Uselessness: The Curse and the Cure
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).
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
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.
Four 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..
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
What helps you most to deal with the sense of uselessness?
© 2013 Dora Weithers