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In this episode, you will learn about inherited family trauma and strategies for addressing the impact of trauma on our health.
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About My Guest
My guest for this episode is Mark Wolynn. Mark Wolynn is a leading expert on inherited family trauma. As the director of The Family Constellation Institute in San Francisco, he trains clinicians and treats people struggling with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive thoughts, self-injury, chronic pain, and persistent symptoms and conditions. As a sought-after lecturer, he teaches at hospitals, clinics, conferences, universities and teaching centers around the world, including the University of Pittsburgh, the Western Psychiatric Institute, Kripalu, The Omega Institute, The New York Open Center, 1440 Multiversity, JFK University, and The California Institute of Integral Studies. His articles have appeared in Psychology Today, Mind Body Green, MariaShriver.com, Elephant Journal, and Psych Central, and his poetry has been published in The New Yorker. His book “IT DIDN’T START WITH YOU: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle” (Viking/Penguin) was the winner of the 2016 Nautilus Book Award in psychology.
- What is inherited family trauma?
- Is inherited family trauma scientifically provable?
- What are the signs that might suggest inherited trauma may be a factor in a chronic illness?
- Do inherited traumas act as epigenetic influencers of gene expression?
- How many generations back can a trauma be inherited?
- What is a Family Constellation?
- Does addressing an inherited trauma involve neuroplasticity?
- Is there overlap between the tools used for addressing trauma and the tools used to address the limbic system?
- What is the Core Language Approach?
- Can events like war or the Holocaust create societal trauma?
- How can the cycle of inherited family trauma be broken?
- What tools can be used to heal the trauma and move past it?
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July 22, 2020
Transcript Disclaimer: Transcripts are intended to provide optimized access to information contained in the podcast. They are not a full replacement for the discussion. Timestamps are provided to facilitate finding portions of the conversation. Errors and omissions may be present as the transcript is not created by someone familiar with the topics being discussed. Please Contact Me with any corrections.
[00:00:01.11] Welcome to BetterHealthGuy Blogcasts, empowering your better health. And now, here's Scott, your Better Health Guy.
[00:00:14.07] The content of this show is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose treat or cure any illness or medical condition. Nothing in today's discussion is meant to serve as medical advice, or as information to facilitate self-treatment. As always, please discuss any potential health-related decisions with your own personal medical authority.
[00:00:34.28] Scott: Hello everyone, and welcome to episode number 124 of the BetterHealthGuy Blogcasts series. Today's guest is Mark Wolynn, and the topic of the show is Inherited Family Trauma. Mark Wolynn is a leading expert on inherited family trauma as the director of the Family Constellation Institute in San Francisco.
He trains clinicians and treats people struggling with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive thoughts, self-injury, chronic pain, and persistent symptoms and conditions. A sought-after lecturer, he teaches at hospitals, clinics, conferences, universities and teaching centers around the world including the University of Pittsburgh. The Western Psychiatric Institute, Kripalu, The Omega Institute, The New York Open Center, 1440 Multiversity, JFK University, and the California Institute of Integral Studies.
His articles have appeared in Psychology Today, mindbodygreen, MariaShriver.com, Elephant Journal, and Psych Central. And his poetry has been published in The New Yorker. His book ''It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How To End The Cycle” was the winner of the 2016 Nautilus Book Award in Psychology.
And now my interview with Mark Wolynn.
Okay, I'm excited to have you on the show today to share your work with my listeners. So that you know our audience today, most of the people listening and follow my work are dealing with some type of chronic condition such as chronic Lyme disease or mold illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, autism, and related types of conditions. I know you're familiar with many of those.
I myself had Lyme disease and mold illness. In my journey, the mental-emotional work was certainly very critical to getting to the level of health that I’m experiencing today. I have done Family Constellation work in the past; I found it very fascinating and powerful.
Many other tools that I’ve incorporated as well in this realm of the contribution of trauma to chronic illness. And so I’m really looking forward to digging in today and learning from you in terms of how trauma impacts us on a physical level. And just want to welcome you to the show, and thank you so much for being here.
[00:02:54.19] Mark W.: I’m happy to be here Scott, thanks for having me.
[00:02:57.09] Scott: What was your life's journey or life path that led you to doing work in the mental emotional and inherited family trauma realm? And what really got you started? Was it the result of a personal experience with some type of inherited trauma?
[00:03:12.09] Mark W.: Actually, it was. Like many of us, I struggled with symptoms that I couldn't explain about 30 years ago. I began to lose vision in one of my eyes, and I was diagnosed with a chronic form of retinopathy for which there was no cure. And then the way it was progressing, the doctors told me I would likely lose the vision in my other eye as well.
And as you can imagine, I was pretty desperate and freaked out there was nothing western medicine could offer. The best they could tell me is I had stress. And so I went on a journey of search for healing. Literally, I left my city, I left my job, and I would hear about or read a book or hear about a teacher. This search literally led me halfway around the globe as far as Indonesia, where I learned from several wise teachers who taught me some fundamental principles.
One of which was the importance of healing our relationship with our parents. But before I could do that, I had to heal what stood in the way, which was inherited family trauma. Though I don't know it at the time. Specifically, the anxiety that I inherited from my grandparents, all of whom were orphaned in some way. Three of them lost their mothers when they were babies, and the fourth lost her father at one.
So ultimately, she loses her mother's attunement as well. And what I discover later, but not at the time when I was struggling was this anxiety from in my family history, in my family system was the real cause of my vision loss. As both of my parents had being the kids of orphans, I’d inherited this feeling of being broken from a mother's love. And then it gets re-engineered of course in my own childhood, but this was passed down in my family.
And I remember being five or six years old running into my mom's room whenever she'd leave the house, and pulling open her drawers and crying into her nylons and scarves, thinking that I’d never see her again. And all I would have left would be her scent. And that was true for my grandparents; all they did have left was her scent.
And 40 years later, I remember sharing this with my mom. And she said oh, I did that too and my mom would leave the house. And then my sister reading the book says honey, I did the same thing when mom would leave the house. So it was a family pattern, and after healing the break in the bond with my mom, strangely, my sight came back.
And I didn't expect it to at that point; I wasn't even looking for it to. But it did, and afterwards, I felt compelled to share these principles and ultimately developed a method for healing the effects of inherited family trauma.
[00:06:08.10] Scott: Wow. We have another little piece in common there, which is that I prior to Lyme disease and mold illness had something called Central Serous Idiopathic Choroidopathy or Central Serous Retinopathy.
[00:06:21.01] Mark W.: That's what I had.
[00:06:22.05] Scott: Okay. And I lost my vision from probably around age 16 to 32, lost my vision about 12 times and had to have laser surgery about six times. Three times in each eye, and so similarly was told at the time oh, it's just stress and it will resolve as they treat. But that's interesting because I’ve never met another person that had that exact condition.
