Where agony aunts turn when it all gets too much for them

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WHEN YOU have an emotional problem, you can always write to an agony aunt - but who do agony aunts turn to with THEIR problems? To Auntie Agony, that's who! The only agony aunt who deals exclusively with the problems and troubles peculiar to agony aunts! And she's back again today with another postbag of problems sent in by the country's agony aunts! Right, that's enough exclamation marks, so on to the emotional minefield with Auntie Agony, and the first problem please...

Dear Auntie Agony, You really must help, as I am feeling almost suicidal. I have been running a problem corner for a major group of provincial newspapers for several years now, and the pressure must be getting to me because I find myself subject to the most extreme mood swings. One week I might be bubbly and extrovert, almost manically so, and the next week I could easily be just as caught in a deep depression. This has obviously affected my work, as the solutions I offer to people's problems tend to vary wildly according to my mood.

For instance, if some woman writes in to say that that her marriage seems to have stagnated and she thinks her husband may be having an affair, I might, if I am in my cheerful mode, encourage her to go out and have an affair herself, to live a little! But if I am on the downward curve, I might tell her that things aren't going to get any better, that we are sent into this world to suffer and that she might as well stick with a stagnating marriage as anything else.

In other words, I will give two completely opposite pieces of advice depending on my mood swing, and they can't both be right, can they? Well, I suppose they both could be right, depending on the people involved - after all, you never really know enough about people to give them the right advice, do you? Actually, I think I'm making a bit of a fuss about nothing. Can't really think why I bothered you. Having written this letter and talked it through has made me feel a whole heap better. Thanks, Auntie! You've done it again!

Auntie Agony writes: Not at all. Thank you for showing us your lovely mood swing. And the next.

Dear Auntie Agony, I run a problem corner for a national newspaper which I would rather not mention the name of, and although I am a man, I have always written under a woman's assumed name. I am sure you can guess the reasons for this. People always assume that women handle emotional problems better, and are more sensible when it comes to sorting out life (though if that were true, all psychiatrists would be women and male psychiatrists would be distrusted!) and I certainly feel when I get down to problem- handling that thinking my way into my chosen female character helps me to find a solution.

The female role I adopt is rather warmer and softer than the real me, but the trouble is I have begun to feel rather attracted to this woman as whom I masquerade, and am very tempted to start an attachment with her. Am I being very foolish ?

Auntie Agony writes: Let me get this straight. Are you falling in love with yourself? And wondering if you should have an affair with yourself?

Dear Auntie Agony, Yes.

Auntie Agony writes: Hmmmmm... Which one of you is writing this?

Dear Auntie Agony, The man.

Auntie Agony writes: Leave her alone, you beast! How dare you take advantage of her? Hands off! And the next ...

Dear Auntie Agony, I have been doing my column for so long now that I have got tired of the banal, repetitive problems which people send me, and I have started inventing problems to solve. In fact, I haven't had a genuine letter in my column for over a year. But I do feel that the problems I invent are more interesting than the real ones I am sent, which I always throw away. Is this very wrong ?

Auntie Agony writes: You're making this up, aren't you?

Dear Auntie Agony, Yes.

Auntie Agony writes: And the next!

Dear Auntie Agony, Almost all papers have an astrology column. Almost all papers have an agony aunt. The astrologer claims that human problems are tied to birth signs. The agony aunts assume that human problems are tied to character. They can't both be right, can they? And yet we take both on trust, and believe both of them! Isn't this just a bit mad?

Auntie Agony writes: What sign are you?

Dear Auntie Agony, I am Scorpio.

Auntie Agony writes: Typical !

Auntie Agony will be back again soon. Keep these letters rolling in! Or we'll have to make them up!

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