Books & Literature

Book Review: It Didn’t Start with You, by Mark Wolynn

SELF-HELP: A transformative approach to resolving longstanding difficulties that in many cases, traditional therapy, drugs, or other interventions have not had the capacity to touch.

Did not live up to its promise.

Author Mark Wolynn is a recognised authority in the field of inherited family trauma. His expertise is sought after at multiple teaching centres around the world to lecture and/or train therapists, psychologists, educators, physicians, mental health workers and other health professionals. He is most renowned for his speciality area, intergenerational trauma.

This field focuses on how to treat patients to break the unconscious cycle of inherited, and/or other unresolved traumas, which one will exhibit through (negative) behaviours, in the form of (mental or physical) chronic illnesses, uncontrolled physical reactions and/or intergenerational relationship patterns.

When I made the decision to read Wolynn’s book It Didn’t Start with You, it was mainly based on his reputation and the promise of its blurb, how inherited family trauma is backed by the latest epigenetic research:

“Depression. Anxiety. Chronic Pain. Phobias. Obsessive thoughts. The evidence is compelling—the roots of these difficulties may not reside in our immediate life experience or in chemical imbalances in our brains, but in the lives of our parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. The latest scientific research, now making headlines, supports what many have long intuited, that traumatic experience can be passed down through generations.”

However, I soon found it didn’t meet its advertised promise. A minute amount of credible scientific evidence was presented early on (and there are references listed for each chapter in the back of the book), yet it very quickly felt like a self-help spiritual guidance book. Simply put, when an author writes about karma and karmic relationships, which he defines as “relationships that we need to have in our lives in order to grow out of negative childhood experiences or unresolved issues in a past life prior to having fulfilling relationships,” it does not present as being scientific or based on epigenetics. Although the author may have done this to open the book to a wider audience, it was out of alignment with its promise.

There are several exercises and engaging things to complete such as how to identify how your words, behaviours and physicality can uncover subconscious causes of behaviours or patterns you want to eliminate. There are significant successes presented on how reframing, for example, can turn the mother or father ‘wound’ into a type of forgiveness, which will allow you to have fulfilling relationships from then on.

These types of cases, on how generational abuse or trauma is an unconsciously repeated cycle, provide credibility, yet the continual karmic references made me question the validity of all his scientific claims thereafter. He even goes so far as to say that if you don’t “fix yourself” in your lifetime, you doom your descendants to carry your burden.

By the same token, it gives one the impression of not being able to heal if they don’t know enough about their ancestry, previous lives and/or each relatives’ life history, which is impossible for an adopted child or disjointed generations. It will leave one feeling powerless if they need to find some random relative whose issues are apparently subconsciously affecting them.

However, it is not all doom and gloom! Even in existing deteriorated marriages, for example, Wolynn notes that they can stay together if both parties commit, both to the marriage and to healing within. As such, I will leave you with this lovely case history where he discusses how a long-term marriage (where they hadn’t even been intimate for six years prior to their visit), became loving again once they realised that their negativity towards their partner was actually a reflection of each of them having unhealed previous relationships.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Distributed by: Penguin Books
Released: 31 July 2017
RRP: $29.99

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