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Help Yourself In The Future
aka: Help Yourself In The Past
Kevyn Andreyasn: Hey, when you want something done right, do it yourself.
Captain Kevyn Andreyasn: And if that's not enough, go back in time and tell yourself to try it again.

Bob is sent to the future or past to help 'someone important'. When he arrives there, he finds that the person he has to help is him. After all, who else could Bob trust?

The type of 'help' given varies. It may be a rescue, it may be assisting in a battle, it may just be going back in time to tell yourself "Do NOT drink the punch!" This often plays out in reverse too, the hero is helped by an Anonymous Benefactor who he or she later realizes was (or will be, or had been-- gah!) themselves all along.

When the Past self goes to the future, he may end up realizing he's a jerk in the future, and strive to change that when he returns to the past. If the Future self goes to the past, before leaving, he may impart some wisdom that will come in handy when the time is right, or be disgusted at how weak, evil, or stupid he used to be.

Note that saving your own life, or basically doing anything that enables you to travel in the first place, causes an ontological paradox.

Contrast Never the Selves Shall Meet. Compare Retroactive Preparation. Depending on whether or not it's a Bad Future, related to Future Me Scares Me. If while helping yourself, you get a little too friendly with yourself you may end up Screwing Yourself. Compare My Own Grampa. In that trope, you help your present self (in that you preserve your existence) by doin' the nasty in the past-y.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Coke Zero presents: The Do Over

     Anime and Manga  
  • Geronimo of Kinnikuman was a Badass Normal who admired Choujins because he was saved by one as a child. When Geronimo was eventually given a trial that would allow him to become a Choujin if he succeeded, he was sent to the past... To both save and inspire himself.
  • In The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, the boss of the time traveling Mikuru is—somehow—her adult self, who looks back on her time with Haruhi fondly and ends up being responsible for several Stable Time Loops.
  • Steins;Gate: "Deceiving the world is not a big deal for a Mad Scientist, Hououin Kyouma!" After his even more future self tells him to deceive his recent-past self into thinking that Kurisu was murdered.

    Comics 
  • One Archie comic has Arch reminisce about almost running away from home, except a mysterious man stopped him. He goes to the past on a magical bicycle and guess who the mysterious man was?
  • In Flash, Wally West mentioned a mysterious figure who gave him some wise advice shortly before he gained his powers (he briefly suspects it was Max Mercury, The Obi-Wan of speedsters). In the zero issue, he bounces back through his own history, eventually finding himself at that very time and place. For a second he thinks the mysterious figure hasn't shown up, then he realises.
    • In another Flash example, during the Crisis of Infinite Earths, Barry Allen runs so fast that he becomes one with the speed force and dies, but not before doing so sends him back in time and he becomes the very lightning strike that knocked the chemicals onto him, giving him his super powers in the first place.
      Barry: Electricity always travels in a circuit...and lightning can strike twice in the same place. Oh, boy...can it ever.
  • Inverted in Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect, in which the present Hulk is summoned to the future to kill his future self, the Maestro.
  • In PS238, Vashi Imperia learned magic as a child when she was kidnapped by an evil witch and managed to nab the witch's spell book when she escaped. Later, as an adult, she is sent back in time to her own childhood. Being savvy enough to realize it, she goes on to intentionally 'kidnap' her past self and letting the child version escape with her backup spell book to make sure the Stable Time Loop is maintained.

     Fan Fic  

    Film 
  • In Zathura, the Astronaut turns out to be the older brother, brought back by the titular board game. He tries to keep his younger self from wishing his brother didn't exist, which got him in that mess in the first place.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown pulls Marty from 1985 to help his future son in 2015. He also helps his unsuspecting 1955 counterpart set up the "weather experiment" from the end of Part I.
    • In the original, you can see the "future" Doc Brown (wearing the hat and pushing the bike) departing off screen, just before the 1955 Doc bribes the cop, with his "permit" (a $50 bill).
    • A sinister counterpart occurs when Biff Tannen gives a discarded Timeline-Altering MacGuffin to his past self, resulting in a perfect betting win record, and he becomes an Evil Overlord Corrupt Corporate Executive ruler of America in an alternate 1985.
  • This is the whole plot of The Kid (2000), where through unexplained means, Bruce Willis' character, Russ, finds his ten-year-old self in his house. Naturally, they don't get along at first, but they both end up helping each other. Then it turns out both were being helped by Russ' future self.

