Aug 03

“Inherited Family Trauma” By Mark Wolynn

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.

Selected Reviews

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 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.”

Oct 05

Vulnerability and Shame: Brene Brown Enlightens Us

More than one person has told me about Brené Brown and her lessons on vulnerability and shame. Finally I’ve watched her two TED talks, “The Power of Vulnerability” and “Listening to Shame,” which have resonated with so many.

Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has been deep into studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame for 12 years. She bravely admits to the world via TED that internal conflicts triggered in the midst of her research led her to seek therapy.

In a TED blog post, Brown states that 2010 was her “year of the vulnerability talk” and 2011 her “year of walking the talk,” acknowledging that it’s harder to enact what she believes about this topic than to talk about it.

Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in a recent Salon article about Dr. Brown’s popularity, how she copes with it, and her message:

To date, Brown’s rousing pleas for humanity to move from a culture of shame, scarcity and numbness toward a more authentic, compassionate and ‘wholehearted’ approach have been viewed over 5 million times on YouTube. But not by Brown herself, who confesses, ‘It still makes me feel really uncomfortable.’

In other words, she gets it. She knows how hard it is for us to put down our emotional armor, how great the fear of failure and criticism — from both within and without – can be. Yet she plunges on, persuasively making the case that a bolder, braver way of living isn’t just happier and more fulfilling. She thinks it’s a key component of rising above the tide of debt, addiction and what Brown repeatedly refers to as the painful curse of ‘disengagement.’

Brown’s newest book just came out. It’s called Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,  and it “argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.”

Some quotes from the book on vulnerability and shame, courtesy of a recent TED blog post:

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow — that’s vulnerability.”

“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

Publishers Weekly says of Daring Greatly: “…(T)he core of her message is understanding the difference between guilt and shame, and developing ‘shame resistance.’ Brown’s theories—complete with personal and not always flattering examples from her own life—will draw readers in and have them considering what steps they would dare to take if shame and fear were not present.”

Brown was asked in a TED interviewWhat’s the greatest lesson you have learned in your own life? “When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.”