Anger attacks: the 3 hour strategy

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Joe Dispenza

Anger attacks: the 3 hour strategy

Emotional maturity is not a natural consequence of the passing of the years. A very common thing is to still see an adult struggling with outbursts, that sense of frustration that breaks through when things or people are not what you expect or want.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Anger attacks are also a common phenomenon in adults, more than is thought, although they are not as noticeable as in children. Generally they are more discreet and silent but, in the end, we too have to deal with frustration, with those negative emotions that make us lose our temper.

It must be noted, neither years nor experience are enough to make us proactive and emotionally efficient people. It can therefore happen to witness a burst of anger from an adult who stamps and dramatizes like a three-year-old child. It must be remembered that each of us hides a child who feels hurt and hurt when the world is not what he expects.

Having high expectations and seeing that they don't come true, being unable to manage disappointment, anger or having a tendency to accumulate too many negative emotions together; these are situations that, sooner or later, implode inside our mind making us lose balance and well-being.

It is normal to have small attacks of anger in daily life: they are crises that we are able, more or less, to conceal. But when they become a constant in our life, they can have deleterious effects. It can therefore be useful for everyone to know a simple strategy to deal with them.

The emotional brain responds to events faster than the rational brain.

– Daniel Goleman –

The attacks of anger and the three-hour technique

Being adults does not exempt us from anger attacks, however these manifest themselves in a very different way than in childhood. For one thing, one of the main reasons why psychotherapy is used is to reach such a high level of anxiety that you no longer know which strategy to apply. Going deeper into the origin of this dysfunctional state, therefore, it is not surprising that we discover an identical pattern.

For example, there are those who always feel disappointed in the behavior of others. Family members, friends, colleagues, partners, all are incorrect and, if they are not, sooner or later they will end up making mistakes. This frustration often materializes in the form of repressed anger. They are islands of silent pain that bring the mind to struggle between sadness, anger and sorrow.

Adult outbursts of anger almost never manifest themselves by knocking over or smashing objectsthe. Most of them begin and end in the solitude of their own room, giving free rein to tears. It is not always easy to rationalize what happens to us in everyday life. There are those who are more able to manage and accept frustration and those who, on the contrary, are vulnerable. It is in this case that it becomes essential to have a coping strategy.

The three-hour rule for dealing with anger attacks

Daniel Goleman, in his book Destructive emotions warns us: the emotional brain is the first to react to what is happening around us. This means that any event passes first through the emotional filter, then through the rational one.

Studies such as the one conducted by Joseph E. LeDoux, professor at New York University, have also shown this. We are beings who act emotionally and emotions often "play a bad joke" on us. 

So, what to do when we feel enslaved by emotions? How to behave in moments of anger and frustration when faced with something we don't like? 

You have three hours to act: breathe, focus and act

A tantrum usually has negative consequences. On the one hand, we find the group, less numerous, of people who react disproportionately, raising their voices, speaking disrespectfully or even breaking objects. On the other hand, there is the group of those who withdraw into a silence full of anger and frustration.

To avoid both situations, we can resort to a simple one strategy that has a precise starting point: awareness. Starting with the negative, annoying or frustrating event, we have three hours to act correctly. After this period, it will be difficult to resolve the situation in a mature, adult and proactive way. And also to adequately manage the emotional knot of frustration. Here are the steps to follow:

Breathe, don't get carried away by the first emotion

When we feel frustrated, the first emotion to emerge is anger. We can (and must) accept its presence, but never let it overwhelm us. First, we need to lessen its impact, relieve the physical tension that accompanies this emotion and lessen the negative thoughts it usually carries with it.

If anger or anger is under control, it will be easier to think too. One technique for achieving the first goal is deep breathing. 

Concentrate, seek inner calm.

The outbursts of anger are typical of the child who does not yet know how to manage his own emotional universe. Struggling with this dimension is part of the normal maturity process.

As adults we should already be past this stage. If not, action must be taken. After you have subsided your anger, it is important to focus, think mature and balanced. We have plenty of time to do it: in these two or three hours we will have to get to the bottom of our discomfort and frustration.

  • What bothered me? Is there a logical reason to feel this way?
  • What can I do to feel better and prevent this situation from happening again?

Calmly and patiently, answer these questions.


The last and most important step is to generate an adequate behavioral response in those three hours. Don't put it off until the next day. An outbreak of anger in adulthood occurs because there is a perceived threat, an element that disappoints or lacks a right. You will do this only after evaluating and coming to the conclusion that action is appropriate.

You will ask for explanations from those who have hurt you, demand respect or set limits. In essence, it is about putting in place a correct and reasoned behavior to make you feel balanced, mature and get respect.

If, on the other hand, after reflecting, you realize that you have acted on impulse, a valuable exercise is to admit it and apologize.

Emotional maturity is not a foregone conclusion, it is not a factory update that installs once you reach a certain age. We have to favor this process and to do so, nothing better than working on these inner and often silent outbursts of anger.

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