[00:06:50.08] Mark W.: Exactly. And back when I had it 30 years ago, they didn't really know too much about it, and there wasn't laser. There was no laser surgery at the time, and they just said good luck.
[00:07:01.05] Scott: Yes, they would try a Diamox or Acetazolamide first to see if they could get the fluid to go away, and then just kind of wait it out, yes. And it was a big thing at the time. Literally, one time when I had one of the blind spots put the car in reverse at a left turn and crashed into someone behind me because I literally couldn't see them. That was kind of crazy.
[00:07:21.23] Mark W.: Yes, then you remember this. Putting a fist in front of your eye and trying to see through it. Which is exactly what it was like, yes.
[00:07:31.23] Scott: So let's set the stage for our talk today, what is inherited family trauma? And how does that potentially impact our health? Is it that most of the trauma that impacts health is inherited or can there be trauma in our own lifetime that is equally impacting in terms of the physical manifestation?
[00:07:49.29] Mark W.: Yes. So inherited family trauma, let's say one of our parents or grandparents lost their mom or dad when they were young. Or they were sent away to boarding school or placed in an orphanage or one of their siblings died tragically, drowned at the local lake, and this rigidified the whole family. The reaction to the trauma doesn't necessarily stop with them.
The feelings and the sensations specifically as we're finding the stress response. This can be passed on to children and grandchildren, and then now there's a lot of biological evidence for this. And your second question, traumas we've inherited or traumas that occur in our own life can be equally impacting. In fact, a break in the attachment with our mom can deeply affect our health. And I’m sure we'll go into that later. But that's one of the main things I look for when I work with people.
[00:08:57.25] Scott: Talk to us a little bit about the research behind inherited family trauma. So for those people that maybe are skeptical of the concept that's something outside of our own life experience can impact our well-being and our health today. How do we know that inherited trauma is a real thing?
[00:09:15.10] Mark W.: Because it's science. So as infants, we don't enter the world with a clean hard drive. To use a computer, analogy there's an operating system that's already in place. One that contains the fallout from the traumas of our parents and grandparents, and we're born with feelings and fears that don't always belong to us.
So technically speaking when a trauma happens, it changes us. Literally, it causes a chemical change in our DNA, and this changes the way our genes function as we're learning sometimes for generations. Technically, a chemical tag will attach to the DNA and tell the cell hey, use this gene or ignore this gene to give us a better chance of surviving the trauma. And then the way the genes are affected because of this chemical change can change how we act or feel.
For example, we can become sensitive or reactive to situations that are similar to the original trauma even if that trauma occurred in a past generation. So that we have a better chance of surviving it in this generation. I’ll give you an example. If our grandparents came from a war-torn country, and there are bombs going off, and bullets flying and uniform men lining people up in the square. People being shot, people being taken away.
Their biology would adapt, and they would pass forward the skill set of sharper reflexes I’m assuming, and quicker reaction times. Reactions to the violence, to help them and then later us to survive the trauma that they experience. The problem is that we could also inherit a stress response with the dials set to 10, and here we are constantly preparing for this catastrophe that never arrives. And we rarely make the link that our anxiety, our hyper-vigilance, our depression, our symptoms are connected to our parents and grandparents.
We just think we're wired this way. And then as we're finding these gene changes as we're now learning, they're transmitted to our children and even to our children's children. The science is fairly new. 15 years ago, a woman, a neuroscientist out of Mount Sinai Medical in New York, Rachel Yehuda was working with holocaust survivors, and the children. And she discovers that their children have the exact same trauma symptoms and it doesn't make sense as their parents, specifically the low levels, not the high levels, but the low levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that gets us back to normal after a stressful event. And she does all this work; she's also the mother of the study of 9/11 when the buildings are crashed into by the planes.
And she looked at mothers who were pregnant at or near the World Trade Center when the destruction happened. And when the mothers went on to develop PTSD, the babies went on to develop PTSD. The babies were smaller for the gestational age, which showed there were already adaptations in the womb. They're born with 16 genes that are different than other babies that are near the World Trade Center inside a pregnant mother.
So she tells us things like you, and I are three times more likely to have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder if one of our parents had PTSD. And then, as a result, we're likely to struggle with anxiety or depression. And then a few years ago she discovers that traumatized survivors and their parents share the exact gene changes, in the exact same region of the very same gene.
Technically, she's looking at the FKBP5 gene, a gene involved in stress regulation and depressive disorders. So she really tips it off in humans, and then a bunch of researchers jumped on with mice because you can get only two generations when you're looking at, because a generation takes 12 to 20 years, takes a long time. Whereas in mice, you can get a generation in 12 to 20 weeks.
And if you look at mice, they share a similar genetic makeup. 90, over 90% - 93% of the genes in humans have counterparts in mice, with over 80 percent being identical. So then there are these great mouse studies, there's one out of, you just tell me when to stop, because I have so much information about this. But I’ll tell at least one study.
In Emory Medical School in Atlanta, they made male mice afraid of a cherry blossom-like scent by shocking them every time they smelled the scent. They were curious to see what would happen generationally. And they know that because mice have a similar genetic makeup, maybe we can learn something and they do. They shock the mice and they find immediate changes in that first generation, epigenetic adaptations.
Changes in the brain, the blood, the sperm. In fact, in the brain, right in those first generation of mice that are shocked, there's enlarged areas where there's a greater amount of smell receptors so the mice could detect the scent at lesser concentrations. So their brains had epigenetically it adapted already to protect them.
So the researchers have an idea, what if we take the sperm and impregnate female mice who are not shocked, and separate them out, so there's no learning from the previous generation. The amazing things would happen in the second and third generations. The pups and the grandpups become jumpy and jittery just by smelling the smell and not being shocked. They have inherited like we do, the stress response without directly experiencing the trauma.
[00:15:18.17] Scott: Wow. What are some of the signs that we can look for that might suggest that we could have been impacted by an inherited family trauma? What are some of the clues that might lead us to looking for or exploring whether or not an inherited family trauma could be playing a role in our current health condition? And how do you identify that someone may actually have an inherited trauma?
[00:15:41.18] Mark W.: That's a great question. So we can be born with symptoms, maybe an anxiety, a depression, and never separate it from the events of the previous generation. But we can also experience a fear or a symptom, maybe the beginning of our migraines that strike suddenly or unexpectedly when we reach a certain age, or hit a certain milestone, or reach an event in our lives.
For example, as soon as we get married, I talk about this in the book. There's a woman who loves the men she wants to marry; she knows it's the right guy, she's happy. And then she marries him, and she feels completely trapped. And she can't understand it because she loves this guy, but feels just oppressed. And when we looked at her family history, we saw that both grandmothers had been given away as child brides.
