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Are you A Rescuer?
July 01, 2006

Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #061, July 1, 2006

=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========

· Letters From Readers

· Are you A Rescuer?

· How Much Time Do You Have Left?


Written by Noel McNaughton (c) copyright 2006


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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

I suspect We are all, at time, prone to 'helping' someone who has not asked for help. This is not only unproductive, but often outright destructive to our relationship with the 'helpee'. I have some clues below to help you figure out whether you are helping where it is not wanted.

Got some life goals you haven't achieved (or even started on) yet? Use the calculator below to help you figure out how many more years do you have to get them done.

There are about 1150 words in the articles in this newsletter, which should take you about five minutes to read.

All the best,



From Our Readers


Kudos to you for your insightfulness and pointing out that we as men (and humans in general I'm sure), need to know that we are appreciated in life, have something to offer and are increasing our worth to society as we age and grow into elderhood, as opposed to being simply liabilities. I have found that just relaxing, perhaps what you call contemplative energizing to paraphrase, is a great way to allow the opportunities for growth and performance and contributions to come through.

Just a quick example:

A social agency called Families Matter here in Calgary runs a group experience (which we have called Papa Bear) for young fathers and their offspring. Its a simple one and a half hour play session, with sing songs, rhyming, a little bit of movement and then a storytime. It is all oral, to honour the oral storytelling tradition and to encourage maximum interaction between the group leaders, the kids and their dads.

Apparently there is a huge contribution to future literacy and the bonds that grow between dads and kids are nice to watch and be a small part of. Now I just sort of stumbled on to this and decided as a grandfather in training it would be fun to just volunteer to help out and go with the flow.

So I relaxed, and once I was over the minor embarrassment of playing like a two year old, (which is as much fun as it sounds: truly entertaining and stimulating) I was also able to take the role of post cookie break storyteller. I just recited and sang (whew!) a Robert Munsch tale called Love you forever. It seemed a bit chaotic at first with smallish people roaring around and dads trying to focus.

But my kind leader, Linda Michel, related that the whole thing would start to make more sense after a few of the sessions had passed. We only did five, but she was right.

By meeting three, in the midst of a very relaxed circle I noticed a dad or two starting to come forth as storytellers, with this beautiful feeling that something had been born. These young papas and one older one for sure, were happy to be there and didn't want to leave and their kids were the beneficiaries of the magic.

(Just a note, on a huge bonus level, my seventeen year old daughter came out for meeting one, and helped with the kids. Now as much as she just had to avoid coming out for the remainder of the meetings, I know she had fun and we still laugh and do the odd chant of Pickin' Up The Paw Paws)

This experience will happen again in the fall and I can hardly wait. It's too much fun and there is a magic to it that will go down in the journal for me as a serendipitous example of just letting the flow work for me. I am now an elder storyteller. I am now a member of the greater community of elders.

I still get a chance to be a grandfather in training. (I might just rent a kid to take with me, until the biological ones start showing up who knows when.) A bit presumptuous perhaps, but it's a role that I like, am a bit good at, and it seems to me at least that it can only get better over time. So time spent in the future will be all those productive things we want, but honestly, who knew this was coming when I innocently answered an email back in April? All the best, John McMahon


Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?


Are you A Rescuer?

You know how it is, somebody is struggling with a problem of some kind, and you 'help out'. But they don't seem to appreciate your help. In fact, sometimes they resist it.

The fact is, not all 'help' is helpful.

'Helping' My Former Mother-In-Law

Years ago, my former mother-in-law was going to buy a new car. My ex-wife and I 'knew' that her mother was not a good business person, and would probably end up paying too much for the car, so we offered to help. Offered to take over would be a bit more accurate description. We asked my mother-in-law what make and model she had in mind, (as I recall it was an four-door full-size Oldsmobile), and then I phoned every Olds dealer in our city and asked them to quote me a price. I said we were phoning every dealer for their best price. We were not going to haggle, and the one that gave us the best deal would get our business. I had used this approach before with good results.

Within a week we had several quotes, and had decided on the winning bid, which was a very good price. We called my mother-in-law and told her the good news. She informed us that she had bought a car a couple of days previously.

We were shocked and angry! We went to all that work for her, and she didn't even appreciate it!

Looking back on the situation after we had cooled off, we realized she hadn't asked us for help, and probably didn't even want it, but didn't know how to say no to us.

Giving "Help" That Is No Help

What we did for my mother-in-law is called rescuing, and it is a destructive form of helping.

If you are not sure whether you are rescuing or genuinely helping, here are a few clues:

  • You end up feeling angry with the person you are 'helping'. Somehow they don't seem to appreciate your efforts, or maybe they do something to thwart your 'help' (as my mother-in-law did). Or maybe they are in some stuck place in their life, and you 'know' what they need to do to get out, but they seem to want to stay stuck. You become angry and frustrated with them because they won't take your advice or accept your 'help'. Or maybe they begin to demand more help from you.
  • You secretly (or not so secretly) believe they are incompetent. This was the assumption my ex-wife and I made about her mother. You might ask yourself whether you are treating the people you are helping as though they are not powerful, or skillful, or smart enough to help themselves. You may end up reinforcing a belief in themselves that they actually are incompetent, which just makes them more dependent, and more in need of your 'help', all the while resisting it.
  • You think it is your responsibility to solve the other person's problem. This is what gets us in trouble in the first place. It is particularly difficult to let go of the idea that we need to solve our kids' problems, even when they are adults. Sometimes they actually do need help, but it is up to them to ask for it. If we starting 'helping' someone before they ask, we are rescuing, and that is not helpful.
In my training to become a personal/professional coach, it was stressed to us over and over that
  • Our clients are powerful, resourceful and whole. We do not need to rescue them.
  • We do not know the solutions to our clients' problems. All we have are questions to help them discover the solutions themselves.
The most difficult part of the training for me, and most other would-be coaches in my class, was letting go of the idea that we knew how to solve our client's problems. Once we 'got' that concept in our bones, our coaching became far more effective.

If there are people in your life who you seem to become angry or frustrated with every time you deal with them, you might ask whether any of the clues above fit. To really have good relationships with the people you care about, it is critical that you not treat them as though they are 'broken' and you need to fix them.


Not one man in a beer commercial has a beer belly. f


How Much Time Do You Have Left?

Here is a quick exercise: Write down on a piece of paper how old you expect to be when you die. Subtract your current age from that figure. Now you see how many years you have yet to express your mission here on this earth. If you don't have any idea how long you will live, you can get a fairly accurate one this way: Add up your parents' and grandparents' ages at death, and divide by six. If your parents are still alive, just use your grandparents' ages and divide by four, or maybe use grandparents' and great-grandparents' ages and divide by twelve, although this will be a little less accurate. you could also use this Life Expectancy Calculator.

Now a question: Once you figure out how much time you have left, what are you going to DO to express your mission?


Either the key to a man's wallet is in his heart, or the key to a man's heart is in his wallet. Noah ben Shea


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One Man's Mid-Life Crisis Led to Spain. Planning to spend six weeks, he stayed five years.

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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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