I had what people call a violent, abusive father. My mom told me that he became like that after a car accident that left my father in a coma for 6 months and 1 week.
My mom also told me that it's my fault she ever had to marry him because she was pregnant. Therefore, I took that statement with a grain of salt and learned to form my own opinion early on.
The dirty divorce war lasted over seven years and was fought mostly at my expense. One parent blaming and accusing the other while my father sometimes tried to kidnap me from school.
Trust me: If the school director summons all students, shows them a picture of your father and instructs the kids how they have to call for help when they see him, the unwanted limelight burns through your scalp.
When I was 9, I learned how to pick a lock and broke into my mom's room when she was at work. The room with all the books. Grown-ups were sure: It's not normal for a 9-year-old to read Kafka and Hesse.
At the age of 10, they brought me to a psychiatrist to decide if I had suffered lasting damage.
They put me into a room with a lot of toys and left. I was damaged back then. What's there even to "decide" when a kid has been beaten and emotionally abused for all of his short life?
My instinct was to throw away the first toy I grabbed and take the next. And the next. I could not concentrate on a task back then.
For some reason, I "knew" I had to pretend I play happily with one toy. I did so until the doctor and my mom came back.
The result was negative. I was considered a healthy kid.
You develop the senses you need to survive. That's all your brain is about: Survival.
I had developed intuition. Because I had to. It was important to "feel" when danger (my father) was imminent and also find truth (to sort out statements that could have made me feel guilty for being alive.)
I do not believe in witchcraft. I believe in the power of our brains and our senses. We have a 6th sense - or call it intuition. Some stronger, some not so much.
For instance, it used to be pretty common that a mother would "feel" that something happened to her kid before we had telephones and modern communication. The sense became weaker when it was less needed.
Also, our lives became less dangerous.
Just like a blind person develops a stronger sense of smell, a kid in chronic danger will develop a stronger "6th sense."
That might be a simplified explanation and I admittedly made it up myself, but, so I believe, accurate.
Reseach Facial Expression
In his best-seller "The Tipping Point", Malcolm Gladwell speaks about the teachings of pioneering UC San Francisco psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman on face reading. Ekman and several colleagues created (FACS), a Facial Action Coding System, which identifies facial expressions created by slight shifts in the facial muscles.
It turns out that children of addicted parents (drugs, alcohol) are far better at detecting even the slightest change in facial expressions.
I read similar research (for the German police) years ago (but couldn't find the source) that came to the conclusion that kids with a background of abuse are superior at detecting lying suspects and criminals from their facial expression.
Each of us is blessed
Everyone receives blessings. And there are two sides to every blessing. There is no light without shadow.
The rich kid you envy might have had less chance to develop "fighter" skills. He might struggle later in life.
The kid with the wonderful parents and the ideal loving childhood might break, unprepared for when it first faces the ugly, dark side of life.
The intuitive kid has developed his skills at the price of suffering.
Envy is such a waste of time.
The Universe grants its blessings on its own time. Not ours.
And for everyone who still lets whatever happened centuries ago limit their amount of success = happiness:
Consider emotional intelligence training.We are all blessed. But sometimes we need someone to teach us how we can remove the stains on our blessings caused by third parties.
Please do not ask me what's the blessing of a child in Africa that dies from hunger. I could not answer that. But I will say: The more we manage to focus on our blessings and realize our potential, the more capacity we have to give to others.
Even before people can hear or see, they can feel touches. For our mental and physical health, the tactile sense, touching plays an important role.
We use glasses to correct poor eyesight and hearing aids to correct poor hearing. Our senses are of crucial importance because they enable us to get an idea of our surroundings.
The facial expression of our conversation partner, the smell of smoke in the house, the sirens of a police car - without our senses we would be defenseless and unprotected.
How about touches?
Emotional meaning of the tactile sense
Other than in a sexual context we do not hear a lot about this overlooked sense. Like all others, it is important. It allows us to recognize a touch. Without it, we could not hold a fork, use a smart phone or change a bulb.
This uses of the tactile sense are very visible. The sense of touching is also of large importance for our emotional and physical well-being.
Eat or cuddle?
In the 50ties Psychologist Harry Harlow (read more on Wikipedia) conducted an experiment with rhesus monkey babies. He left them alone (without parents or a buddy) in a cage.
Later they had to make a decision between two objects. Two "mothers." One consisted of wire and a bottle of milk. The other one did not carry milk but was made from cozy, soft fabric.
What would the monkeys do? Which object would they choose? The vital milk mother or the comfortable mother made from fabric?
The majority of monkey babies decided for the fabric mother. They seemingly considered physical closeness more important than food.
Cold and hugs
People and monkeys are comparable to a limited degree. Experiments with people came to the same conclusion, only even more drastic.
Social isolation equals suffering. The hormone oxytocin is released when people hug. That is (among other things) an anti-stress hormone. Also, the blood pressures sink as well as the amount of fear. Even the subjective perception of pain goes down.
Here is info for germ freaks: A 2014 study by the Carnegie Mellon University suggests that hugs can help to get through winter without or at least without severe colds. More about "a hug a day keeps the flu away in this Time.com article HERE.
Participants of the study have been asked how often they embrace other people. Afterward, the 404 participants have been exposed to a common cold virus. They have been put into quarantine, and the researchers took note of how many of them showed symptoms of a cold.
The participants who hugged other people on a regular basis showed significantly fewer symptoms. And if they got sick the illness was less severe. The theory is that a lower stress level decreases the likelihood of becoming ill.
Grave consequences of loneliness
We are social creates that need contact to others for our happiness. People who were isolated in their youth and childhood have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases at a younger age compared to other grown-ups.
A study that looked at retirees found that isolation and loneliness are accurate predictors for how long a person is going to live.
There is a connection between depression and loneliness. Isolation seems to encourage depression. Cognitive decline happens faster when people are lonely.
A different study could show the relation between social isolation and Alzheimer.
What if you don´t have someone to hug
Another connection exists between touches and loneliness. But what if you´re single and do not care for hugging your work mates? In the US 124.6 million people over the age of 16 have been single in 2014 (Source: US Census Beaurau).
The good news: Hugs and touches from people you do not have an emotional connection with help too. Massage could be an option, and many people chose pets.
Pets have demonstrably had a similar positive effect on our health like dealing with people.