One at nine, one at 12 to much older men. And then when I worked with her sisters, what was interesting because I talk a lot about siblings how each sibling carries a piece of the pie so to speak. Both sisters carried aspects of the same trauma, but it expressed differently in each. One sister married a much older guy, 40 years older, and then the other sister refused to get married at all less she'd be trapped.
So another trigger I found is when we moved to a new place. We move across town; we move to a new city, we leave the country and all of a sudden we become depressed like our ancestors maybe who were persecuted and forced out of their homeland. And people died, people were killed, they died of illness. So the moving is a trigger, another trigger is we get rejected by our partner and all of a sudden we find the grief is insurmountable.
But when you explore that grief, it takes us back, Scott, to a much earlier grief, maybe even a break in the bond with our mom. Or we go to have a child and we, get pregnant, or we're about to become parents, and it's as though there's this ancestral alarm clock that starts ringing. I once worked with this woman who was consumed with anxiety; she had no idea why. And then we started to piece it out, and she said six months ago, I started to get anxious.
What happened six months ago? Well, I got pregnant. I said so you're pregnant, and I ask her one of those questions I ask in the book, what's the worst thing that could happen if you have a child? And she immediately said I’ll harm my baby. And then I was able to follow it, and I said did anybody in your family ever harm a baby? Did you ever harm a baby? She said no.
Did anyone in your family ever harm a baby? And she said no, and in that minute, a switch went off and she, said oh my god, my grandmother as a young woman lit a candle caught the curtains on fire, caught the house on fire. The baby was upstairs, she couldn't get it out and then she told me, but we were never allowed to talk about it and that’s we'll talk about this later.
But I find that the more we repress, reject, shutdown, push away, exclude, divorce ourselves from what's uncomfortable, the more what's uncomfortable as you know persists. And in that moment she made the link that she had inherited that terror from her grandmother, and then we were able to work with it.
[00:19:26.19] Scott: Are most of the people that you work with dealing with some sort of health condition or chronic illness? What are some of the conditions or situations or factors that lead people to seeking you out?
[00:19:39.11] Mark W.: Yes. Really everything from anxiety and depression and OCD to Lyme, to mold, to chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, cancer, mast cell activation.
Mostly I’m working with people who've been suffering with symptoms they can't explain, or haven't been yet able to find relief on their healing journey. So maybe they've tried some routes, and you know how it is when we're in the midst of our journey. Everything we try seems to make it worse, and we lose trust that anything is going to be helpful.
[00:20:17.00] Scott: It's interesting that you mention mast cell activation syndrome, that's a really big topic over the past few years in the Lyme and mold community. So I’m curious, are there correlations that you observe between specific conditions like Lyme disease or mold illness or autism, and the associated traumas or emotions that are associated to those conditions? Are there any patterns that you've observed?
[00:20:45.09] Mark W.: So we have to look at what is getting activated in our body. What's creating inflammation, what are the triggers, what's it reminiscent of? What happened, when did it first start, what were the first conditions? Follow the whole symptom picture, the whole stream. As you know in my book, I give that 12 questions to look for the core language of the core complaint.
When did it first start, what makes it, all the things we're talking about. But really, you ask me what traumas are connected? Any trauma, any event. And largely as I said earlier, any event that disconnects us from our mother. Either us with our mother, our mother with her mother, our father with his mother because as we know from the mice studies, three generations it's heritable.
So my grandparents that are orphans can't give enough, because they didn't get enough. So my mom who can't give enough because she couldn't get enough, so the trauma gets re-engineered, but it also originates back then. So anything that connects us from a mother emotionally or physically, that would be one of the most severe events. Or any event strong enough that pulls her attention away and these are the types of things we want to consider.
Was when we were little or in utero was dad cheating or drinking or our parents fighting or separating. Did mum feel trapped? Did she not love her dad? Were they forced to get married? Did she have postpartum depression? Did one of her parents die? Or her beloved brother die when she was pregnant with us? Did she lose a baby before us? And then she thinks we're not going to make it either, and can't tune into the pregnancy because she's terrified she'll be disappointed again.
There are so many events; again, the list is on my website of these events, and also generational events as well. Did mom or dad's parent die young? Did mom or dad's brother drown in the lake, drown in the pool? Die of a disease? Was all the attention taken away from mom to the sick brother? Did our grandparents lose family members in war?
The Spanish Flu? The Holocaust? The Cambodian genocide? Was someone murdered? Did someone murder someone in our family? There are so many directions we have to look. But our symptoms are clues when we can relax into them and follow them, and follow the symptom picture. We find that they're speaking to us, and we need to listen.
[00:23:23.14] Scott: So it sounds like it's common then that there's some disconnect with a mother, but it doesn't necessarily have to be then on the mother's side. It could be on the father's side.
[00:23:33.24] Mark W.: Oh, yes.
[00:23:34.06] Scott: And I mentioned that the sperm in the mice was enough to then create that same scenario, right?
[00:23:40.20] Mark W.: Totally. Our fathers, in other words, our father can be very disconnected from his mom. And here we are the child, the son carrying this disconnect, not understanding our own lack of trust. Not understanding our own lack that we're being held or loved or taken care of, and it's not even ours, yes.
[00:24:03.28] Scott: Talk to us a little bit about some of the examples of types of traumas that are significant enough to be passed from one generation to the next. What types of traumas have the potential to be broad or significant influencers on our health and wellness in our generation or future generations? I mean can it be something really small, or does it have to be something more significant?
[00:24:29.01] Mark W.: No. Just like I said the first thing I’m going to look for is are we carrying a type of attachment trauma, and as you know, I look at trauma language. So I’m asking questions and chatting, and as I’m talking to people, I’m gathering what they normally say. And in their answers to the question, and it depicts one of two types of traumas.
So a generational trauma might have some of the languages, of I’ll go crazy. I’ll be locked up. I’ll do something terrible, I’ll harm a child, I’ll be sent away, I’ll be ostracized, I’ll be hated; that's generational trauma language. Where attachment trauma language has the type of language of I’ll be abandoned, I’ll be rejected, I’ll be alone. I won't be able to trust; those sorts of things.
And again, any event that's connecting us from a mother's love or anyone in our family, I mean our mother, our father from their mother's love where they stop trusting the care; this is where I’m looking first. And then I’m also doing a genogram, a trauma-gram and I’m looking at the events in the family history that are related to our symptom picture, to our conditions. So really anything that the ones I mentioned before is a pretty good list.
[00:25:45.09] Scott: So it sounds like the inherited trauma can have an epigenetic effect on our gene expression, thus resulting in potential physical manifestations. So you mentioned a specific stress-related gene, but can it be that an inherited trauma, for example, affect our methylation or some other ability to detoxify for example. Are the genes that can be affected essentially anything? Or is it more related to the stress associated genes?
