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Midlife Wisdom for Men Issue #005, March 4, 2004
March 04, 2004
|Midlife Wisdom for Men - Helping Men Navigate Midlife Transitions.
Written by Noel McNaughton
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March 4, 2004 Issue #005
=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========
* I Need Volunteers Who Want Free Coaching
* Midlife Is When Feelings Start Rising, And That's a Good Thing!
I NEED VOLUNTEERS WHO WANT A FREE COACHING SESSIONA year or so ago, when I moved back to Alberta, I began to focus on other activities, and stopped accepting new coaching clients. I am ready now to begin again, and would like your help.
What Coaching Is:
Many people who are into physical fitness have a Personal Trainer – someone who helps them set fitness objectives, and stay on track to reach them.
Having a Personal/Professional Coach is like having a personal trainer for your life. The coach (in this case me) can help you clarify what has to happen in order to feel that you are living the life you truly want.
If, on a scale of 1–10, where 1 is ‘I can hardly face a new day’, and 10 is ‘my life is extraordinary’, you life is at, say, a 7, a coach can help you figure out what it would take to make it a 10, and then get there.
Here is where you come in.
I would like to reach as many people as possible who would benefit from coaching, and I need some ‘partners’ to help me spread the word.
Will you be one of my partners? I want you to take me up on my offer of a free ½-hour coaching session, so you will know how it works. Then when you see someone, say a friend or co-worker, who you think could benefit from coaching, you suggest they give me a call. I will give them a free initial session, so they can figure out whether it is something they want, and we can go from there.
There is absolutely no obligation on your part. I coach by telephone, and all it requires is ½ hour of your time, and the willingness to maybe discover some strengths and dreams you didn’t know you had.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help out, and we will set up your free session.
Intention Is the First Key To Spiritual Growth
Many of the men I have talked to about changes they've experienced at midlife say they have a renewed interest in spirituality. Most had dropped out of the church of their childhood many years ago. Some are going back to church, others are looking for alternate ways, such as meditation groups, retreats, or spiritually-oriented books to increase their spiritual awareness. Still others have a feeling they should do something, but don’t know quite what.
There are two periods in our lives when we ask the 'Big Questions':
We ask: What is my life about? Is there life after death, and if so what do I need to do to prepare for it? What is the nature of God? How do I establish a spiritual life?
I am not saying we don't ask these questions at other stages of life, but during these two periods, in my observation and experience, these questions arise somewhat unbidden.
In our teen years we were passionate about things, and we explored ideas about life, God and the opposite sex. And of course tried to figure out who we were, because every day when we looked in the mirror, a different person seemed to be peering back at us. We were on an emotional roller coaster.
Well, some things never change!
After a few decades during which we get married (and maybe re-married), establish a career, raise kids, buy a house and do all the other things typical of the 'busy years', midlife brings us back to the Big Questions: Who am I? What is the meaning of my life? What is the nature of God (or whatever name you choose for the All-That-Is)? How does one 'grow spiritually'?
My research and experience suggests there are three Keys to finding the answers:
The process is simple, but not easy (isn't that the way it is with most worthwhile endeavours?) and it begins with Intention.
Everything we do in life, from picking up our fork at the dinner table, to starting a major business project, begins with intention. Spiritual growth is no different. It begins with the simple intention to increase our spiritual awareness. Desire is another word for it. We must want to increase our spiritual awareness before anything else happens.
Here’s an example.
About twenty years ago, I had a profound spiritual awakening that changed my life. I went from feeling anxious a lot of the time (due largely to having a problem with alcohol), to feeling that my life was flooded with peace and love.
The change began when I asked some friends, who seemed to have a kind of happiness I didn't have, how they got it. They told me to come to their evangelical church and give my life to Jesus. I was already an elder in a different church, and didn't want to switch, but I did want what they had (Intention, Desire).
I began to pray to be made ready for what they had, and when I was ready, give it to me (Action). Eventually I was led to Alcoholics Anonymous, where by doing the Steps, I had a spiritual awakening, and lost all craving for alcohol.
Again, it began with Intention, or Desire.
So what do you intend? If you are reading this newsletter, you may well be having some of the big Existential questions popping up.
It is a universal law that whatever you intend begins coming toward you. That doesn’t mean you just sit there and wait. God will work with you not for you.
But if you want to increase your spiritual awareness (which I have found has many practical benefits – more peace and joy in life, better relationships, less stress, more ‘internal guidance’) – simply be clear about what you intend, and then get into action (start reading books on spiritual development, join a group, try praying or meditating). As you take action, you will receive the guidance you need. It could come as a chance meeting with someone who can help, or some other serendipitous event, but it will happen.
First, open your mind, and form your intention.
Midlife Is When Feelings Start Rising, And That's a Good Thing!
A common symptom of midlife in men is suddenly becoming more emotional. Men who have felt very little emotion for years suddenly find themselves moved to tears at movies, or find a lump in their throat when thinking about their children or grandchildren, or even the condition of the earth.
