Criticism (haibun)

“Hello, you’ve reached a counsellor. How can I help you tonight?” I waited.  I heard soft sobs; he spoke so fast, I could not decipher his story. “Are you safe right now?  Are you okay?”

“Yes, I am safe. I’m at home alone.  My parents are at my school meeting teachers. It’s the parent-teacher meeting tonight. They are going to kill me when they get home!” His voice reached a high note and he sounded more like a young, scared child…not his fifteen years.

He called out of helplessness…a last resort.  Wishing to protect his family as youths usually do, he needed to get this off his chest for the first time.  Tonight, he wept on the phone for the first time a practice he was accustomed doing privately … his nightly lullaby.

He was worried about his parents’ reaction on their return. He had an  82% average and usually he got 90+  He talked about his listlessness and difficulty concentrating lately, his insomnia, his depression…

“I can’t remember a night I have not cried myself to sleep since I was 11. My  parents say I exaggerate and that I’m just going through adolescence.”

We talked about  these “depressed” thoughts and I suggested a doctor could help to ensure he had a proper diagnosis and address his melancholy and  his insomnia;  I asked him to describe what  it was like for him to feel sad every day, how did he interact with friends, was he involved in sports.  He said he wore a mask at school.  He quickly added his parents were not abusive and  supportive. “They always tell me they love me and want me to go to them if I need help.” He broke down sobbing again.

I asked him what he was thinking…I wondered what triggered the sobs. He hesitated,  “Well, I know my parents mean well but they always criticize me and tell me it’s for my own good. But I am so tired of hearing them talk to me like that…it hurts so much.” He sobbed softly.

He told me what his parents often add to their supportive messages, my mouth dropped as I heard it, “We love you, we care, what are you STUPID?!”  I was silent.  I felt like I’d been kicked me in the belly. I could not imagine how hurtful it must feel hearing such  “criticism” day after day, for so many years.

We explored which trusted adult he could ask for support. Someone who  might be able to help his parents understand how he feels. He thought of a family friend, his father’s best friend.  I asked him if he would consider seeing his family doctor.  He seemed wary about seeing his doctor without his parents knowing even if he was permitted at his age but would consider emailing his father’s best friend after our phone call.

He sighed and said he was very tired now but would call us again. “It feels good finally getting this off my chest. Thank you.”


True criticism

appraise and appreciate

does NOT denigrate.

© Cheryl-Lynn 2014/03/17

Photo credits: Psychology and Astrology

Something about Criticism.

13 thoughts on “Criticism (haibun)

  1. It’s really so sad that people are incapable to see the hurt that thier useful criticism can create. I can really relate to this story and the sad feeling of failure that one feels in the face of such helpfulness from people that believe thay’re doing good pointing out ones “stupidity”. The push for excellence the lack of a good word or encouragement. You’ve done a great job here Cher. Thanks for sharing this story with the 13th Floor!.


    • You know it was a story that stuck to me a long time ago…I believe may I have written a poem last year on it because it just irked me and I could not get it out of my mind. When I checked your blog tonight, that word had several stories…I killed 2 birds with one stone, I’m blogging for my work until our walk and have to offer 5 posts…so this will certainly be one. Hope you are well, Georgia.


      • Glad the prompt brought the story out. people really should try to understand what their words do to other people. I’ve heard so very often stories of yound people, and even not so young people, who’ve been devastated by harsh words. Thanks again for writing here. I’m doing pretty good, and really have to write something, but wanted to go through the notifications I’d missed. Thanks again.


  2. Really good really makes me think about how I talk to my children you forget how they hold on to statements and words that might mean nothing to you but everything to them,’words which they never forget. I have those words from childhood x very well written xx


  3. Hi Cher, another example of the wonderful work you do. We often don’t realise our words can be hurtful and we remember the ones that in our own childhood impacted on us. I think you have exposed us to a very real example of criticism, where I would bet those parents did believe they were being supportive. I don’t really know of many people who ever responded well to criticism especially when directed at them the person. Great post.


  4. Pingback: All in a word – Bastet’s Sunday Prompts | The 13th Floor Paradigm

  5. Pingback: All in a Word – Writing Prompts | The 13th Floor Paradigm

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