[00:26:18.08] Mark W.: Look. An overactive stress response, this is the simple way that I like to explain it is this agitation, this over activation. This over-thumping amygdala, the stress response this is heritable. And after a period of time, it can create chronic tightening in the body. It can create a chronic holding pattern. And then after a while, because we are unconsciously holding tight, holding our body. Now we can in turn without even knowing this is happening limit blood flow to a particular area of our body. Limit circulation, oxygen, hemoglobin or we can have limited life force actually in one of these areas that we unconsciously protect.
And now all of a sudden a disease process is developing, we're becoming hypoxic in that area. So it's about how the stress response is active, and how it's functioning in our body. And what it's doing to make us tighten against what's uncomfortable, because we're all running from what's uncomfortable. And tight places or painful places in our body, we tighten as though we think to protect. But it's all actually having the opposite effect.
[00:27:45.01] Scott: How is the trauma actually passed, let's say from a parent to a child, to a grandchild? Is it represented in the DNA? Or is it more that during the pregnancy, there was this stressful influence that was more an epigenetic influencer of the fetus?
[00:28:05.07] Mark W.: Yes, both, absolutely both. We look at the work of Bruce Lipton, and we learn that a mother's emotions can be chemically communicated through the placenta, and genetically altering the offspring. And we also look at how these traumas, even in past generations, are creating chemical changes in the DNA.
Again, the DNA is saying this thing that happened is so awful; we need to protect from it. So we're going to move in the direction of activating, silencing, turning up, turning down this gene response. And this is what's heritable, this gene response, this gene expression.
And so we find that unbeknownst to us, here we are born into these feelings, just like that computer analogy that the hardware, it's not wiped clean. That there's already software that we're born with.
[00:29:05.03] Scott: Yes. I think this is one of the challenges with looking at genetic SNPs and then identifying the potential for certain things to go wrong. And then supplementing one thing for each SNP that there's a potential problem when we probably, to your analogy about the hard drive, if it's the hard drive and what we've inherited that's influencing that gene expression, we probably want to do what we can to wipe that slate clean, rather than jumping into supplementing to try to bypass specific gene expression. Does that make sense?
[00:29:37.27] Mark W.: Yes. But because I'm not a geneticist, I can't answer. But yes, it makes sense. Again, as a therapist, as a clinician, what I'm looking at is the body, and I'm sure we'll get into that.
[00:29:53.14] Scott: How many generations back can a trauma be inherited? And then if people are open to the possibility of even considering past life traumas, can past life associated traumas affect us in this lifetime?
[00:30:07.10] Mark W.: Big questions, all right. So most of the studies point to three, three, four generations that we can inherit this genetic response. But what I find is because the traumas keep repeating, and they keep, a mom or dad who's reeling internally with trauma himself, herself can't give what's needed.
These traumas are becoming re-engineered. So now you amplify this. But when you look at the scientific studies, I mean there's one study where they looked at worms, and they could trace it for 14 generations. But mostly we're looking at this response whether it's DNA methylation, histone modification, non-coding RNA; we're looking at a three generation link.
And in this question about past lives, you know it's interesting there hasn't been the study yet where they've been able to link. So I try to stay as close to the science as I can, but so I can't really answer that, but it would be fascinating to know if there is a biological link.
[00:31:21.15] Scott: People with chronic illness are often resistant to this idea of exploring the mental, emotional trauma realm in terms of its potential impact on their condition. When I started my whole journey years ago, I had the perspective that it was kill the bug, detoxify and then the mental-emotional piece was last. And now my perspective is actually the opposite, which is the mental-emotional piece really is first.
The detoxification piece is next to really have a terrain that's not hospitable to microbes like Lyme disease, and then dealing with the bugs themselves is now what I kind of think of last which is very interesting that whole idea has kind of flipped. So how do you get people to recognize the importance of exploring the mental, emotional trauma realm versus just taking more pills and hoping things get better in terms of their condition?
[00:32:13.25] Mark W.: I love the way you phrased that Scott. I would follow that as well; we have to create an atmosphere in the body where there's peace. So we have a place to land, so then we can work with the physical components. You know what's most important, and now I think the zeitgeist is on our side because people are now beginning to realize this.
And we realize that we've got to make peace with what feels uncomfortable in our body. Basically, we have to practice being with the uncomfortable sensations in our body until we can reach what's beneath them. The sensations that we experience is life-giving, sensations like pulsing. Sensations like tingling, energetic tingling.
Sensations like softening, expanding, releasing, opening. Sensations like blood flowing, waves of energy, waves of warmth. We need to be able to hold these energetic sensations for at least a minute, six times a day, at least one minute, six times a day. And that can be enough say the neuroscientists to change our brain and downregulate our stress response.
[00:33:36.12] Scott: One of the tools that you implement in this inherited trauma realm, in terms of helping people that are dealing with it, is Family Constellation Therapy. And Bert Hellinger was the creator of that family constellation therapy, what was his background that led him to creating that system?
And I understand he passed away in September of 2019 and was 94 years old and was still somewhat active in doing this work even in his older years. And so tell us a little about family constellation therapy, did you ever have the opportunity to meet Bert Hellinger?
[00:34:10.18] Mark W.: Oh yes, I was one of his early American students. So Bert is my greatest teacher, and he is a true master, and I have just deep abundant respect for this man. In his early life, he was a priest, and he was told to go work with the Zulus who which he did for 16 years. Went to South Africa on the grounds of converting them to Christianity, and of course, it was one of those things where the hunter is captured by the game.
What's fascinating is that he went down to change them, and they changed him because he saw in the Zulu community things that were outstanding. He saw that they number one didn't reject the parents, and they had just reverence for the parents. And they didn't suffer the way we do with our SSRIs and our therapy, and they didn't go to therapy, they didn't have therapy like in western culture.
For example, if a parent or grandparent or family member, an ancestor had passed away, and they were feeling some type of stress. They'd align with the ancestor, then perhaps they'd just align with the dead father, the dead grandfather. And then the answer would be clear, and another form of mindfulness, right? They'd align with what came before them and have more clarity. There was no I mentality; there was a ‘’we’’ mentality in the Zulu culture.
For example, if there was a murder in the community, the family of the murder and the family of the murderer would meet with the family of the murdered, the family of the victim. And they couldn't leave the tent of the sangoma, the tribal healer until there was equanimity, peace with everyone. And I think back to what happened to the Amish about 20 years ago, 15-20 years ago, do you remember? I think it was in rural Pennsylvania where this man went into an Amish school and shot 11 of their children, their daughters, six of their daughters.
And the Amish were so amazing, they went to the funeral of the killer, and then they broke bread with the killer's wife. Applying all the principles, I’m speaking about. So that the next generations were free from this horrible trauma that could create victims and perpetrators for myriad generations.
