A Family Language

Lots of things irritate me. LOTS! I know that when I am depressed or stressed, I become easily agitated. Everyday I have to constantly evaluate each irritation as it happens. “Am I making this a bigger deal than it is? Am I taking this too personally? Should I speak up about this? Do I let this go? Where is this irritation coming from? What is it triggering?” At the end of the day, it’s pretty exhausting.

My therapist says it’s healthy to do this, that it is also a sign of a “self”emerging. That I am noticing more around me.


That there is an old story playing here. A back-story of “shoulds” and let downs. An upbringing of constant criticism. This is the language of my family. A language of put downs, jabs, criticism, and name-calling. So much so that it’s considered normal and funny. “I’m just kidding” they say when anyone calls them on it.

There’s also my Dad’s hard to please nature that comes into play. He doesn’t tell you or show you how he wants things done, so when you do them you’re wrong. He gets upset, and criticizes you and your work. It’s like shooting in the dark. “No matter what you do, you just can’t please him” a brother once told me.

I have an old memory from when I was about 6. I was at the kitchen table drawing a bear. My dad came by and looked at my picture. “Those teeth are too big” he commented, and I felt deflated. You may think I was too sensitive to take this personally. An adult may ask for feedback, a critique, how can I do this better? But I wasn’t an adult. I was a 6-year old kid who, like all kids, seeks the approval and acceptance of their parents. Not only seeks it, but needs it just as much as food. So when what I got was criticism, instead of validation, what I learned was, “I’m not good enough”. Not just in my skills, but as a daughter, a female, and a person.

So again you may call me sensitive. But I say I was a kid and kids are sensitive. Some more than others, but sensitive nonetheless. If kids weren’t, they wouldn’t need adults to help them through those early developing years.

So what does this have to do with my being irritated all the time? Well, as I know, when I am stressed and/or depressed I tend to go back to old patterns. This is definitely the case right now. My world feels like a big gaping “unknown” right now, and so I am clinging to what I do know. And what I do know is the language of criticism and holding others to a certain standard.

What do I do about it? Notice it I suppose. Know that it isn’t the world’s personal attack on me when things go “wrong” and that my anger and criticism is an old story playing out because I’m kinda scared right now. Practice some re-parenting skills by allowing myself to have my feelings and practice the old adage of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”.


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