Book Review: It Didn’t Start With You

It Didn’t Start With You:  How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are And How To End The Cycle, by Mark Wolynn

I think I would have liked this book a lot more had the author been more interested in the spiritual and moral bent that occurs in people through the actions of their ancestors than in psychological speculations about entanglement between minds and an inherited unconscious memory of the lives and sufferings of one’s ancestors and those who interacted with them in momentous ways.  To be sure, more than most people I am deeply interested in ancestral traumas [1], and have a full store of ones from my own life to deal with as well, so this is a book it would likely be natural for me to read and to generally appreciate despite my own reservations about the author’s focus on Freudian and Jungian psychological constructs.  It is likely that many readers will find at least some comfort in this book, and I think that given its therapeutic value and obvious insight it is worthy of considerable patience for the worldview of its writer which I have some issue with.  Whether or not all readers are as generous is something that such readers will have to decide on for themselves.

This book of a bit more than 200 pages is divided into fourteen chapters (and some supplementary material) in three parts.  After an introductory discussion about the secret language of fear, the first part of the book looks at the web of family trauma, with discussions of traumas lost and found (1), a discussion of three generations of shared family history (2), a thesis of the purported existence of a family mind (3), an introduction to the core language approach that gives clues to the origin of the trauma (4), and a discussion of four unconscious themes (5).  After that there are four chapters that deal with the core language map including the core complaint (6) of someone suffering, some core descripters of that complaint (7), the core sentence that expresses the central concern of the complaint (8), and the core trauma that reverberates through the generations (9).  The third and final part of the book provides a some pathways to reconnection that give some help to readers in moving from insight to integration (10), discovering the core language of separation (11), relationships (12), and success (13) as well as grasping the medicine of core language in healing (14).  After this the book contains acknowledgements and a glossary as well as a list of family history and early trauma questions in two appendices.

There is a web of different discussions going on here.  For example, there tends to be a nonphysical (I would consider it spiritual, but the author considers it psychological) result of people’s deeds that reverberate through generations.  We are shaped by the decisions and experiences of those who came before us for better and for worse, and to the extent that we are aware of these connections and the history of which we are a part, we can act in appropriate ways to release ourselves from the burden of responsibility for having created that tie or that pull or that warp within our natures and we can take on the responsibility that is ours to live as best as we can.  Whatever one thinks about the Oedipal nature of much of what the author has to say, reconciling with the past and with our parents and other relatives and recognizing the way that their struggles live on in us is sound advice so that we do not be caught by a past that we are ignorant of or hostile to, but have come to terms with and deal with as much acceptance as we can muster by the grace of God.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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