One of the things people fear most is being “unneeded” or “useless.” When people feel like they’re superfluous, and that no one really needs them around, they tend to wonder about two things:
- “How will I get by?”
- “What am I even living for?”
The question of “How will I get by?” comes from a basic survival fear. If someone is made redundant at their job, and no one else is interested in hiring them, how will they keep a roof over their head and afford food, clothes, and health care? If their family doesn’t seem to need or want them, where will they go? When you’re on the fringes of the pack or out in the cold, it’s much harder to get by.
The question of “What am I even living for?” comes from a loss of purpose. When people feel superfluous, they wonder what it is they’re meant to do. People fare better when they’re needed for something or doing something meaningful – when they can create or build things, provide care, render assistance, inspire or teach others, give themselves and others opportunities to grow, explore something interesting, and give love to others in tangible ways.
Why Do Many People Feel Superfluous?
The pandemic has exacerbated tendencies and accelerated trends that have already been provoking a sense of superfluousness in people, namely:
- Job loss or job insecurity
- A feeling of helplessness
Numerous small businesses have been wrecked this past year, but even before that many were contending with steep competition from internet commerce, along with struggling to pay rising taxes and rent.
Many jobs continue to be in danger from automation, where technology (automated computer processes, AI) performs the necessary tasks and makes human involvement largely unnecessary. The pandemic has brought on another wave of automation. For some, job retraining and new placements will be possible. However, there are barriers to retraining and starting fresh, including the fact that individuals aren’t infinitely adaptable or transplantable. Also, retraining programs often fall short in various ways.
As for isolation, it’s more than just being on your own now and then. It’s being cut off from others – family, friends, romantic partners, colleagues, community. It can stem from literal physical isolation. (For most people, simulations of togetherness via Zoom and other online platforms don’t come close to replacing time spent together in-person.) Isolation may also stem from a feeling of profound loneliness even when you’re among other people.
Another aspect of isolation is the belief that no one really cares about you. You experience callousness, empty promises, betrayals of trust. You may also feel helpless. Maybe you realize that you have much less influence over your circumstances than you thought.Continue reading “Some Thoughts About Feeling Superfluous”