So yes, Bert Hellinger, a profound and amazing and deep man, he then stops being a priest, and then he becomes a family therapist and works with Fritz Pearls and Virginia Satir and all the people doing great work back at the time. Gestalt, family constellations and then develops this model of family constellation work which is profound.
[00:37:22.15] Scott: So tell us a little bit then about what a family constellation is, is this something that we do in a group? Is it one-on-one work? What's that process of family constellation?
[00:37:33.18] Mark W.: So simply put it like family constellations group experience, even though we're in the time of COVID and there are not many group experiences. It's a group experience in which people stand in as our family members to help us shift an old image that we carry. For example, my mother's a bad person, and she's cruel, and we learn that behind her, her mother was an alcoholic, and she didn't get enough, for example.
Or we learn my father's abusive, and we learn that the father's father was given away as a child, and the father was sent to boarding school at five. So we start to see the full picture. And in a constellation, whether I’m working in a group or working one-on-one, which is mainly how I do it nowadays, I use healing images.
Movement, boundaries, healing sentences, body-centered releases to help people break patterns of suffering. And again, I take it back to help them shift the stress response. Because for me, it's this stress response that's our amygdala, our limbic system that's overreacting, that's sending out signals to the alarm towers of our body, whenever we experience something that feels uncomfortable.
We walk into a room with people and all of a sudden we've left our body, or we've tightened, and it's an unconscious experience to us. So constellations can be an extremely powerful tool. In a constellation, we literally step into a new image of feeling whole. And afterwards, we stand in a much stronger and clearer place.
[00:39:16.10] Scott: My experience of stepping in for someone else's family member in a constellation was very interesting, because the sensations, the things I was feeling I had no idea who I was representing in their family situation.
But after the constellation, when you kind of gets some more insight, it was pretty amazing. I think in one of them I was representing someone's grandparent who was in a wheelchair, and literally, as I was representing that person, my legs felt weak, and I felt like I couldn't stand.
I mean it's really profound and powerful work.
Talk to us a little bit about the neuroplasticity component of this? So is there an aspect of family constellation work, the work you do that's in the realm of neuroplasticity? You mentioned feeling into certain sensations six times a day. Is the brain involved in the trauma loop? And do we then need to break the trauma loop through neuroplasticity to release the impact of that trauma?
[00:40:18.17] Mark W.: Yes, simply put. The work I do is very much based in neuroscience and very much about healing the brain. I find it's important, so I focus a lot part of the book on Norman Doidge’s work and visualization, and it's important that we commit to a daily practice of some sort that calms the brain's stress response.
And yes, and in family constellations, that's what I do online is I work with people in Zoom every day. I’m doing aspects of family constellation work. We don't need the representative; I love your story about your legs being weak. It's sitting in that field of knowledge and able to feel that person in the wheelchair, that's brilliant.
You can't get that work any other way when you do the group work. But when the person becomes in in one-on-one work becomes his own representative, and works with his own body. So there's another aspect of it too which I find equally potent.
So the answer is yes neuroscience, and yes family constellations in one-on-one sessions. In fact, I have a training coming up where I’m teaching clinicians how to do this work one-on-one.
[00:41:35.22] Scott: You mentioned Norman Doidge, you mentioned the amygdala. In this realm of chronic illness, we talk a lot these days about the limbic system.
And limbic system retraining opportunities like Annie Hopper's DNRS or the Gupta Amygdala Retraining System. Is there some overlap in terms of the work that you're doing and being able to help address the limbic system, and its contribution to a physical manifestation of disease or illness?
[00:42:04.21] Mark W.: Absolutely. I'm a fan of Annie’s work. One of the things that I do for example is I might have somebody who has a break in the attachment with a mom lie beneath a photo of the mom, over the left shoulder above the pillow. Maybe on the bed frame or taped on the wall, or on the nightstand. And maybe get a picture of when that break occurred, you can use her high school picture, her college picture.
And even though there was not connection in our life, we might use the photo and visualize that this work is maybe even being guided by a higher force, or we're talking to mom's higher self. And saying hey mom, please hold me at night when I’m sleeping.
We're setting the intention, because we know right before we fall asleep is a very important time for Neuroplastic change. Mom, please hold me at night and help me feel safe in my body. Teach me how to trust your love because I didn't. Teach me how to receive it, how to let it in. Without taking care of you, just receiving.
And then I would have somebody focus on an energetic feeling of receiving or some way in which they're being held, and some way that they're feeling safe. So very much again the work is based in visualization, or it can be visually, actually real things that we do in real-time as well. But I could go on and on, but an answer you to your question, yes I am a fan of healing the brain.
[00:43:48.26] Scott: I love your passion for this work; it comes through that you really care about helping people through their traumas, so powerful. When we address a trauma through the work that you do, and that trauma is then released in some way from the system, the impact of it, it no longer has its epigenetic influence.
Does that then automatically positively affect those people that we inherited the trauma from? Whether they're still living or not. Or our own offspring that might already exist? And then obviously it sounds like it affects them if they're not yet born because they won't inherit that same trauma. But how does resolving that trauma in your lifetime affect both past and future people that might be otherwise impacted by it?
[00:44:37.13] Mark W.: Well, I would like to believe it helps those in the past. It's mostly my inner image, but I would likely, I believe, I’ve seen it really where we do our work, and then something softens in our siblings. Or something softens in our parents, and all of a sudden are related. But again, I’m a proponent of doing our own inner work, because this has a direct effect not only on us but on our children, who might be struggling with symptoms, so they have no clue as to why.
So it's very important, sometimes remember that I just talked about that thing with the photo. Let's say there's a whole break in the family, where let's use daughters are not close with their mothers. And all of a sudden 20-year-old daughter walks into the bedroom and sees 50-year-old mother lying beneath this photo.
And says mother, what are you doing? You aren't close with your mother. And she says I know; I’m doing this practice because I really want to heal this attachment in me so I can love more. So I don't have to feel a glass wall every time dad holds me, every time I’m being held or every time I try to love, and I’m working on my own attachment.
And so all of a sudden daughter sees it, and there's another thing that happens in daughter. Daughter realizes she no longer has to be the support system for mother because mother's getting that support doing this work. So daughter in this moment is realizing oh, I don't have to help my mom by being a good girl, by making her feel better.
By putting my own self-expression on hold to make sure she's okay. I see that my mom's doing the healing; this has major impact on the subsequent generations. Even if we don't say anything to our daughter, they feel it in who we become from doing our own inner work.
[00:46:33.02] Scott: Does that mean that let's say parents of a child with autism that doing the family constellation work, the trauma work that you do. That by working on the parents, that we can then influence the presentation of the child's condition?