    Literature 
  • Vimes assumes the identity of his mentor, John Keel, in the Discworld novel Night Watch. The novel implies that a parallel history has been created.(That is, the Vimes that went back in time was mentored by the real John Keel) Back in the present, Vetinari further confuses the matter by revealing he knows John Keel was really Vimes.
    • IIRC, this is because the History Monks (whose job it is, of course, to see that history actually happens) worked it to combine the two time lines into the prime time line, so that Young Vimes was trained both by Keel, and by his elder self posing as Keel.
  • Tiffany Aching is aided by her older self in I Shall Wear Midnight. Slightly subverted however in that she tells her younger self that each iteration is slightly different.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, one hundred Dementors circle upon Harry trying to suck out his soul. He tries to summon a Patronus to ward them away but as usual fails. Then a wizard summons one and saves them, and Harry thinks it was his deceased father, going by family resemblance. Later, Harry and Hermione travel back in time, and Harry decides to see who it was who saved them. where Harry realizes it was he that summoned the Patronus and saved himself. He realizes that he mistook himself for his father, and immediately acts, finding that he is able to do so because he knows that he has done it. So, in effect a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife: The grown-up main character teaches his younger self to pick locks and steal wallets.
  • Robert A. Heinlein loves this trope, though his protagonists sometimes have such a warped definition of "help" that it probably qualifies as an inversion. (See: —All You Zombies—.)
  • One Spider Robinson story involves a researcher trying to invent time-travel; when her duplicate shows up, she assumes it's this trope. It's actually her resentful previously-unknown twin, intending to screw up her sister's happy life.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Expanded Universe novel Imzadi, Admiral Riker from the future seeks out his present-day self for help preventing Troi from being murdered.
    • In the last book of the Star Trek: Millennium trilogy, the DS9 cast is thrown first into the future, then (after the universe explodes) back to the Day of Withdrawal. Garak hatches a complex plan to save the universe from utter destruction without getting anyone he likes killed in the process. But one Cardassian is a bit too small of a team for such an operation, so he recruits his past self to help out, even arranging for a memory inhibitor to prevent past Garak from remembering the incident, because future Garak doesn't remember it.
  • In Time Twister by Ged Maybury, one of the protagonist's early time-travels lands him in the future, where he meets a man who introduces himself as "Yos" and gives him some hints about what he will be needing to do later. He eventually realises that "Yos" is not a name but an acronym: Your Older Self.

     Live Action TV  
  • This is the plot of Doctor Who serial The Three Doctors. The Time Lords decide the Doctor is the only one who can save Gallifrey and they decide to send someone to help him: himself (his second incarnation).
    • "The Impossible Astronaut" has the Eleventh Doctor send an anonymous letter to his past self summoning him, along with Amy, Rory, and River, to where he dies a couple scenes before to investigate.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hell's Bells", Xander is accosted by his future self, who turns out to be not his future self, but in fact a demon trying to disrupt Anya's wedding.
  • In the Den-O Trilogy: Episode Yellow, Kamen Rider Diend travels back in time to correct a theft gone sour. In the process he runs into his past self, and after a brief confrontation they work together to fight off an enemy before past-Diend takes the stolen object and sneaks off with it. Present-Diend remarks to himself "Just what I'd expect from the past me."
  • In several episodes of The Dead Zone, John Smith is "haunted" by a mysterious figure in a cloak and hood, who, it is later revealed, is John Smith himself, in some possible future, disfigured by fire (or radiation burns) and communicating by way of touching the handle of John's cane. The "present" John Smith finally breaks the communication link by throwing away the cane, and apparently walks without the cane from that point forward.
  • O'Brien manages to save his own life a couple of times in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Visionary". Then it gets complicated.
  • Sliders played with this a little. There was an episode where the gang landed on an Earth that rotated at a slightly slower speed than their Earth (the year is 1996, but the events going on in that world are consistent with the year 1984 for them). Quinn meets himself as a boy, shortly after the death of his father. Young Quinn is being bullied at school, and Quinn teaches him how to fight.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Inverted in the Warhammer 40K background: traveling through the Warp occasionally ends up in getting out before you left. This was demonstrated by an ork Waaaagh, who ran into each other as the first was preparing to go into the Warp. Despite realizing he was essentially fighting himself, the warboss attacks anyway, as he wished to have two sets of his favorite gun, killing his past self. In the resulting confusion, the Waaaagh loses steam and disbands.

