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The Lived Experience of Violation

How Abused Children Become Unhealthy Adults

 Anna Luise Kirkengen

This book documents in compelling detail, and with great compassion, the long-term consequences of early life abuse and neglect as they affect health throughout life. It highlights the importance of eliciting each person’s story as a means of achieving relief from the emotional and physiological consequences of early life adversity. In so doing, the book also provides a provocative reflection upon the relationship between brain and mind. Furthermore, it argues that modern biomedical science needs to elaborate a more sophisticated appraisal of an individual’s reflections upon salient lifetime experiences, since they are key for understanding how these experiences affect health through biological pathways that, on the one hand, promote adaptation and, on the other hand, can be dysregulated and cause damage.


  • "The Lived Experience of Violation will probably be the decade’s preeminent text on comprehensive medical practice. Case-based and elegantly written by a physician with superb interviewing skills, it advances the earlier work of Alvarez, Balint, Magraw, Engel, and Barbour, taking us beyond the pattern recognition of conversion reactions or the mechanisms of psychophysiologic reaction, and into the depths of personal illness: abusive life experiences that are common, yet comfortably unrecognized in medical practice as being basic causes. The numerous citations are a major asset in supporting our evolving understanding of the progression from life experience to structural disease. This is a clinically relevant, erudite, and philosophically profound book that challenges us to reach our full capability as physicians."
    -- Vincent J. Felitti, MD, Clinical professor of medicine, University of California, San Diego
    Principal investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, ACE Study)


  • "Dr. Kirkengen has produced a remarkable and revolutionary work. She has validated the personal experiences of abused persons in a totally new way. She has drawn upon a philosophy of phenomenology to establish the truth of the “lived experience”. She brings the “phenomena” of lived experience closer to the “noumena” that might have been observed by uninvolved witnesses had such persons been secretly watching the abusive events that affected the people she describes. This book discards conventional clinical processes and conventional medical research processes for the assessment of sick persons and their conditions. Conventional epidemiology, also takes its lumps. Conventional medical thinkers may have some difficulty with digestion of Kirkengen’s conceptualizations. This book should be read by all medical doctors, who have an interest in violence and abuse. Most of them will find it very useful in framing the problems that their patients bring to them. It will also be useful in producing precise definitions of the specific acts that our society must learn to prevent if we are to get healthy."
    -- David L. Chadwick, MD, Director emeritus, founder of the Chadwick Center for Children and Families, Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center, San Diego


  • "Dr. Kirkengen shows incisively how the mind-body dualism inherent in medical thinking leads to decontextualizing the understanding of health problems from their life contexts and sociocultural settings. Making use of her extensive clinical and research experience in medicine, along with a deep understanding of phenomenology and ethics, she shows the devastating consequences of such thinking: medicine, as currently practiced, is unable to address adequately the health problems (including so-called functional disorders) associated with the all-too-common experience of trauma. Dr. Kirkengen brilliantly elucidates the toxicity of violation, humiliation, and objectification, particularly if silenced and unseen. In the conceptual framework she offers, personal experience assumes its rightful place in our understanding of health, and the body becomes truly and fully human. By showing health care practitioners and researchers how to read the meaning of the body, Dr. Kirkengen opens the door to the possibility of true healing. The Lived Experience of Violation should be required reading for all who are involved in providing health care, whether through direct services, research, policy, or law. This book does nothing less than alter the epistemology of health. It is the stuff of which paradigm shifts are made."
    -- Jacqueline Golding, Ph.D., Psychologist, Professor, University of California, San Francisco


  • "This is the most important book on women’s health to appear in the past several decades. To the same extent it is also about men’s health. It examines the ethical health of the biomedical system in that “the human body is consistently conceptualized as biologically determined and of male stature.” Biomedicine is consistently unable to understand -- let alone able to treat -- women’s bodies in such a narrow context. It is a breathtakingly coherent and rational deconstruction of the biomedical system ..... She shows through her voice and the voices of her patients the inability of biomedicine to regard the body whether male or female, including the experience and the context of the client’s pain and suffering, as undivided and constantly interacting with an equally living environment. Declaring that such relational and contextual “ethics must therefore take precedence over all their (physicians) training and knowledge,” Dr. Kirkengen guides the reader into a deep well of compassion, kindness and altruism that is simply missing from the core of medical practice or marginalized as irrelevant. Her voice is clear, authoritative, steady, compelling and never misses a beat to the book’s conclusion that people are whole and embodied beings who seek meaning and integration of life experience especially when encountering the Western health care system.
    -- Michael J. Shea, Ph.D., Shea Educational Group, Inc.


· ISBN: 978-973-1997-47-6 (ebook) · Online access on this site · Published 2010 ·
· ISBN: 978-973-1997-46-9 (paperback) · Print and eBook options available from Zeta Books ·


For more information contact us by phone 800-444-2419 or 434-220-3300, by fax 434-220-3301; or by e-mail [email protected].

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