[00:46:50.20] Mark W.: It's the place I’d start. So it's absolutely the place I'd start. So I would completely have a mother father with autism, look at their own family history and see what events were so terrible that created some type of shock, or some type of, or what's been out of communication. Or what's been disastrous, or deeply traumatized the family system. And do start there, and then we can look at the impact on the child.
Maybe even telling the child, drawing a picture and saying this is our family history. And there was this person, and this event happened. And we love this person, and they're in our hearts. And at first, nobody would talk about this, but it's important to talk about this. Because I’ve seen good effect happen this way. I once worked with this autistic boy and his mother, I worked with the mother. And she described the autism of her son that he was out of communication, he couldn't talk.
So one day she said to her son, she didn't have any communication with her father. So one day I said to the mother, why don't you make communication with your father and then we'll take a look at the communication of your son. And she said no way am I going to ever talk to that guy who hurt my mother the way we defend. And one day she was driving in the car and turned to her son in the back seat and said honey, should I call David?
Which was the name of her father, and the son said yes and she was aghast because he doesn't talk. And she said should I call Steve? No answer. Should I call Bob? No answer. Should I call Robert? No answer. Should I call David? Yes. And so she made peace with her father.
And the son began to talk. Now is that what's going to happen every time? No. And is that what I see every time? Sometimes there are good results, Scott, and we never know because that's when grace comes in. And I don't mean grace a person, I mean grace.
[00:49:01.29] Scott: Great, absolutely. In the book, you talk about this core language approach, so tell us a little about the core language approach, and can this language tell us whether or not the trauma was generational or possibly early life trauma in our own lifetime.
[00:49:20.24] Mark W.: Yes. So I discovered that when a trauma happens, not just a chemical change takes place in the DNA, but clues are left behind in the form of emotionally charged words, sentences. It forms like a breadcrumb trail that we don't even know that we're laying the crumbs out.
And I've learned that if we learn how to follow this breadcrumb trail, it's like finding the missing piece of the puzzle that allows the whole picture to come into view and can give us a context for why we feel the way we do. It's essential that we learn to listen to this trauma language we carry out. As we know from trauma theory, when a traumatic event happens, significant information bypasses the frontal lobes. So the experience of exactly what happened in the trauma can't be named or ordered through words.
Our language centers become compromised, and without language, our experiences get stored as fragments. Fragments of memory, fragments of body sensation, fragments of images, fragments of language, fragments of emotions; it's like the mind disperses. And then essential elements get separated, it's like we lose the story.
We never complete the healing, yet the pieces aren't lost, they've simply been rerouted and then can resurface in our verbal and non-verbal trauma language. So I want to just take a minute here to talk about non-verbal, that's our symptom picture. When it's non-verbal, we look for the physical and emotional symptoms that show up after an unsettling event that we have.
We look for the fears and anxieties like I talked about earlier that strikes suddenly when we reach a particular age because it might be the same age that something destructive, something terrible happened in the family history.
Or we look for, what took place before we got depressed? What takes place before I cut myself with a razor? What takes place before I smoke, when I need a cigarette. What takes place before I drink? And we look for situations that are similar in our early history, or in our family history because nonverbal languages; it's everywhere, Scott. It's mirrored in our relationship struggles, who we choose, how we choose.
The type of person we choose, the way we're treated, that shows our trauma picture. That shows our nonverbal trauma language; it's also in the repeated ways we deal with money and success. All of these forms of breadcrumb trail we need to follow. I’ll give a case that shows both verbal and non-verbal trauma language.
So I recently worked with this woman with cancer, and a few months after her dog died, she was diagnosed with cancer. And I said so tell me about your dog, and she said I was with him for 16 years, he was everything to me. So in that minute I'm writing down the words, he was everything to me; I was with him for 16 years.
Lo and behold when we looked in her family history, her mother's favorite brother was killed in a car crash when the mother was 16, and this was her favorite brother, the brother was everything to her. And even on the other side, her father was 16 when he lost his father who died suddenly of a massive stroke. And the client was an only child and carried the unresolved grief from both parents. So the verbal trauma language was I was with him for 16 years, he was everything to me dad, brother.
And then the non-verbal trauma language are the health issues that arise after the death of the dog, that's the trauma, that's the event that causes the health issues to spring into play. You asked me another question that I want to answer because this is, I love this trauma language, and I love that it goes into two directions, Scott.
And I said this earlier we have this attachment language, so it's a language like I'll be abandoned, I'll be left all alone, I’ll lose control, I'll be helpless, powerless the way we feel is babies. Helpless powerless and sometimes an early attachment language in utero when there are events inutero; I'll be annihilated, I’ll be destroyed, when there are events that happened so early where mother's attunement was off target.
But then there are these generational sentences that I’ll lose everything; I’ll be forgotten. I’ll lose my family; I’ll be locked away. I’ll go to jail; I’ll do something. I’ll be innocent, but I’ll be locked away. Or I’ll do something terrible, I’ll hurt a child, and these events are in the family history, and we can find them, and we can get some peace.
[00:54:22.21] Scott: This next question is maybe a little complex, and that's I want to get your thoughts around world situations or traumas. So if we look at let's say World War II and the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Are the people that are then affected in terms of inherited family trauma, do they have to be people that were directly involved in some way, so that their ancestors were directly involved? Or can some of these things, to some extent even let's say what we're going through as a world right now with COVID for example? It's not necessarily in the realm of disconnect from your mother or from a mother per se. But can world events create broader traumas or imprints on society as a whole, does that make sense?
[00:55:10.20] Mark W.: Yes, it does. And is there such a thing as carrying the effects of collective trauma? Yes, there is. And yet when we look at the destructive events of every generation, these can be important determinants for affecting future generations. A guy comes home from Iraq or Afghanistan, and he's experienced chaos or not knowing if he was going to live or die. He was being shot at every day, or he killed some people, some innocents.
And then this adversely affects the stress response of his children that his children inherit from him. So then we can see molecular changes that are observed in the children of soldiers. There are studies; they're out there. Dutch studies, Australian studies where they look at the children. I also mentioned these studies in the book. So when we talk about the events of World War II or the Holocaust, for me I’m more interested in a direct link.
We have to look how our family members were impacted. Did they experience harm? Did they cause harm? Did they witness harm? Did they feel guilty? The family members, the children and the grandchildren of victims, as well as of the families of perpetrators can both be affected. So when we have somebody saying a sentence, I’ll do something terrible, or I'll harm a child.
I’ll look for somebody in the family that had done something terrible or someone who had harmed a child or not even in the family, a child that had been harmed in their family. Or someone that did something terrible, because remember we can be connected to the perpetrators who harmed our family, as well as the perpetrators within our family. We can be connected to the victims, not within our family; it's so simple.
