Hopelessness is a feeling or state of despair, a lack of hope, characterized by lethargy, low self-esteem and a subconscious reluctance to see the positive in one’s life. Hopelessness can be caused by external factors such as oppression, or by constantly examining wrong-doings and bad decisions made in one’s life and how they are related to the situation one is currently in.
Based on what I have learned there are nine different types of hopelessness, each with a different motivating factor and treatment method. Some forms of hopelessness are related to a specific need, whereas others relate to a combination of different needs and are therefore more difficult to overcome.
First Three Types of Hopelessness
The first type of hopelessness is related to alienation and pertains to people who feel cut off from society and at the same time shuts themselves off from others. An example of this would be a recluse or perhaps elderly people.
The second type of hopelessness is forsakenness, which describes a feeling of being abandoned at a time of need. An example of this would be someone suddenly being shunned by their school friends or a child being left alone.
The third type of hopelessness, uninspired, relates specifically to people who are members of overlooked communities feeling hopeless due to lack of opportunity and role-models. Typical examples of this would be members of minority communities.
The first three types of hopeless is caused by cognitive distortions, in other words, exaggerated and irrational thought patterns. There may be an initial experience that causes us to fall into a pattern of thinking that we are alienated, forsaken or uninspired. This way of thinking snowballs into more extreme thoughts, which makes it hard for the individual to see anything that proves the contrary. The way to overcome these types of hopelessness is by training the brain to be susceptible to stimuli that proves the opposite of what is deemed to be the “truth”. This can be achieved by reflecting with a therapist or counsellor, or by oneself by, for example, playing a game wherein you prove the opposite of what you are thinking and give the evidence for it (e.g. I am not alone because my sister called me earlier today).
Second Three Types of Hopelessness
The fourth type of hopelessness is powerlessness. This pertains to feelings of not being an active participant in decisions regarding ones life.
The fifth type of hopelessness is oppression, which relates to the experience of having one’s rights systematically stripped away and the feeling of being down-trodden.
The sixth type of hopelessness is the feeling of limitedness. This relates specifically to poor people and people suffering from physical disability but can also be felt by the able-bodied. It pertains to feelings of not being capable of achieving that which is expected of oneself due to mental of physical deficiencies.
These three types of hopelessness are also caused by cognitive distortion and can be overcome in a similar way to the previous three types. With powerlessness, oppression and limitedness, the cognitive distortion pertains to labelling bad attributes and discounting positive ones. A good method of overcoming this would be to actively list a positive attributes or of achievements such as; getting a new job or passing an exam. For those who feel hopeless due to oppression it is important to consider the causes of the negative emotions associated with the feeling of hopelessness (e.g. why am I angry?) to stop you being self-critical when reacting to oppression.
Last Three Types of Hopelessness
The seventh type of hopelessness is doom which relates to a strong feeling of life being over due to, for example, old age, physical disability, financial ruin, etc.
The eighth type of hopelessness relates to physical or emotional captivity such as people who are imprisoned or stuck in bad relationships.
The ninth and final type of hopelessness is helplessness, which describes how people feel when they are not able to defend themselves from bad-actors in their environment or when they have had the ability to defend themselves taken away from them.
These last three types of hopelessness are caused by “jumping to conclusions” and can be overcome yet-again by inspecting the evidence and trying to prove the contrary. Is your life really “over” because you are about to go into retirement? Is there nothing else that you can do? Are you of no help whatsoever? Again, this can be achieved through discipline self-examination or by seeing a therapist or counsellor.
How do you know if / when your feelings are a symptom of something more, like depression or another mental health condition?
If at the same time as feeling hopeless, you also feel any of the symptoms listed below you may be suffering from depression.
A continuous feeling of anxiety, sadness and emptiness
A pessimistic outlook on life
Loss of interest in stimuli that previously interested you
Low energy levels
Loss of appetite and weight changes
Frequent headaches, pains, cramps and digestive problems
Having difficulty concentrating and remembering things
Feelings of guilt, helplessness and worthlessness
Disturb sleeping patterns (oversleeping or not sleeping enough)
Suicidal thoughts or thoughts or death
In order for someone to be properly diagnosed with depression one has to have displayed five symptoms for a duration of at least two-weeks.
The same goes for other mental health conditions. If someone displays other symptoms as well as feelings of hopelessness then you may be suffering from a mental health problem.
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Philip Andersson – Counsellor
Philip Andersson is a life-coach who is currently studying to become a psychotherapist. He treats people suffering from depression, phobias and anxiety. Having been raised in Hong Kong and having lived in England and Japan as an adult, Philip also treats people who are overcome with feelings of displacement and rudderlessness associated with a global-nomad lifestyle such as Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.