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Midlife Wisdom for Men Newsletter Issue #018, September 18, 2004
September 18, 2004
|Midlife Wisdom for Men - Helping Men Navigate Midlife Transitions.
Written by Noel McNaughton
If you like this e-zine, please do a friend and me a big favour and forward it him. If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting Midlife Wisdom for Men. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
September 18, 2004 Issue #018
=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========
· Are You Depressed, and Don't Know It?
· Do You Know What Mythology You Are Living?
· How Much Does It Take For You To Be Happy?
Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.
I am trying to make the newsletters a little shorter, so the articles in this one are 1144 words all told, which should take about 6 minutes to read. Hope you enjoy it. ==============================================
Are You Depressed, and Don't Know It?
When I was in the midst of andropause a few years ago, I went through about five years of mild depression. I didn't realize what it was at first. I thought I was just feeling kind of punk, and had lost interest in what I used to do. I thought if I could find something new to be passionate about, I would feel fine. My wife Elizabeth, who is a psychologist, helped me identify it as mild depression.
I even went through a period where I would suddenly feel anxious and turn pale for about ten minutes twice a day - in mid-morning, and mid-afternoon. This went on for about four months. Elizabeth would notice I was looking pale and ask me if something was wrong. I would say I felt a bit anxious, but didn't know why.
I never did see a doctor about this, but did mention it one time when I was having a regular medical. My doctor said if I ever wanted to just talk about stuff, I could come and see him. I said thanks, I'll think about it, but never did go see him just to talk. If I had wanted to see a professional for talk therapy I would have gone to a psychologist, (I have done that in the past), but I didn't do that either.
I have since discovered that depression is common among men, and it can have serious consequences. Professor Robert Goldney, from Adelaide University, is an international expert on suicide. In his private practice as a psychiatrist he treats plenty of middle-aged men. "It may sound simplistic, crass even," he says, "but this is the reality of it - depression, depression, depression. If you could get rid of all depression, you could eliminate 50 per cent of suicides." Goldney says part of the problem is that men aged 25 to 55 generally don't talk about their depression. They don't turn to a doctor or a counsellor for help. "In some ways, depression is not in the vocabulary of these men," he says.
I didn't want to go on an anti-depressant, because I felt what I was going through was a normal part of life, and it would pass. Eventually it did, and I am still not sure whether an anti-depressant would have been a better choice than 'toughing it out'. Had I been seriously depressed (as in when you can barely get out of bed in the morning), I would definitely have gone on a medication.
On the other hand, I have several friends my age who did go on anti-depressants for a year or two in their early fifties, and found it very helpful. One rancher friend said he got so he was feeling cornered by external circumstances of all kinds. He couldn't even make a decision about what to do on the ranch. He said if he had two things to do in a given day, he couldn't figure out which to do first. He went on an anti-depressant and he felt mentally sharper than he had in many years.
Apparently women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, but men are much harder to diagnose, because women tend to look inward when something is wrong (what could be wrong with me?), and men tend to look outward (what is wrong with my wife, my boss, the world...?). I have read it can take more than two years on average for a depressed man to be properly diagnosed because it doesn't occur to him he could be depressed, denies it's possible (many men see depression as a sign of weakness), and thinks things would be better if the other people in his life just treated him 'right'.
If you are wondering whether you might have a touch of depression, here are some typical symptoms: * Depressed mood – most of the day, every day * Mood swings – one minute high, next minute low * Lack of energy and loss of interest in life * Irritability and restlessness * Disturbed sleep patterns – sleeping too much or too little * Significant weight loss or gain * Feelings of worthlessness and guilt * Difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly * Loss of sex drive * Thoughts about death and the option of suicide
You can also take a confidential depression screening test here: http://www.depression-screening.org/screeningtest/screeningtest.htm
If you are depressed, do as I say, not as I did ;-), and at least see your doctor. Oh... and keep your wife in the loop about how you are feeling too. It can make a really big difference in your relationship.
Epitaph on a gravestone in Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona: "Be what you is, cuz if you be what you ain't, then you ain't what you is."
Do You Know What Mythology You Are Living?
Here's a quote from
The Hero's Journey. Joseph Campbell on his life and work edited by Phil Cousineau. P. 48-49
Campbell: "Is there any single rule [laughter] that would work for everybody? If there was it would be so easy to answer that question.
The point is that every individual has his own very special problem in this midlife or late-life crisis about what he has been doing. How deeply has it really involved him? Has he had other outside marginal interests of any kind whatsoever? What were they? All these are very special problems.
Now there's a moment Jung's life when he had finished his work in his first great book, the book that Freud would not accept, Symbols and Transformation. This had to do with the imagery of a woman who was in deep psychosis. He began recognizing the analogies between her hallucinations and basic world mythological imagery.
