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.