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Summary

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.

©2016 Mark Wolynn (P)2016 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Mark Wolynn does a masterful job of illuminating the ways in which our ancestors' unresolved suffering, often unknown to us, disables us and binds us painfully to them. He gives us the tools and skills - an approach that combines understanding, imaginative dialogues, and compassionate reconnection - to free and heal ourselves." (James S. Gordon, MD, author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey out of Depression)
" It Didn't Start with You takes us a big step forward, advancing the fields of trauma therapy, mindfulness applications, and human understanding. It is a bold, creative, and compassionate work." (Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness)
"This groundbreaking book offers a compelling understanding of inherited trauma and fresh, powerful tools for relieving its suffering. Mark Wolynn is a wise and trustworthy guide on the journey toward healing." (Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge)

What listeners say about It Didn't Start with You

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A book that must be finished before judging

Outstanding book i hated it at first was even considering asking for my money back. Its my first audible book i bought only took me 2 days to listen to it & do all the task but has completely changed my view of my parents. I've heard so many times in life you must forgive your parents but never really understand why until now. I hated this until i got to about chapter 10 i was so angry listening to it. My parents were very abusive & abandoned me very young which lead to abusive childhood which i had never truly forgiven them for, now i understand by not forgiving them am also not forgiving myself. Fighting life trying to not be like them unknowingly i've actually created the same relationship they had, which i must forgive them so i can forgive myself. I now understand the importance of knowing your history. This is a book that until you get to the end you dont see its true value & its true healing. Would highly recommend this book especially if you come from a dysfunctional childhood. This book is also good for those suffering from anxiety, misery, depression, deep seated sadness, fear, loneliness, it will help you find the root cause which you maybe completely unaware of. This book will help you find healing within yourself. So glad this was my first audible book looking forward to my next one :)

60 people found this helpful

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Valuable, but with a health warning

There is lots of wisdom in this book. A wonderful exploration of generational trauma, delivered with the best intentions. However, Wolynn’s consistent, dogged assertion that you must reunite with your family, regardless of the level of trauma they may have caused you, lacks nuance or sufficient practical compassion.

13 people found this helpful

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Complete mess and potentially dangerous

If you are currently emotionally or mentally vulnerable right now, please do not pick up this (audio)book.

I can’t actually think of anything, that I liked about this book. For starters, I don’t understand how a book talking about multi-generational trauma (including murder, suicides, and abuse) can include self-help exercises at all AND encourage people to do trauma work on their own. This is completely unsafe and potentially triggering to people, because they are encouraged to face their demons, when they might not even have a support network or access to mental health services in place. It infuriates me to think, that someone vulnerable could pick up this audiobook, attempt to “fix” themselves or their circumstances, that are totally out of control, and actually end up feeling very low or even suicidal.

Also, this is all based on pseudo-science and admittedly starts off quite promising by explaining how family trauma can be transmitted through epigenetics, but then it derails into a psychoanalytic mess. Almost as though a sprinkle of actual science to begin with makes it okay to encourage people to do potentially dangerous trauma work on their own, based on some random case studies.

Of course, not everything that’s useful must be supported by science, but if you’re trying to increase your credibility by adding scientific evidence, do it right and thoroughly. So many claims were based on one-off “case studies” (they sounded very questionable to me, but that’s another story...), but the author should have been transparent about the limitations of these claims, which are based on a handful of (questionable) case studies.

46 people found this helpful

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Overly simplistic solution to highly complex stuff

You as a child are responsible for your parents behaviour. Was there abuse? No worries, just get over it! Oh, thanks, I'm cured. That's the summary. I wished I hadn't bought this book.

7 people found this helpful

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Oh dear!

Some very good research in one chapter but a strong agenda to shame people who do not wish to have a relationship with their parents. No alternatives given. I would recommend Attachment Focused EMDR instead of forcing relationships that can put vulnerable people at risk of abuse.

