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Uselessness: The Curse and the Cure

Updated on July 27, 2017
MsDora profile image

MsDora, former teacher and Certified Christian Counselor, explores attitudes and actions that can help us maintain our mental well-being.

Uselessness is synonymous with fruitlessness, helplessness and powerlessness although the feeling may exist in someone who appears to be functioning normally. For example, gifted children feel useless when they are too far ahead of their peers.

Uselessness also matches the definition of “curse” in the Free Online Dictionary: “something that brings or causes great trouble or harm” (Source: Collins English Dictionary); “something causing misery or death” (Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection).

Feeling Useless

When no new thoughts fill the mind; when no horizons beckon; when life is in the past, not in the future—you are on your way to uselessness.

— Dr. Frederick K. Stamm

Sander van der Wel
Sander van der Wel | Source

There is no criticism here for anyone experiencing this sense of uselessness. It is a precursor to depression and suicide; something this serious deserves understanding, not judgment.

We either have been or will be visited by a sense of uselessness at some time in our lives. The following discourse intends to help make us aware of the cause, so that we can be prepared to deal with it. It also presents options to those who are tempted to think that there are none.

Both the onset and the cure are influenced by a person’s disposition.

Beyond Our Control

Huxley declares that the sense of uselessness is the severest shock which the human system can sustain, and that if persistently sustained, it results in atrophy of function. - Jane Addams

At the root of all feelings of uselessness is the reality that situations are beyond our control. We are incapable of bringing about the necessary changes and we can choose either to search for options or throw up our hands in despair.

Both our physical and mental conditions influence the choice we make. The tired person thinks that all his energy is spent. “I’m done—useless!” The disappointed person perceives that the world is against her. “Nothing works. I’m useless.”

The following reasons have been given by people who sense the feeling of uselessness. Yet, for every reason listed, there are people who struggle through these issues without giving up.

  • The inability to give help to someone who really needs it;
  • Unemployment or fixed incomes causing the inability to provide for self and dependents;
  • Failure to get pregnant after years of trying;
  • Failing to please someone (a parent, a boss, a spouse) who is never satisfied;
  • Watching the decline of moral standards and being the only one calling for reform;
  • Chronic physical conditions like headache, backache preventing expected job performances;
  • Feeling unaccepted by people in a particular circle;
  • Years of struggling with an addiction.

Suggestions for the Cure

I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. - Geronimo

The sense of uselessness is a secondary situation created in response to some other traumatic situation or event. The cure begins with the discovery and handling of the primary situation.

If the sense of uselessness is left to progress into depression and suicidal thoughts, psychotherapy is advisable. “Adjunctive therapy, such as occupational therapy and music therapy, is helpful in relieving tensions and emotional problems that are associated with a feeling of uselessness.”

The following suggestions can help us offset and cure the sense of uselessness. They help maintain emotional health and serve us best if implemented before the condition begins..

Sense of Purpose

A useless life is an early death. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The best antidote for a sense of uselessness is a sense of purpose. We begin to discover our purpose with an inventory of our natural gifts and talents which everyone (including the handicapped) has. The painter can take pride in his enhancement ability. The writer can keep on writing no matter how many people read. Our purpose is not based on responses to our performance, but our commitment to who we are, and what we are designed to do.

We are alive for a good reason; we can never sink into uselessness if we believe that.

Service Projects

The way to feel better about your own situation is to improve someone else's circumstances. Ezra Taft Benson

The good feeling we get from helping others gives a boost to our self-worth. To know that we make a difference is reason enough to feel useful. While we are spending our energies in the interest of others, we are distracted from our own difficulties. At the next opportunity to evaluate our situation, we may have a different perspective which shows us that our circumstances are not as bad as they seem.

By showing interest in and assisting a cause which benefits someone else, we find ourselves at the height of usefulness.

Uselessness Poll

What helps you most to deal with the sense of uselessness?

See results

Learning Projects

Boredom may lead to a sense of Usefulness and Frustration. Krees

The very first quote in this article mentions “new thoughts” as an antidote to the feeling of uselessness. Something new and positive will excite our minds and distract us from despair.

What about new ways to pursue dreams which are still unfulfilled? Will a new class help prepare us for the venture?

What about auto and home repairs which keep bogging us down with bills? What an exciting challenge to learn a few self-help techniques!

Can we see the benefit of taking a class just for self-improvement?

We are alive because there’s something else for us to do. We deserve to learn how so we can step on it, and discard that sense of uselessness.

Social Projects

No man is useless while he has a friend. - Robert Louis Stevenson

The other projects may also be considered social, but here the emphasis is friendship. There is a friend for everyone, and we find our friends when we start being friendly. Instead of waiting for some to affirm our usefulness, we can be the affirmer, encourager and supporter. Prospective friends are in churches, health clubs, neighborhood groups and a host of other civic organizations.

We can practice seeing the good in people we meet, rejoicing with people who celebrate, participating in the happiness of others.