For many, this is distressing. They don’t want to appear weak in front of their peers. And that’s understandable.
But there are benefits. While many things can lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction with life, a key to feeling satisfied is knowing what you are feeling, and being able to express it.
I know, I know, 'getting in touch with your feelings' sounds cliche and all touchy-feely. But in my experience, very little contributes as much to a feeling of satisfaction with life as knowing what you are feeling, and being able to share your feelings with another human being, especially your wife/partner. NOTHING increases intimacy as much as sharing your feelings with the one you love.
Ok, you say, but I don't even know what I am feeling half the time.
Fair enough. My observation is that we men are socialized when we are young to have a very narrow range of feelings: anger, resentment, 'love' (i.e. feeling horny), and maybe happiness (for example when our team wins a game). We are specifically conditioned NOT to recognize, and especially not ADMIT to feeling hurt, fear (except maybe fear of physical pain), anxiety, loneliness or any other 'weak' emotion. I am generalizing here, but I am not far off. It isn't that we don't have all the other feelings, we just aren't aware of them.
Some research shows that by the time boys are two years old they are already being conditioned to tune out their feelings, while girls are about thirteen before this starts happening to them.
About 25 years ago I went to a time management workshop based on Transactional Analysis, and began learning how to know what I was feeling. It was difficult at first. So many of the feelings we have are lumped under the heading of Anger, or 'feeling low' (i.e. depression, which is rampant among men).
Here's what I learned to do: I began by working on becoming aware of having a tight feeling in my gut (solar plexus area). That told me I was having a feeling. (I had spent so long practicing not feeling, so I wouldn't appear weak, that I got so I didn't even know I HAD feelings a lot of the time.)
Once I recognized that I was having a feeling, I would stop, and say to myself 'What kind of feeling would be logical under these circumstances?'. I might discover that feeling hurt would be logical given the circumstances, so I would then tune into the feeling to see whether I was feeling hurt (or fearful, or resentful, or whatever would be logical under the circumstances). As I did this, I got better and better at discovering my true feelings (again anger is a general feeling that usually covers some other feeling, especially fear).
The next step was the hardest... admitting to my wife (or whoever I had the feeling about) what I was feeling, especially if it was anger or resentment about some 'small' thing she had said or done. I was afraid she would think me petty, and not want to be with me any more.
Of course the results of speaking my true feelings were always the opposite of what I feared, but it took a while to trust the process. Plus, I had to be sure not to blame the person I was having the feeling about (usually my wife), or point fingers at her for 'making me feel bad', so I had to learn how to use 'I statements' (which I will talk about in the next issue).
Now I pretty much know what I am feeling at any moment, and if I don't I can tune in quickly and find out. The payoff in increased intimacy and satisfaction with my life is immeasurable.
Maybe you feel it's not 'manly' to share your feelings.
Let me share with you part of a note I got from a female friend a while back:
"I was struck by something my former husband said to me a couple of months ago. Our nine year old daughter is struggling with getting her emotional needs met at school and with dad. Her teacher gave us some things to work on with her and I told him about it. I told him that to support our daughter, her teacher asked us to work with her more to ask her how she feels, what she wants, what's missing and to encourage her to ask for what she wants.
"My ex-husband said, well you know I have a hard time with feelings. So that's not going to happen here. I was very sad for both him and our daughter. There's a whole chasm between him and his daughter which is so vital to what women want in a loving relationship. To simply feel heard and validated.
"With our six year old son, I kiss him goodbye when they leave to go with dad. He told me that our son didn't like to be kissed anymore. That big boys don't kiss. Again - from a female point of view only - I think this may be common and it would be an amazing gift to men in the world if they could feel safe and free to experience and express their full range of emotions- in a male way."
Being uncomfortable with feelings might be macho (although I am not sure of that), but it is certainly not manly. In fact in traditional societies, the fiercest warrior is not afraid to show love, compassion, or other 'soft' emotions.
This inability to recognize and/or express our whole range of feelings robs us of a great deal of love, pleasure, joy and satisfaction in life. For one thing, it keeps us from telling people we love, that we love them.
I see this over and over with men who have lost their fathers, and wish they had told their dads they loved them. And also wished their dads would have told them the same thing! I’ve also met men who were estranged from sons, daughters or other family members. They have so much fear about appearing vulnerable, that they just can't say what the other is longing to hear. If that's manly, I want no part of it.
The movie '8 Seconds' is about a world champion bull rider who gets killed by a bull. For years he has striven to gain his father's love and recognition, but his dad is too afraid to express any deep emotion. In the early morning after his son is killed, his wife finds the father sitting in the living room, trying to remember whether he ever told his son he loved him.
So, if you want to increase your satisfaction with life, a BIG STEP is learning how to feel your feelings, and talk openly about them. You'll live longer if you do :-)
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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!
Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.
Just email your suggestions and/or questions to
. I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.
Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.
And don’t forget the free coaching session. I need your help!
All the best, Noel
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