5 people found this helpful

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Damaging

I wouldn't get this book if your mother is your abuser, I felt it was damaging, and made the mother the victim, it made me angry

40 people found this helpful

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Really insightful and compelling

It's seems in some ways like quite an out there idea but they are good and making you see how this could be why I carry so much more than I can explain it opened up the connections in my family's past and my grandad a life was ruins by ptsd that started the same age as mine, which I have spent my life battling with, it connects you to the big picture and facilitates forgiveness I think or at least has planted a seed I have to go back and do all the exercises properly but I think it's great for those who have found it it's likely you came to it for a reason! Merry Christmas xx

11 people found this helpful

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The writers shouldn’t necessarily narrate themselves.

The writer is the narrator and a bad one. His voice is shaky and it seems like he’s begging throughout the book. The book starts with very interesting scientific information on genetics which later on seems to be bolted on. The body of the book is not scientific or spiritual. It’s how a yoga teacher with 200 hours yoga teacher training and no education would try to solve deep psychological issues. There are some truth in it but the useful information and exercise could be boiled down to 2 hours . Overall not recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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Part evidence-based, part pseudo-science

Interesting listen. You do have to sift through some odd pseudo-science psychobabble anecdotes about how a crime commited by your grandfather will result in the punishment of the son. I'm happy that it helps people and its interesting to know that stress can be handed down via cortisol levels in de womb. But whenever he says "I had a client in my private practice" you know you have to close your ears and hum along.

1 person found this helpful

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  • HD
  • 08-03-21

Difficult

This book is exhausting, both in content and narration.

It’s just so difficult to listen to and not helpful at all, which is a shame as it promised so much.

The narrator just sounds odd and makes listening uncomfortable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Deborah J.
  • 14-10-18

It Didn't Start With You

I listened to the first 6 chapters of this book and appreciated the author's experience and the experiences of many others that he shared. I found the research about genetics and trauma extremely informative.
However, I am a survivor of childhood abuse and suffer from extreme CPTSD ( ptsd that is a result of the caregiver being the perpetrator of the trauma) and I found the author to be lacking in his knowledge of and ability to address my particular experience.
In chapter 6 he begins to lead the reader (listener)through an exercise in visualizing the parents as appearing before ones self and noticing the sensations in one's body as they take a step closer.
My stomach was clenched in knots and I felt terror and the urge to run as far away as I could get.
The author then urges the listener to feel the life force of the parents. I tried to follow along as best I could, denying my urge to turn off the audio. I felt the sensations of electric shocks, sharp and stinging throughout my body. I thought, this is because of the sharp stinging beatings I received constantly from my mother !!
The author goes on to give 4 options for the sensations the listener is feeling. He says that if you are feeling closed off or rejecting of your mother the problem is with You and not your mother. He says that one must imagine the mother with all the trauma she must have experienced and realize that she just dis not have the love to give. The examples of trauma that are given are that the mother is too preoccupied with her own traumatic experiences to be able to give the child the love they felt they should have had.
I find this author to have a gross misunderstanding and lack of knowledge surrounding child abuse. He seems to have a firm grasp on generational trauma and I understand the premise and intent of his book but these exercises could actually cause more harm than good for those of us who have suffered horrific abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to nurture us.

92 people found this helpful

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  • Schmonka
  • 03-02-17

Not audible friendly, get written version

Not good as an audible book because every five out ten minutes he's telling you to stop the book until you do the written exercise. I'll never finish my laundry this way!

82 people found this helpful

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  • Lyndsay
  • 05-11-20

As a professional...

This book is a dumpster fire of apologist garbage. Speaking as a therapist specializing in trauma where parents are largely perpetrators of abuse, listening to this book made me exceedingly angry. For fucks sake at least know the difference between unconscious and subcontious, you quack.

I only got through the first two chapters of appropriating white male privilege nonsense before I turned it off, sick to my stomach. The authors self-sharing is tone deaf and wildly inappropriate... if you're looking for self-help to heal from abuse by your parents, this is the worst book you could pick up.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 04-12-16

New approaches to self discovery and healing

Wolynn's basic theory is that we sometimes inherit trauma from people throughout our family tree, not just in our immediate family, but from people in our extended family, maybe even from previous generations. Pain and psychological issues can be passed down from one generation to the next even when the source of that pain has been shrouded in silence. You might have a fear of being suffocated, for example, because of the trauma experienced by a great-grandparent who died by asphyxiation, even if you can't recall ever hearing about his or her life and death. The process by which this happens is somewhat mysterious, but Wolynn presents it in a very eloquent and articulate way. Whatever the mechanism, these traumas can block us off from our own vitality and happiness, causing all kinds of psychological issues and health problems. The way to reclaim that vitality is by healing the divide between ourselves and disowned family members, by reaching out to them for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation. Wolynn's techniques for doing that are effective. I've gone through the exercises and have had some amazing insights.

