Unconsciously, we relive our mother’s anxiety. We repeat our father’s disappointments. We replicate the failed relationships of our parents or grandparents. Mark Wolynn, author of book on “Inherited Family Trauma”
Inherited family trauma is a theme regularly seen in literature and film. According to Maddie Crum, (Huffington Post) Adam Haslett in his new novel Imagine Me Gone, for instance, uses a “fixation” on the part of the lead character “on what he calls ‘transgenerational haunting’ as a lens through which to examine both the character’s liberal guilt and his reckoning with his family’s own sordid history.” (See previous post.)
But possibly only Mark Wolynn, Director of The Family Constellation Institute and The Hellinger Institute of Northern California, has tackled this theme in a nonfiction book, namely It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle (2016).
A brief explanation of inherited family trauma from his website:
Just as we inherit our eye color and blood type, we also inherit the residue from traumatic events that have taken place in our family. While our physical traits are easily discernible, this emotional legacy is often hidden from us. Anxiety, fear, financial worries, depression, illness and unhappy relationships can all be forms of our unconscious inheritance. Unresolved traumas, some going back two or three generations, can ensnare us in feelings and situations that don’t even belong to us. They can forge a blueprint for our life, and can even pass onto our children. It doesn’t have to continue. Inherited family trauma can end here.
More from the Amazon description of It Didn’t Start With You:
As a pioneer in the field of inherited family trauma, Mark Wolynn has worked with individuals and groups on a therapeutic level for over twenty 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.
Mark Matousek, author of Ethical Wisdom: “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.”
Jess Shatkin, MD: “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.”
Although Goodreads reviewer Joy Matteson wishes the author had addressed having childhood sexual abuse in one’s family history, she still rated it highly: “The best piece I took away from this book was that the individuals who suffered the most from this inherited family trauma came from ancestors who NEVER spoke of the trauma, except in bits and pieces that most likely terrified the young child who heard of the family lore that never got resolved.”