The Five Minute Freakout

A potent drug in treating impulsive fits of bitter outrage

Imagine this. You’re in your car, headed to your annual family reunion in a nearby town. The sun’s shining, the birds are chirping, it’s a good day by any measure. There’s just a couple of things: you really hate your cousin Jeff, and his toddler Tom, and your other cousin Molly, and your sister’s husband Matthew. You despise the idea of going to this family reunion so much you literally had to drag yourself out of bed earlier this morning, and you would not have even considered the invite had it not been for acquiescing to mother’s personal favour. So back in your car, you’re scrolling through your podcast timeline and BOOM! You see Joe Rogan just uploaded a sick new episode about his interview with Kim Jong-Un and it’s 3 hours long. Remembering how much you love Joe Rogan, you start to feel a smile creep up. As you are cruising along, you witness a sea of cars lined up in front of you in what you understand is going to be an imminent three-hour-minimum layover on the road. You know you’re going to be late to this rendezvous and you have a good reason for it. That half smile has now grown to a full-sized, crescentic engraving on your face.

Now imagine a separate event — same exact scenario, only let’s change the context. You’re not headed to this cumbersome family reunion, you’re on the way to an important business appraisal. Are you happy? The furthest could be true — the gridlock has got you absolutely enraged, you swear you’re gonna bash someone’s head off, you start screaming profanity, you may even decide to punch the steering wheel. You become a complete savage. Did Joe Rogan still upload the epic podcast episode? Yes. Were you excited? Hell no. It doesn’t even warrant space in your mental dwelling — a place that is now overflowing with fury, displeasure, and resentment.

Context lies in the very fabric of anger. The worst part about it (or best, depending on how you see it) is the fact that it is unchangeable, no matter what you do. The rice has turned to porridge. The egg has boiled. You can’t undo it, you can’t get around it, no matter how hard you try. Grasping this concept lies in the foundational core of every anger management therapy that exists. Often times, you have to understand that some things are just purely exogenous — they happen beyond your control. What you can change however, is the action you take towards that issue, the attitude you adopt in facing the unwanted.

Now here is where the Five-Minute Freakout comes into play, an insightful concept I came across with as I was reading through The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod.

Here’s how it works: it’s okay to feel bad when things go wrong, but not for more than five minutes. When you suffer a setback, you set a timer and do whatever you need to — scream, cry, kvetch or punch a wall. Then, when the time’s up, you say, “Can’t change it” aloud and move on.

The Five-Minute Freakout conceptualises the idea of giving yourself five minutes of absolute solitary freakout after the occurrence of an unfavourable incident. A crucial part of this practice is conceding to the fact that some things are just beyond your control and that there’s no point haggling over such banalities. Most days, the act of acknowledging the displeasure and threading back to the root of the issue is enough to extinguish the fury, an act that’s in a sense quite meditational. Some other days, you may just feel like blowing the steam off your vent and unleash a more feral version of the Five-Minute Freakout. Lock yourself in a room, make sure you’re away from harmful contrivance that may potentially hurt yourself or other people, and then commence. Shout. Punch the wall. Break a pencil. Do what you have to do, but only allow yourself five minutes. After it’s over, simply return to your attendings. With your mind refreshed, now able to seize a more logical and practical thinking framework, you’ll be able to construct better solutions and alternatives to the issue at hand.

The vital part about this seemingly savage habit is to make sure you lock yourself in solitude, away from harm’s reach. The last thing you want is to injure yourself, and even worse, inflict unwanted offence to someone else.

Rather unexpectedly, my personal experience of the Five-Minute Freakout made me transition beautifully from mostly employing the rattling savagery, to progress into the more meditational, reflective version of the practice. Acknowledging the concept of unalterable reality lead me to despise the whole idea of being ‘angry’. In the end, although the Five-Minute Freakout does allow the liberation of anger in conventionally unappreciable ways, it also allows valuable downtime for the acknowledgement and introspection of feelings, thereby improving one’s ways of managing anger. Honing this important skill won’t only benefit one’s life from a careerist perspective, but also encompass the scope of personal health and mental welfare.

Junior doctor, writer, photographer, and part-time social media strategist. Receive weekly updates from me ⤵

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