I do share some of the concerns expressed by other reviewers of this book; namely, that it's not necessarily a good idea to attempt reconciliation with a parent (or other family member) who's abused you in the past, or is actively hostile to you in the present. So many of Wolynn's examples are of people who inadvertently harmed us due to circumstances out of their control--you may have fears of abandonment because your mother was hospitalized while you were a child, and so on. What about people who have inherited trauma from family members who inflicted pain and abuse on the people around them? I think the ideas in this book are still valid, but I would like to hear the author speak more directly on the topic of abuse and neglect. It would be a GREAT subject for a follow-up book.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Victor
  • 09-08-16

Valuable insights one big flaw

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The book is a very mixed piece of work, valuable as a manual on Hellinger family trauma work and very doubtful when it sets as an ultimate goal for adult children to understand the limitations of the parents, take responsibility for the break up in a relationship with their parents, and repent. The book recommends to all listeners as a resolution to contact their parents and tell them "Mom/Dad I miss you, I am sorry for not being more loving and pushing you away". The approach seems to work for the cases presented in the book. A serious flaw that I see comes from applying this advice to cases of child abuse that can and should be classified as criminal offence - rape, molastacion, severe/systematic beating. The author dose not talk about such cases but by coaching all childhood trauma survivors toward loving their parents and expressing remorse/responsibility for the break up in the relationship with them he inadvertently sends the victims down the path where they ae responsible for their rape/torture etc. The reason I think it's a very big flaw of this book is because it takes a lot of courage and coaching for such victims to overcome shame and properly direct their anger on the abusive parents and not on themselves and here the book can be potentially very misleading.

Would you recommend It Didn't Start with You to your friends? Why or why not?

No, I would recommend something else on Hellinger therapy

136 people found this helpful

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  • Stephanie S.
  • 09-10-18

Plays fast and loose with research

First, the narration was painful. The author should have hired someone else to do it. Secondly, he plays fast and loose with research, using just enough to be credible and then making outrageous claims and leaps that the research doesn’t support. He’s also basically repackaging well-known psychological theories, mainly CBT and family systems, as his own and trying to make money off them while being weirdly personal and spiritual. Save yourself some time and go straight to those theories instead.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Hannah C.
  • 27-09-18

Intolerable narration

It is very difficult to listen to this book because the voice is robotic. I am very interested in the topic but it is hard to easily listen and focus on the content due to the voice, speed, and style of reading.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Nelly
  • 26-07-18

Too one-sided

I think the author shared some great points however, the common theme I'm hearing is, "As the adult child, you must forgive your mom and dad for whatever they did or didn't do and it is your job to make peace with them no matter what." I feel for children of addicts, or children of parents who abused them sexually, this would be a difficult task. It seems to be very one sided where the author doesn't even acknowledge that the parents have some faults, but moreso, they had their flaws, but you should get over it in order to heal.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Maggie Hess
  • 18-11-17

Surprised by the spiritual nature & direction this

Well I tend to love books with deeply personal, spiritual accounts, and scientific data to back it. This book ticks all the boxes! I adore the part about Wolynn's personal life and what he overcame. Won't give anything away. It's an act of bravery to work on yourself. Congratulations.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Phoebe Pham
  • 29-07-17

Not recommend

There are some helpful information but most of the stories/exemplifications sound more like coincidence rather than empirical evidence. All of his patients seemed to be able to ask their parents and grandparents about the traumatic events that happened with the past generations, but what about the trauma that are already buried with the ones who passed away? We can never know anything then and even when we ask, parents may not give us the truth. What to do then? You would never learned how it all started and wouldn't be able to fix anything?

10 people found this helpful