It Didn't Start With You

How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle

It Didn’t Start With You shows how the traumas of our parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents can live in our unexplained depression, anxiety, fears, phobias, obsessive thoughts and physical symptoms—what scientists are now calling “secondary PTSD.”

Documenting the latest epigenetic research—how traumatic memories are transmitted through chemical changes in DNA—and the latest advances in neuroscience and the science of language, It Didn’t Start With You is an accessible and pragmatic guide to breaking inherited family patterns.

What is Inherited Family Trauma?

When a trauma happens, it changes us—sometimes for generations. The grief, the suffering, the distress doesn’t always end with us. The feelings and sensations—specifically the stress response, the way our genes express—can pass forward to our children and grandchildren, affecting them in a similar way, even though they didn’t personally experience our trauma. Simply put, many of us relive the tragedies from previous generations and rarely make the link. Examples from the book include:

  • A man in jail for a crime he didn’t commit discovered he was paying the price for a murder his father had been acquitted for a generation earlier.
  • A woman who couldn’t understand her sudden indifference toward her husband was entangled with her grandmother who lost her husband tragically at the same age.
  • A young, Cambodian boy whose self-destructive behavior was linked to the murder of his grandfather by the Khmer Rouge.
  • A woman with claustrophobia—unable to ride in a plane or elevator—made the connection to her father’s parents who perished in a gas chamber.
  • A woman with a paralyzing fear that her child would die discovered that her grandparents lost two children before they immigrated to the United States.

A Practical Guide

The book leads readers through a process of self-discovery and healing, helping them identify the emotionally-charged language of their worries and fears that link to unresolved traumas in their childhood or family history. Through provocative questions, relevant case studies and a series of body-centered exercises, readers are guided to become detectives, mining their family history to unearth the source of their issues. Ultimately, readers learn how to convert old, fearful images into ones that bring strength and healing. It Didn’t Start With You is the first book of its kind to offer step-by-step guidance to help people break the cycle of destructive inherited family patterns.

You will learn:

  • How to identify inherited family trauma that lives in your anxious words, fears, behaviors and unexplained physical symptoms.
  • How to map out the traumatic events in your family history that keep the cycle of suffering alive from generation to generation.
  • Practices, visualizations, healing sentences and other tools based in neuroscience that can help you disentangle from an emotional legacy you’ve inherited.
  • How to create new neural pathways in your brain, new experiences in your body, and new vitality in your relationship with yourself and others.

What People Say

“Mark Wolynn does a masterful job of illuminating the ways in which often unknown to us, our ancestors’ unresolved suffering 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 Through 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

“Mark Wolynn’s extraordinary book cracks the secret code of families and proves that you can go home again—once you understand how history made you. Full of life-changing stories, powerful insights, and practical tools for personal healing, It Didn’t Start With You deserves a place on your bookshelf next to Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child and Dan Siegel’s The Developing Mind. You’ll never see your family the same way again.”

—Mark Matousek, author of Ethical Wisdom

“Bridging both neuroscience and psychodynamic thinking, It Didn’t Start with You provides the reader with a tremendously helpful toolbox of do-it-yourself clinical aids and provocative insights.”

—Jess Shatkin, MD, psychiatrist, author of Child & Adolescent Mental Health: A Practical All-in-One Guide

“After reading IT DIDN’T START WITH YOU, I found myself immediately being able to apply Mark Wolynn’s techniques with my patients, and saw incredible results in a shorter time than by using traditional psychotherapeutic techniques. I encourage you to read this book. It’s truly cutting edge.”

—Alexanndra Kreps MD, Psychiatrist and Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association

“Utterly invaluable and endlessly fascinating, Mark Wolynn’s book, It Didn’t Start With You, links our psychology and biology in a profound new way, giving us the power to understand and transform ourselves in the face of what seems inevitable. Identifying our unconscious loyalties to our ancestor’s trauma through a series of practical questions and exercises, gives us the keys to unlock our own freedom and compassion. Reading this book is like being a part of one of Mark’s transformative workshops, a brave and powerful journey to self realization.”

—Brenda Strong, Emmy Nominated Actress Desperate Housewives, Dallas, 13 Reasons Why, Supergirl, and CEO of Strong Yoga4Women

“This book is essential reading. A must read. Mark Wolynn’s approach to inherited and early developmental family trauma and its effect on health and wellbeing is groundbreaking.”

—Dr. Bruce Hoffman, Medical Director, The Hoffman Centre for Integrative Medicine