Granddad owned a factory and only paid his factory workers a quarter a week back during the depression. And they barely had enough money to live. And we're connected with the victims of grandfather, in the sense the factory workers, and we squander all our money, we can't hold on to it. Because in line with the victims, or in balance for what our grandpa did. We're connected to these traumas. So yes, there's collective trauma no doubt, and I’m more interested in direct trauma.
[00:57:47.22] Scott: So if we took something like let's say what happened on 9/11, for example. The direct involvement of our ancestors or ourself potentially might have a more significant effect in terms of trauma, but is it possible that just somebody observing the event, observing the planes crashing into the towers on television that could still be passed down to our children and grandchildren, even though we weren't directly involved in it.
[00:58:15.18] Mark W.: Yes, all of us can be affected like that. So much depression, because what it taps into is, I want to say this though, it may tap into our early trauma of no attachment with our mom and not feeling safe. Our early trauma of not being cared for, our early trauma of chaos. So yes we can tap into, and then that can be the event that triggers the amygdala, triggers the limbic system.
And we have now post-traumatic stress disorder from 9/11. But I’m also interested in what molecular actions existed before now, no, because there could be two observers of 9/11. The person that grieves and it doesn't trigger his deep physical, biological trauma, but it triggers his grief and sadness with all of us. And there could be another person where it served as a biological trigger.
[00:59:20.06] Scott: Are empaths more likely to take on these types of traumas?
[00:59:27.20] Mark W.: Look, absolutely but then again, what creates an empath? Why are we so, and I put myself in the picture as an empath. Why are we people who've been traumatized? So deeply attuned to the field of other people, because we want to be safe.
So we empaths you, me, all of us that are empathic like this, maybe we are reading people's fields and very attuned to their fields because when we were little, there wasn't a lot of safety.
[01:00:05.29] Scott: So interesting. Does the impact of an inherited trauma become stronger or weaker with each successive generation?
[01:00:16.10] Mark W.: I would say it this way, that the traumas we inherit from our parents and grandparents have the ability to adversely impact our stress response. And this keeps us caught in a trauma loop; we're caught, we're caught in the trauma loop. And then the traumas keep repeating because we're caught in the trauma loop. In other words, in the trauma, we're gravitating and pulling towards.
We're gravitating towards and pulling toward events that keep this trauma loop thumping, and the negative situations keep repeating. And the contraction keeps repeating until finally there's fertile ground for expansion. So ultimately, although that might sound negative, I believe there's intelligence in all this. That the adversity doesn't stop; it keeps going until we find a healing environment in which we can heal. So the beauty of trauma is it's seeking healing.
The beauty of the contraction is it's seeking expansion. And yes, we have the roads bumpy for a bit as we're in the healing journey, that's true. But ultimately, we're headed towards something.
[01:01:30.27] Scott: So doing the work then to heal the inherited trauma can reverse the negative epigenetic influences that have led to physical illness, and potentially also keep our offspring, our children and our grandchildren from inheriting the effects of that trauma.
[01:01:49.26] Mark W.: Absolutely. I mean that's what, I’ve dedicated my life to many people that I’ve worked with. Observe changes in their behavior, their symptoms improve. They're able to calm their stress responses more easily, and that's the important thing. To really know what changes are taking place at the molecular level, we need to have before and after measurements.
And this is what I’m very interested in seeing. Seeing how the biomarkers are affected because that's one of the reasons I wrote the book. Get this information out there; get it in the scientific community's hands. Get more studies so we can do before and after therapy. You know I just spoke to somebody doing great research, and hope to be part of the before and after biomarker research.
[01:02:40.08] Scott: Beautiful. What are some of the things that you've observed in terms of symptoms or conditions that have improved when people do inherited trauma work? And maybe you can share a story or two in terms of the difference that has been made in someone's health in terms of their own recovery journey.
[01:02:58.15] Mark W.: I’ll tell a case I worked with of a 16-year-old boy who had a rare neurological disorder. So when he was 10, he began experiencing intense burning sensations on his skin. And the doctors couldn't figure out why this was happening, and they couldn't find any root cause. And they just said well, it's some rare neurological disorder, we don't really have a name. And when I spoke with his mom, she tells me about a trauma that his father experienced when he was 10. The father was playing with matches, and he accidentally set the garage on fire, and that caught the house on fire. And the father's brother died in this fire, and the father never forgave himself.
And so because the trauma remained unhealed and unresolved, the man's son expressed symptoms because the man pushed it all away, he can't deal with killing his brother. He can't deal with this. So now the man's son experiences burning sensations on his skin at the same age, and the family never makes a connection.
But after working together, the symptoms subsided. But I want to go back to something I said earlier. The beauty in this is the man's son's symptoms are saying daddy we have to look at this, daddy we have to look at this. We have to look at the past. I’m repeating this something here; I don't even understand it. But we have to open doors we haven't opened so that we can find healing which is what that family did. And the boy symptoms subsided.
[01:04:40.16] Scott: Wow, amazing. You are one person; lots of people need trauma, mental, emotional work to improve their condition. What are some of the tools or resources that people can access to help mitigate the impact of inherited family trauma?
[01:05:01.00] Mark W.: Okay. So again it's this idea of to heal, how we heal. It's simple, really? It's simple. We've got to have positive experiences that can change our brain. And then we need to practice. The new feelings and then the new sensations that come from these positive experiences. And then when we do this, we change our brain.
We not only create new neural pathways, but we stimulate the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA. We also stimulate the release of feel-good hormones like estrogen, oxytocin even the genes involved in the body's stress response can begin to as we learn, function in a new and improved way. These positive experiences, Scott, they can be anything. You know in my book I focus a lot on receiving comfort and support even when there was none.
Or feelings of compassion, or feelings of gratitude or generosity or love and kindness or practicing mindfulness. Ultimately, anything that allows us to feel strength and peace and joy inside, these types of experiences feed the prefrontal cortex. And can help us reframe the stress response, so it has a chance to downregulate.
The idea is to pull traction away from the limbic brain and to bring engagement to the forebrain, specifically the prefrontal cortex where we can integrate, and we can heal, and our brain can change. I mean we know this from mindfulness studies, right? We know eight hours of, the study I mentioned in the book, eight hours of mindfulness. The pro-inflammatory gene response changed after just eight hours of mindfulness, eight hours of meditation.
[01:06:57.12] Scott: What if someone doesn't know their family history, their parents refuse to talk about their traumas. Is there a way to heal from inherited trauma if we don't know what the trauma is? And have very little information to go on?
[01:07:11.10] Mark W.: Absolutely. We don't need to know what the trauma is; we just need to do the work. But I want to point out that this information also lives in our trauma language, even if we don't know what happened. Because our mom's not talking, our dad's not talking; our grandparents are dead, our parents are dead, we're adopted.