We improve our sense of worth, belonging and usefulness when we experience connectedness with others.

© 2013 Dora Weithers


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Love you, Creation. We must talk soon. I hope you know that you encourage me too.

    • profile image

      creation56 2 years ago from Texas

      I have missed you so much! As I grow in God my Spirit always longs to contact you my friend. The writings you share is so beautiful and effective in my life. Thank you for your faithfulness in using your gift to guide us, especially women!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Rajan, I like your motto. Thanks for sharing. I'm sure it works.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Working towards helping others is, to me, the best antidote to this sense of despair and once we have made this a mission, to do a good deed a day, it will help to give our sense of feeling good about ourselves a world of good. Do good, feel good is my motto!

      Voted up.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Alocsin, your idea is top of the list. Who could feel useless while someone is saying thanks?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Eunice, I wish you could hear me calling your name! So happy to hear from you. You get an A+ for comprehension. Take care!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      There is one quick fix for feeling useless: volunteer. Organizations always need help with something and everybody has something to contribute. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • profile image

      Eunice Gilbert 5 years ago

      Your article is such an inspiration. Useless is a form of disconnect we feel when we are sometimes pressured by the society we live in to measure up. Thank you for the many solutions. Reach out to someone and shift your focus. Thank you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Rajan, Geronimo is listed as an Apache Leader. With a perspective like that, he must have been an inspiring leader. Thanks for your comment.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting read. I think Geronimo summed it up very well in that quote of his.

      Voted up.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Icbenefield, I really believe the truth in that line. Thanks for underscoring it, and for your support in general.

    • lcbenefield profile image

      lcbenefield 5 years ago from Georgia

      "Our purpose is not based on responses to our performance, but our commitment to who we are, and what we are designed to do."

      This line especially resonates with me. We are designed with purpose. Our gifts and talents do need to be used to help others. As long as we are seeking to serve the God , we cannot be useless. Thanks for sharing this.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      DDE, I like your spirit. Your attitude is probably the result of seeing yourself a useful; that makes it easy to see usefulness in other people.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you, Peg for sharing about a sharing which makes you feel useful. Your attitude in all of this is also very helpful.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I never think of anyone as useless not everyone can do what others do, but with practice things can workout and what fails eventually works itself out too

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Frank. I love the "useful" story of the child and his mom. Glad you got around to the article.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      These are profound thoughts, MsDora. In a world that is difficult at best we can all use a bit of positive thinking and course correction if we're feeling useless. You've provided some valuable solutions here like helping others and finding a friend.

      Nearly everyday I interact with elderly family members whose situations give me a reason to feel useful and to be grateful for things I can do which they no longer can. These are simple things, like walking out the trash or opening a jar or setting the air conditioning thermostat program. Their endearing gratitude is a sure fire antidote to feeling useless.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      I was watching this four year old child trying to put a marble in a little hole and I heard her say Mom Im useless.. and her mother said no sweetie, you're determined.. and that's useful.. so you have to look at uselessness from outside the box.. I love this hub MsDora.. don't know how it got by me...

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Tonipet, thanks for your participation. Your comment is very meaningful.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

      "I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. - Geronimo"

      Very true. Our true purpose is to be useful stewards not just for the earth but to the individuals in us. It's the many influences from this world that has created us into some sort of "uselessness." Very useful hub. Just one read and we will realize many things.

      Thank you MsDora. My votes up and sharing. Abrazos:=)Tonette

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for your comment, Dense, and for affirming that suggestion which you works for you.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Your final suggestion, helping someone else, has been my antidote for feelings of uselessness. There is always someone who needs help, all it takes is for us to lift up our heads and look around. Thanks for your timely suggestions!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      So Confident, you said it very well. Thanks for your affirmation.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you, Sam. Glad you stopped by.

    • soconfident profile image

      Derrick Bennett 5 years ago

      Great hub, very moving. Some people go though life with no sense of purpose, which makes them feel useless, but like you said there are plenty of things they can do to feel wanted or needed.

    • SAM ELDER profile image

      SAM ELDER 5 years ago from Home

      wow.. interesting and great article..

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Billybuc, thanks for sharing. So many of us benefit from your having control of your life!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Faith Reaper, it is difficult for the sense of purpose (which you have) and the sense of uselessness to co-exist. God bless you, too!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Eric, thanks for such an encouraging comment. Glad that the article has that positive effect on you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great points made.....I felt uselessness at one time. Now that I have control of my life, the old thoughts never appear. :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 5 years ago from southern USA

      Awesome and interesting article here, Ms. Dora.

      I don't know if I've ever been bored long enough to have that feeling of being useless in this life, so far.

      Yes, God has given us all gifts that we should use for His glory no doubt!

      Even the smallest acts of kindness each day, goes along way in another one's life, and in our life as well.

      Voted up +++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      This piece is exceptional. I learned much. I had not thought in such a way. You are danged right. I feel more empowered to not only help myself but others. Much thanks!


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