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Becoming a 'Grumpy Old Man' Is Hard On Your Heart
December 01, 2006

Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #071, December 1, 2006

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

· The Experience Dividend

· Becoming a 'Grumpy Old Man' Is Hard On Your Heart

· Habituation


Written by Noel McNaughton (c) copyright 2006


If you like this e-zine, please do a friend and me a big favour and forward it to him. If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting Midlife Wisdom for Men.


Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

The front end of the baby boomers is reaching retirement, or at least semi-retirement age, and according to some surveys I have seen, most do not want to spend the rest of their lives relaxing and playing golf. Even though I am not officially a baby boomer, having been born in 1945, I see myself in the same light. We want to make a contribution. Imagine the good that could come to a society where a lot of its citizens are skilled, knowledgable, financially independent, and committed to improving things. Some experts have taken to calling it the 'Experience Dividend'. The thing is, we don't always know where to offer our services. That's where Civic Ventures comes in.

A curmudgeon is a 'a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man', according to Webster. We all know at least one curmudgeon. But becoming one is unhealthy.

There are about 1000 words in the articles in this newsletter, which should take you about three minutes to read.

All the best,



The Experience Dividend

As you know, our society does not value older people. But if you are 'older' (read middle aged and beyond), you also know that you have more knowledge and even wisdom than at any other time in your life. If you have taken early retirement, or are semi-retired, are finding time a bit heavy on your hands, and still want to make a useful contribution, this site will provide some guidance: Civic Ventures.

Unfortunately, for the non-US subscribers to this newsletter, it is only an American program. There are probably similar sites in other countries, and if you know of one, please pass the site on to me, and I will mention it in the next newsletter.

Here is a bit from the 'About Us' page on the Civic Ventures website:

(We are) a think tank and an incubator, generating ideas and inventing programs to help society achieve the greatest return on experience.

Founded in the late 1990s by social entrepreneurs John Gardner and Marc Freedman, Civic Ventures is re-framing the debate about aging in America and redefining the second half of life as a source of social and individual renewal. Through research, publishing, conferences, and media outreach, Civic Ventures reports on the growth of the experience movement. Through programs and consulting, Civic Ventures brings together older adults with a passion for service and helps stimulate opportunities for using their talents to advance the greater good. In these ways, Civic Ventures is helping America realize an experience dividend.


Television: a medium. So called because it's neither rare nor well done. Ernie Kovacs


Becoming a 'Grumpy Old Man' Is Hard On Your Heart

It is fairly common for men in midlife to become irritable. In fact Jed Diamond found it so common in his psychotherapy practice that he wrote a book about it: The Irritable Male Syndrome.

But if you get stuck in this 'irritable stage', and become a 'grumpy old man' - we've all met them, they seem to be mad at the world - you run the risk of stroke or heart attack.

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in March, 2004, found that certain measures of anger and hostility are related to the development of atrial fibrillation in men.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) in which the two upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating effectively. This means these chambers aren't completely emptied when the heart beats, so blood can pool and form clots, which can cause a stroke.

It affects about 2 million Americans and is increasing as the population ages.

The study, carried out by Elaine D. Eaker, of Eaker Epidemiology Enterprises, LLC, in Chili, Wisconsin, in cooperation with colleagues at Boston University and the Framingham Heart Study, included 1,769 men and 1,913 women. They completed psychological surveys when their average age was 48.5 years and they had no signs of heart disease. They were followed for 10 years.

The researchers found that men with more feelings of hostility were 30 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than men with lower hostility levels.

Hostility, as measured by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, is a general feeling of contempt toward other people. Hostile people expect the worst from others and agree with statements such as:

  • "I have often met people who were supposed to be experts who were no better than me";
  • "I frequently have worked under people who arrange things so they get all the credit";
  • "Some of my family members have habits that bother me and annoy me very much".

Men who scored high in trait-anger ('disposition to experience anger') had a 10 percent greater risk of developing atrial fibrillation than with men who didn't go around mad all the time. The men with high trait-anger scores described themselves as fiery- or quick-tempered, hot-headed, annoyed when slighted, furious when criticized, and wanting to hit someone when frustrated. These men were also 20 percent more likely to have died from any cause during the ten years of the study.

Men also had a 20 percent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation if they rated high in "symptoms of anger", where their anger is accompanied by symptoms such as shaking, headaches, and muscle tension.

So if you are an irritable guy, what do you do?

When I was about fifty, I noticed I suddenly became more irritable. I would have flashes of anger over things that never used to bother me much. I suspect part of this is due to hormonal changes. Now that I am sixty, I feel more 'laid back' than ever, and most of my irritability is gone. I attribute this to a few things:

  • I have paid a lot of attention to my spiritual growth during the past ten years or so, seeking a deeper connection with the Creator
  • I have spent quite a bit of time and effort discerning my 'right livelihood, so I can do work that feels fulfilling to me.
  • Elizabeth and I have kept our marriage strong, treating each other with kindness and patience, especially when one or the other, or some times both of us, is feeling particularly stressed.

If you are starting to feel like a grumpy old man, some of the above approaches may be helpful. It can also be very useful to see a psychotherapist to help you work out any life issues you can't seem to manage on your own. I have done that more than once, always with good results.


Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with, that it's compounding a felony. Robert Benchley



Habituation, then, is the by-product of all the routines, ruts and pigeonholing that our minds have indulged in for decades. By midlife, this mechanism becomes predominant in us, censoring, categorizing, distorting, judging, assuming, routinizing, mechanizing everything we seek, feel and think.

Habituation sets in, for example, when we no longer hear what people are saying to us (because our preconceived notions tell us we know the truth already)Y it is, in short, a reduction of our awareness rather than an expansion of our consciousness. By Harry R. Moody, as quoted in Find Your Purpose, Change Your Life by Carol Adrienne.


I do this newsletter and host the website as a service to other men, and am happy to do so. Just the same, it costs some money, and if you would like to make a small contribution to help with those costs, I would really appreciate it. If you would like, you can make a donation at:


Wouldn't it be great to work less and play more golf? I do not of a better way to earn a part-time income, than a simple information Web site. I encourage you to check out You'll be amazed at how you can turn YOUR hobby into online income.


The Mankind Project

The ManKind Project® offers trainings which support men in developing lives of integrity, accountability, and connection to feeling. Our trainings challenge men to develop their abilities as leaders, fathers, and elders as ways of offering their deepest gifts in service to the world.

The ManKind Project's New Warrior Training Adventure® is an intense, transformative men's initiation which invites men to forge a deep conscious connection between head and heart. The NWTA offers men a powerful, challenging opportunity to look at all aspects of their lives in a richly supportive environment.


Got your copy of Picking Up The Burning Feather yet? It will help you on your spiritual journey.

Just go to Picking Up The Burning Feather: A Spiritual Guide For Midlife Men.


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 , and follow the instructions.




A Destroyer of Compasses by Wade Bell, published by Guernica Editions, (Toronto, Buffalo and Lancaster UK) $15.00 Cdn

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

A book of stories the Toronto Globe & Mail called "an assured and sensual portrait of a culture" with "precise and ironic examples of human idiosyncracy." The review went on to call stories "gems."

Available from Amazon, E-Bay and local bookstores.

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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