But it lives in our fears; it lives in our unexplained symptoms. It lives in our self-destructive behaviors, our self-sabotaging behaviors. It lives in the symptoms of our illness that appear after an unsettling event or show up at that age or in our relationships; it's all there. You know I can't implore people enough to do this, open the door to your past whatever you can find.
And if you can't find it, just let it out through the trauma language. Tell the language, because it's likely a story that's been lost in family history. Even if we don't know it, that can shine some light on why we feel the way we feel.
[01:08:17.25]Scott: Beautiful. As we start wrapping up, are there any other pearls that you might want to share with our listeners?
[01:08:24.00] Mark W.: Yes, I feel like I could talk forever about this stuff. But yes, if possible, we need to try to make peace with our parents. Because you know and it's not easy for people, because the parents have done some difficult things. And it would have been quite challenging to be the child of these parents. But I found that when we reject our parents, we reject aspects of ourselves.
And we can't see when we're the same, because the behaviors that we've disowned, we don't like in them, we've disowned in ourselves. And what we reject can express in us unconsciously, and our bodies can mirror that rejection.
So if we didn't feel supported by them, we might not feel supported by our body, and then we can struggle with chronic pain or fatigue or autoimmune symptoms. Or chronic tightness, migraines. You know when our inner image is that they couldn't be gentle with us; we can't be gentle with us.
We can't be gentle with the child inside of us. We often do to ourselves what we believe our parents did to us. If the parent was critical or aggressive or self-critical, or inwardly aggressive. Or if the parent ignored us or was distant, we're distant with ourselves, or we ignore the child part inside us. I talk about that book, that study in the book the Harvard mastery of stress study, where it's so simple.
They take 21-year-olds, and they ask them one question. Describe your mother, describe your father, and they give a multiple-choice test. Describe your relationship with your parent; it was either warm and close, Friendly, tolerant, or strained and cold. And people who answered with the mother, for example, and answered friendly, warm, close were only 45 percent more likely to have a physical condition 35 years later when they were 56. But the people who answered tolerant, strained or cold were 91 percent more than double, more likely to have symptoms of a significant illness, coronary artery disease, alcoholism, diabetes, cancer.
And then Johns Hopkins repeated this study when they called it the closeness to the parent scale when they were looking at outcomes for cancer. So healing with our parents isn't just a good idea, because Mark says it on our talk, it could be really imperative helping us heal our illnesses. And the question that I have is can we take in their love and care? Not like we expected, because it's never going to be like we expected.
But just as they give it, at least can we hold a different image inside us or even if we don't like them at all, can we work with visualization similar to what I did with that photograph. Can we do visualizations to help us heal the pain, so the pain isn't creating tightness in our body?
[01:11:45.02] Scott: Yes. It's so interesting that you bring this up. So I was not really close in my growing up with my biological father. And as my own health became a huge challenge and having explored some of this for many years, I came to the conclusion that trying to put some effort in healing that relationship was also important.
Not only for my health but also potentially for him and other people in terms of this whole inherited family trauma. And so I did that, and we do have a connection today. Not a necessarily common connection, but I do feel like it was a positive thing to do. And certainly, to your point, important in uncovering the potential contributors to our own health challenge.
[01:12:38.07] Mark W.: Beautiful, thank you for sharing that. And I want to say this to the listener; I want to say this, never throw yourself in front of a moving train if you feel that you can't go home because it's not safe. But if we're able to reflect in a broader way and step back a little bit behind your parent’s actions and behaviors, behind their criticism.
Behind their hurtfulness, is just a traumatic event that blocked the love they could give. And when we truly understand that, it changes things. We have understanding, we can have compassion, and through compassion, as we learn, we engage areas of our brain that fill us with peace.
And we don't have to excuse what they did, but certainly doing this work looking behind explains. And it's another reason I wrote the book, to help readers piece things together to become detectives of their own trauma language. So they can figure this out.
[01:13:42.22] Scott: So that's a perfect segue to my next question which is, tell us a little about the book and for people listening, the book is '' It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle”. And then I understand you're also working on a second book that's coming out soon. So tell us about those projects.
[01:14:02.04] Mark W.: Okay. So “It Didn’t Start With You”, you're going to become a detective of your trauma language. And your verbal and your non-verbal trauma language, I’ll teach you how to do that. And then you're going to learn how in the second part of the book to link it to the events that took place in the previous generation or in your early childhood or infancy.
And then in the third part of the book, you're going to learn how to break the cycle with boundary work, healing sentences, healing images, movements all sorts of things. And then the second book I’m working on, I’m going to focus more on the symptoms we can't explain and what might sit behind them, whether it's an autoimmune disorder or a mysterious inflammation in our body. What are the symptoms trying to communicate to us, and what history would be valuable to explore.
[01:14:57.08] Scott: If people are maybe not comfortable enough to just take the book and kind of run with it. Tell us a little bit about how people can access you and work with you and your practice. And then are there other clinicians practitioners that you've trained in your specific approach that can be a coach or resource to help them through that process?
[01:15:20.25] Mark W.: Absolutely, both. People can reach me through my website, Mark M-a-r-k-w-o-l-y-n-n.com. And they can book a session with me or one of the people I’ve trained; they can sign up for a training if they're clinicians. How to use this work in their own practices, but yes, it's all there.
[01:15:51.11] Scott: The last question that I have is the same for every guest, and that's what are some of the most important things that you do in support of your own health on a daily basis.
[01:16:00.26] Mark W.: Yes. I breathe, first thing I do is I breathe and center in my body daily. It's a daily practice, and I focus on just as I teach, I focus on the sensations of energy inside how to stay with pulsing and stay with waves and currents. I have a daily practice of that; I try to eat well. I cut out things like delicious things I cut them out like wheat, wheat and sugar, which are delicious.
But it's important; I know for my body to cut them out mostly. Wheat all the way and sugar mostly sometimes, you know how do you resist it? And exercise, yes.
[01:16:52.09] Scott: Beautiful. This was such a powerful conversation. My hope is that listeners will access some of the resources that you've provided in your book and through yourself and clinicians that can help them identify and release the inherited family trauma that might be a significant factor in their current state of health.
And so I just want to honor you for the important work that you do, and thank you for your generous time today in sharing with all of us and being here. So thank you so much, Mark.
[01:17:23.21] Mark W.: Thank you, Scott, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed talking with you.
[01:17:27.06] Scott: Thank you so much, be well. To learn more about today's guest, visit MarkWolynn.com, that's Mark Wolynn W-O-L-Y-N-N.com MarkWolynn.com.
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The content of this show is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or medical condition. Nothing in today's discussion is meant to serve as medical advice or as information to facilitate self-treatment. As always, please discuss any potential health-related decisions with your own personal medical authority.