I saw another friend read It Didn’t Start with You by Mark Wolynn on Goodreads, and decided to give this therapy book a try. It Didn’t Start with You talks about how family trauma is inherited and how we can work to break the cycle of trauma.

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The summary, from Amazon:

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 experiences 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 20 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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

Buy It Didn’t Start with You here.

In this book, Mark Wolynn shares exercises he uses in therapy to help people understand inherited family trauma and how it affects them. I appreciated that his methods are based on science, sharing evidence that trauma affects through three generations on a DNA level. Wolynn shares real word examples from his own patients, and their stories are as inspiring and empowering as they originally were heartbreaking. Through the exercises provided, I was able to understand my “core complaint” in life and where it may have come from on a generational level. This book had me talking with my parents about their experiences in life, what my childhood was like before I have memory, and stories about my grandparents’ youth that really brought things into perspective.

I will say this felt a little repetitive at times, but overall I enjoyed listening to the audiobook, narrated by the author, at about 1.3x speed. Some of the methods might not work for everyone. For example, I can’t imagine forgiving a relative who was abusive or harmful, though this might be healing for some. Overall, I found this book to be helpful and the first third of it to be extremely interesting. I learned so much from this read and rate it 4 stars.

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It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the CycleIt Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I felt like the ending dragged on with examples but overall this was a helpful book. I did some talking with family that made me realize how much my trauma was connected to the trauma of others and that was healing. Listened to the audiobook around 1.3x speed.

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Book Club Questions

  1. What did you learn from this title?
  2. Did any of the studies or examples surprise you?
  3. Did this title help you in any way?

Interested? Buy It Didn’t Start with You.
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P.S. I listened to this book on Audible. Try Audible and get two free audiobooks!

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