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Avoiding feeling and 'existential' embarrassment

hi heartsuppoooooooort.

one quick question before i talk: how do yall effectively avoid feeling your feelings when it feels like that would be too overwhelming? or is it impossible? i know feeling ur feelings is so beneficial but right now it feels like too much.

that being said, im about to feel my feelings a little.

im a senior in college, studying abroad in Germany. I study German Studies and have been learning german since i was a freshman in high school. I have had a ROUGH few months here in germany, as i have already talked about a lot on the forum.

right now i am REALLY struggling with my language skills. i have only made one friend who i went on some dates with before i told him a relationship was actually not in the cards for me currently. He offered to help me and today we met for the first time to work on my language. he asked me how long I had been studying and when I was graduating and I immediately burst into tears. It feels AWFUL telling people that I have been studying this one thing for 8 years and still can’t manage to do it on an even average level. I am NOT senior in college level.

Warning: comparison. There are people my age that know 4 languages but are majoring in some business science field. But German is only my second language and I am majoring in it and still… suck.

First of all, I can make excuses for why i haven’t made much progress (only learned grammar the first 4 years, college was scary, depression, anxiety, being young and unsure, a long relationship that sucked my energy, corona and zoom classes) but that doesn’t change that I am stuck.

my friend asked me how that felt and the most fitting word i could describe was: embarrassed.

i think it encapsulates the internal and external shame at my lack of capabilities.

But it’s also not like I feel like I am getting better here in germany. I feel like my german is getting worse. I feel like I can’t say the most basic things. When I take my time reading or pretending to say something in my head, I can do cool things with the language. but when it comes to conversing, my brain is zapped and I am static. (this is how I feel with a lot of other things in life. i can get to a certain level of mastery (or lack of) and I just stop improving).

I can’t tell if this is because of ‘diminished returns’ or learning curves. or if its something else. i wonder if its the weight of mental illness on my mind. maybe its the years of antidepressants (lol). maybe its a learning disabilitity? It’s just tough cause I use to pick up german vocabulary instantly and now I have to look up the same words over and over and over. And if it is a learning disability, the process of getting that diagnosed while studying abroad… i don’t know if i’d have the energy to figure out how to do that.

At the risk of being insensitive, I also wonder if some form or degree of autism is at play. I don’t know exactly how autism plays out, so that might not be something to consider. or maybe its some combination of all of this.

anyway… what do yall think? have u ever experienced something similar. how did u feel. what did u learn. :slight_smile:



I think you’re being way too hard on yourself. Learning languages is hard and it only gets harder the older you get. Different people have different circumstances. It is common in Europe to know many languages because they are surrounded by many cultures and languages day to day. Americans, by contrast, are not immediately exposed to so many languages and so there is less emphasis placed on knowing multiple languages.

As for not feeling, in my opinion this is a bad idea. I was abused for most of my life until adulthood and not feeling became a defense mechanism for me. It took me years (literally years) to teach myself how to feel again and I still, almost 2 decades later, have a very hard time expressing my emotions effectively. You have no reason to feel embarrassed, but even if you do, it is not worth losing your humanity.

As for learning disabilities, Autism, etc, I don’t think you need to assume that there is something wrong with you just because it is taking time to learn a language. Maybe its just your pace. You’re doing the best you can and studying abroad is scary, on top of all that.

I think you’re doing just fine.


One problem is, consciously avoiding feelings can create discord between the conscious mind and the subconscious. Another problem is, suppressed feelings means that good feelings are also blocked. Sometimes, turning away from our feelings is a good thing, for example, in intense or emergency situations, it’s worth engaging some willpower, in order to remain calm and rational, with emotions suppressed, but it’s not good for that state of mind to become permanent.

I think it might be good for you to learn relaxation techniques, or meditation. There are some kinds of music like Mozart for example, that really help with studying and remembering. It sounds like the thought of learning and practicing German, is making you very anxious, and the anxiety is affecting your concentration and recall. I have a feeling that you know a lot more than you think you do.

I tend to get overwhelmed easily myself. I can usually manage it by focusing on just the thing I need to do in the next moment. I tell myself, "I don’t need to think about or worry about anything else, except this next step. When that’s accomplished, I focus on the next step, and so on. It’s like having to move a ton of bricks. You can look at the mountain of bricks and feel discouraged or anxious. Alternatively, you can decide that moment by moment, you only need to move one or two bricks at a time. Speaking of diminishing returns, at best, humans can only maintain optimal concentration for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. After that, it gets more and more difficult, and the mind spends more time wandering. It’s good to get up and walk around, or do something to give your mind a break at regular intervals.

I imagine that you are dealing with more complex aspects of the German language than you initially did. That can make it seem as though your ability to learn has become more problematic. However, just like moving the bricks, you can take it a bit of time. In my case, I have to repeat words 20 or 30 times, and do the same thing over again for a few days. Another way to remember is to use the words in the most ridiculous sentence that you can think of. Often they will be remembered after only a few repetitions.

Having a learning disability can affect the rate at which you learn, but it will not stop you from learning. You did mention that you used to be able to pick up the words more easily, so I suspect that your current difficulties are not related to a learning disability. Still, it’s not a bad idea to be evaluated, just in case. The evaluation process can reveal the most effective way for you to learn. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in college, and I took my evaluators advice on how to approach my studying.

You mentioned antidepressants, and a symptom of depression is reduced concentration, so I think it’s worth looking into that issue.

You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You are working hard and sticking with it. You had the courage to admit you difficulties and reach out to us. If anything, you are to be admired for having overcome so much.

Check back with us. I’d like to know how you’re doing.

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