Dear Donagh,

…. Sometimes I sit down and give myself a good talking to.  I need it badly these times.  My brother calls me cantankerous, that’s his word for me.  I get into fights with fellas.  If I hear someone saying something I don’t agree with I can't leave it, I have to butt in and that's how I get into stupid arguments.  I get on well with my sister and she made me promise to write this to you, to see if you could give us a bit of advice.  Thanks.  Trevor

Thank you too, Trevor, that’s a good question, and a lot of young men would know exactly how it is. 

Everyone has an aggressive instinct in them, even the mildest people in the world.  In fact we have a whole lot of instincts – learned people long ago said we have eleven instincts!  Any one of these is capable of going out of control.  In fact several of them could go out of control at once.  Imagine what your life would be like if you had, say, half a dozen of these in a state of war!  Be glad that it’s only one at present. 

All these instincts have a purpose: they are specialised forms of energy.  When they are working in harmony we have amazing vitality.  I don’t know if anyone ever has them in perfect harmony.  There's always some kind of imbalance, and if this imbalance is really bad it can mess up our whole lives, crippling our good instincts and, as a result, crippling relationships with other people.  Many a life ends up on the rocks because of different forms of greed, for example; or fear, or anger, or envy, or hate, or despair…. Luckily, we have positive instincts too, such as joy, love, hope, courage….

From your account of it, it appears that your anger is out of synch.  But it is a great thing that you are talking about it with your sister, and now with me.  When people shut down, they kill their chances of getting better.  But you have opened up, and that is the best thing anyone can do. 

Instead of explaining things, which could be very boring, or advising you in all sorts of ways, which could be annoying, I thought it would be better to give you an image that might help you recover your balance when your anger is spinning you around.  

I saw footage of two stags that had been fighting over the females (happens, doesn’t it?) when their enormous antlers got locked, and they couldn’t disentangle them.  After a few hours of struggling to get free, they were exhausted, and I'm sure they had forgotten all about the female deer, as these had long since forgotten about them and were nowhere to be seen.  Still they struggled, but to no avail.  Eventually they were spotted by a ranger, who went and got a chainsaw and cut one or two branches of the antlers (it’s painless), setting the stags free at last. 

When you find yourself getting annoyed with somebody in the pub, think of the two of you as a pair of stags!  Imagine those branching antlers above your head.  Some stags can have as many as 16 points to their antlers.  Give yourself the biggest ones.  If you could imagine this as plainly as if those crazy antlers were really there, it would draw your attention away from what that other person said, and it might even make you laugh.  Getting locked into an argument is just as ridiculous (and dangerous) as a pair of stags getting locked in each other’s antlers.  And ask yourself if you have as good a reason for fighting as those stags had.  If not, why bother?  If the other fella says something stupid… well, he has a right to be stupid.  (And who knows, maybe he has better reasons for saying something than he is revealing.)  There are more ways than one of looking at things, and you're not the only stag on the mountain. 

All these creatures have a lot to teach us, and they do it without words.  Do you know what the stags do with their antlers when the fighting season is over?  They lose them!  The things just fall off.  If you really get those antlers deep into your imagination, you’ll find after a while that you don’t need them anymore. 

Take care, Trevor.


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