’t continue reading until you’ve written down your most pressing concern.” 1 likes
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