     Video Games  
  • In Achron sending your units from the future to reinforce themselves in the past is actually a fairly basic and common strategy.
  • In two quests from the Bronze Dragonflight in World of Warcraft, you Help Yourself. In the first, A 'Future You' is brought to help defend the Hourglass of Eternity. In the second, You help you from the past fight off the Infinite, who are after you from the past because you helped the you from the future...
    • Also, both time-displaced 'you's are dicks. The Future version makes comments such as, "I fought like this? No wonder I turned to drinking..." while the Past one makes fun of your equipment.
      • Not to mention that both 'you's are IDIOTS. Future/Past Hunter? MELEE. Future/Past Druid? Melee in unshifted caster form!
  • In Gradius V, one level has you flying alongside another Vic Viper; at the end of the game, you're catapulted back in time, and it turns out you were the other Vic Viper (your past doppelganger will even do exactly what you did the first time!).
  • In Escape from Monkey Island, Guybrush travels through the marshes of time, and eventually meets his future self, who gives him a bunch of useful items — which he winds up having to give to his past self before he actually gets to use any of them. And when he does, failure to say the right thing or give the items in the right order naturally causes a Temporal Paradox.
  • Every level in TimeSplitters: Future Perfect has a point where you're helped out by your future self, after which you complete the loop by going back and helping your past self. There's even a section where there are four of you working together to open a door, and the player has to keep time traveling to play out all four roles.
  • Ōkami pulls off both the past and future version of this - Amaterasu shows up in the past to fulfill a legend and defeat Orochi in place of your more powerful earlier incarnation, Shiranui, who at the time is off helping you fight Nechku some time later in the game. After defeating Nechku, Shiranui travels back in time to where you are and saves the hero Nagi by throwing herself in front of a falling rock. Amaterasu then returns to the present to fight Nechku with Shiranui. Confused yet?
  • Professor Layton and the Lost Future has you setting out to help future Luke Triton defeat future Herschel Layton. But this is Professor Layton of course, so if you weren't expecting some sort of plot twist, then...
  • Inverted in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, where you have to doom your past-self as the Sand Wraith.

    Webcomics 
  • In Li'l Mell, Sergio purposely travels back in time to influence his own childhood development. However, since he lives in a universe where changing the timestream leaves his memories intact, he doesn't actually have any memories of the mysterious substitute teacher who took an interest in him as a child.
  • Done with Dave and Future Dave in Narbonic. Be sure to fill up the swimming pool!
  • Done in 8-Bit Theater, with Sarda and the Onion Kid
    • And Inverted with Thief who stole his class change from his own future self. While paying so little attention to the situation his future self will be in at the time that not only does he not realize it's a situation where he really needs the powers granted to him by his class change, but his future self doesn't realize he's about to get his class change stolen.
    Thief: Well, I deserve this.
  • This created the Stable Time Loop that eventually led to the 'Surreptious Machinations' arc of General Protection Fault. Bad Future Empress Trudy first communicates anonymously with her past self to help set up her world conquest, and eventually just drops all pretense, traveling back in time to give her younger self step-by-step instructions on how to become empress.

     Western Animation  
  • In an episode of Static Shock, Static "accidentally" travels to the future and is roped into rescuing one of Earth's greatest heroes (it's none other than Static).
  • In the Fairly OddParents movie Channel Chasers, Older Timmy comes back in time to help stop Vicky before she takes over the world. He doesn't remember his fairies, but is far more mature, and imparts some wisdom to himself.
  • In an episode of Ben 10, Ben is sent to the future to help himself (Ben 10,000), although his future self thinks he'll only get in the way. Despite the fact that he should really remember being his younger self on that trip...
    • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Ben accidentally brings his 10 year old self to the future, resulting in the two teaming up.
      • Notable in this second one, its explained that the first time it was an alternate dimension version of older Ben, and that's why he didn't remember being the younger self on that trip. The second older Ben explicitly does remember this meeting as his younger self but doesn't remember all the specifics.
  • Family Guy has Stewie traveling to the future to help his loser, socially inept future self.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures episode "J2: Revisited" Jade ends up in the future and runs into her future self, who had just been demoted from an agent to an office job. Through the course of the episode present-day Jade at first helps future Jade get fired from Section 13 before building up her confidence and reminding her of who she once was, which helps to get her old office job back.
  • Used in Gargoyles. In one episode, we learn that David Xanatos, Chessmaster and Fiction500 Corrupt Corporate Executive, comes from a very poor family - his father was, and still is, a fisherman - but that he received a rare and valuable medieval coin from an unknown benefactor on his 18th birthday, along with instructions of what to invest in, so that it would become the 'seed money' for his future fortune. At his own wedding, he - and several other characters - are thrown back in time to medieval times, where Xanatos obtains a coin... and then uses his Illuminati contacts to ensure that it'll be sent to him anonymously on his 18th birthday.
  • The Planeteers of Captain Planet do this one pretty straight in one of their episode.
  • Parodied on Sealab2021, in which numerous Quinns fail to help each other.
  • The Star Trek animated episode "Yesteryear" involves Spock realizing that his "distant cousin" that helped him in the past was, in fact, himself.
    • In a subversion of the trope, however, he fails to accomplish everything he remembers his "distant cousin" doing, leading to a 'present' that's slightly worse than he remembers it. His childhood pet is fatally injured in the attack he saved himself from.
  • The Darkwing Duck episode 'Paraducks' leaves us with the implication that Darkwing was his own inspiration to become a superhero.
  • The Dexter's Laboratory special "Ego Trip" features Dexter travelling to the future and assisting his future selves in battle against Mandark and his future selves.

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alternative title(s): Help Yourself In The Past
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