And Jung said when he finished work on the book he realized what it meant to live without one. And he asked himself by what mythology he was living and he found he didn't know. And so he said, "I made it the task of tasks of my life to find by what mythology I was living."
How did he do it? He want back to think about what it was that most engaged him in fascinated play when he was a little boy. So that the hours would pass and pass.
Now if you can find that point you can find an initial point for your own reconstruction. Go back and find what was the real fascination.
So Jung went back to boyhood and found that he loved to play with stones, making little villages. Then he went and bought himself a piece of property and began, with his own hands, building that amusing little castle that he had there in Bollingen on Lake Zurich.
Now each one has to work it out in his own way. But if a person just refuses to think that he has an inside problem, he's not going to work the thing out. Nobody can do it for him. You have to learn how to recognize your own depths."
So... what is your mythology? I think of it as life purpose, or life mission. What am I here to do? What great or small archetypal pattern are you called to live (king, magician, lover, warrior, healer, teacher, and so forth). It is the hardest question to answer I have ever dealt with, but the answer, when it comes, or at least when the general direction is known, can be exciting and empowering.
People often say that if you think back to what you loved to do when you were 8-10 years old, you will get a clue (as Jung did). When I look back, the thing I loved the most was being out in nature, walking or riding a horse through the bush on our farm. I spent many years trying to figure out 'what I was going to do when I grew up', and when I finally determined that my life mission was to help people take better care of the earth, it released a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and change in my life. I quit my job as a television news reporter, went back to university to do a Master of Agriculture degree, and then taught Holistic Management (www.holisticmanagement.org) through the rest of my forties.
When I hit andropause, that mission seemed to 'go soft', and I had to redefine it. During the past year I have clarified that I am living the 'Teacher' archetype (i.e. I am a teacher), which when I think about it, I have been, one way or another, through most of my life.
So here is a question for you (answer it quickly, so you don't come up with what it 'should be, but rather, what your gut says): What have you always known is your vocation?
If you are struggling to redefine what your true work or vocation is, you might find some help on my website at http://www.midlife-men.com/lifemission.html..
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." -Bill Cosby
How Much Does It Take For You To Be Happy?
We are an incredibly affluent society, but we are less happy than we used to be. In fact between 1970 and 1990, per capita consumption in the U.S. rose 45%, but quality of life, as measured by the American index of Social Health dropped by 51%. (Figures from a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 14, 1992.)
There are plenty of other statistics to show the same thing. People have consistently reported less satisfaction with their lives over time during the past forty years. But here is the interesting thing... when asked what it would take to make their lives better, they say 'more money'.
Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin who wrote Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence , (which for my money is the best book ever written on personal financial management), gave many public seminars on personal financial management during the 1970s and 1980s.
They would ask seminar participants to rate themselves on a happiness scale of 1 (miserable) to 5 (joyous), with 3 being "can't complain", and then they correlated their figures with their incomes. In a sample of more than 1,000 people, from both the United States and Canada, the average happiness score was consistently between 2.6 and 2.8 (not even a 3!), whether the person's income was less than $1,000 per month, or more than $4,000 per month.
On the same audience survey sheets, Dominguez and Robin would ask "How much money would it take to make you happy?" The answer: "More than I have now" by 50 t0 100%.
After reading Your Money or Your Life, Elizabeth and I began to pay more attention to how much fulfillment we got from the money we spent, and found we could cut down significantly on spending and still feel just as happy, if not more so.
Remembering that money represents life energy, and every time we spend money we are giving away life energy, helped us pay more attention to our spending habits. When we were about to buy something, especially an impulse item, asking ourselves 'is this going to give me my life energy's worth?', helped cut down on unnecessary expenditures.
As you and I age, the things that used to give us a big 'fulfillment hit', are different than they were when we were younger. Paying attention to what we need for fulfillment now (which might come more from inside us, than from a store (yes, even a hardware store), could save us a lot of money, and with less money-spending stress, life is more fun!
Just For You: A Free Do-It-Yourself Retirement Planning Report
If you are a new subscriber to this newsletter, you will recall I promised you a link to a secret page on the Midlife Men's site where you can download a free 27-page report on 'DIY Retirement planning' by George Slater.
Welcome to the newsletter, and for your free report, go to: DIY Retirement E-Report , click on the link, and follow the instructions.
Learn to be a Teleclass Facilitator
If you are a facilitator/speaker/professional who gives lectures or workshops, you can do it from home and make money. Teleclasses (also known as teleseminars) using telephone bridge lines, are becoming increasingly popular, and and a very inexpensive way to deliver high-quality training. I took training in teleclass leadership from Teleclass International which I highly recommend.
If you have something you want to advertise, just send me a note at
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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.
All the best, Noel
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