A groundbreaking approach to transforming traumatic legacies passed down in families over generations.




It Didn’t Start With You (Viking, 2016) shows how the traumas of our parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents can help to explain psychological symptoms and conditions that were previously a mystery. This “inherited family trauma” can live in our own anxious words, fears, behaviors and unexplained physical symptoms.

Weaving together the latest epigenetic research with his own experience working with thousands of clients, author Mark Wolynn (director of the Family Constellation Institute) guides you on an experiential journey into your own traumatic past and helps you to identify the limiting patterns in your family history and resolve the feelings and behaviors you’ve unknowingly adopted that keep the cycle of suffering alive from generation to generation.


Also known as “secondary PTSD,” inherited family trauma is based on a simple insight: the effects of trauma can pass from one generation to the next, and the answers to some of our greatest life problems often lie not within our own story, but in the experiences of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and extended family.

This traumatic legacy is rooted in the latest epigenetic research, which shows how traumatic memories are biologically transmitted through chemical changes in our DNA. 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 in those in the present. And while inherited physical traits are easily discernible, this emotional legacy is often hidden, encoded in everything from gene expression to everyday language.

Using myriad stories from Mark’s own work with clients, It Didn’t Start With You gives you a deep understanding of how inherited family trauma manifests in our lives:

  • A woman whose desire to end her own life was unconsciously connected to her grandmother, who lost her entire family in the Holocaust.
  • A man carrying a heavy and mysterious sense of guilt was unknowingly connected to a murder that his father committed, but was never arrested for.
  • Unbeknownst to her, a woman whose sudden loss of love for her husband was traced to her grandmother, who lost her husband tragically at the same age.
  • A woman whose panic attacks were unknowingly connected to the suicide of her grandfather, a man she never met.
  • A woman who carried an inexplicable sense of shame that was unconsciously connected to her Irish grandmother who had been ostracized by her village as a young woman after her husband left her.
  • A young Cambodian-American boy whose self-destructive behavior was inextricably linked to the murder of his grandfather by the Khmer Rouge.


While It Didn’t Start With You draws upon the latest scientific research, it is deeply rooted in Mark’s own personal journey and his work helping clients to discover and heal their own traumas.

Mark Final photo whiteIn his mid-30s, Mark was struck with an unexplained and “incurable” blindness. Hoping to get the to bottom of his condition, he decided to sell his successful business and leave his life behind to embark on a quest for answers. He went to the ends of the earth to find out what ailed him, only to discover that the source of his suffering was buried deep in his family’s past. And it was only through uncovering and resolving the traumatic legacy of his family that he was able to heal himself.

Since that time, Mark has developed a revolutionary therapeutic diagnostic tool called The Core Language Approach® that he has used to help thousands of clients resolve their own inherited family trauma.

It Didn’t Start With You details this approach and is the first book offering step-by-step guidance to help people break the cycle of destructive inherited family patterns.


It Didn’t Start with You is an accessible, pragmatic, and prescriptive guide to the method with which Mark has helped thousands of people reclaim their lives.  Through provocative questions, case studies and a series of language-centered and body-centered exercises, Mark teaches you to become a kind of detective, mining your family history to unearth the source of your issues. Useful tools include:

  • Language and body centered exercises that unveil the symptoms of inherited family trauma you carry—symptoms you thought were yours.
  • Creating a diagram of your family tree that uncovers the traumatic events in your family that keep you stuck.
  • Meditations, visualizations, as well as live interactions and conversations that help you break destructive patterns and end the cycle of inherited fears and feelings.
  • Healing sentences that you can use to put an end to the unconscious entanglements we unknowingly have with family members both living and deceased.