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Rage Rooms

A Smashing Idea? Ita Yankovich

We have all fantasized about taking a bat to that annoying office copier. You know the one that seems to have a paper jam every time we need to make a copy. Who hasn’t  thought about taking a sledgehammer to the shredder, cracking the scanner, or kicking the water cooler? Well, there is a place where you can do that for a nominal fee without your co-workers rushing to call HR.

Exit the conference room and enter the rage room, where patrons can pay to tear apart office and household supplies while wearing protective gear.

Smash Therapy

It may look like a temper tantrum, but mental health professionals refer to it as deconstruction therapy (or smash therapy, a form of anger management where patients can channel their anger into destroying objects. The theory is that destroying items can alleviate and release pent up anger, stress, anxiety, or feelings of depression at an appropriate time and place.

Some claim that the concept was introduced in Spain in 2003. Others credit Japan as the first to open a rage room called The Venting Place, in 2008, when the country faced major economic decline. Regardless, the phenomenon has spread to the United States as well as to England, Canada, Hungary, Australia, Argentina, South Korea, and Serbia.  Young professionals between the ages of 25 and 30 seem to be the ones who frequent these establishments to detox from the stress of work, and surprisingly, it is reported that 75% of rage room customers are female. While most come for fun, some come at the recommendation of a therapist as part of their self-care. 

Who should not be in a rage room? Lisa Birmingham, owner of New York’s The Relief Room, says that individuals who are sensitive to loud noises, baseball bats, sledgehammers, or crowbars should not engage in this form of therapy. She also doesn’t recommend that children under the age of 13 visit a rage room as they are not physically developed enough to be able to wield the items provided for destruction.

 Give it a Whack

So, will you have to break the bank to break some items?  For anywhere between $10 and $245, you can suit up in coveralls and helmets while using blunt objects to destroy items including nonfunctional electronics, dishes, and discarded furniture. Typically, the price varies depending on how much time you wish to spend. It can be as cheap as $10 for five minutes or upwards of $50 for 30 minutes. The most expensive package is at The Rage Room in Hackensack, NJ where for $245 and you get to break as many as 40 items. 

Smashing items may sound like a jolly good time, but owners of these establishments assert it can go deeper than that.  Stephen Shew who manages The Rage Room, located in Toronto, claims his business has saved many marriages through its “Date-Night” package, which allows disgruntled couples to hash it out over two electronic devices and 20 items of crockery, from lawn gnomes to ceramic vases, all for $70. It’s a lot cheaper than marital counseling, maintains Shew, who reports that Valentine’s Day is one of their busiest times. 

Birmingham concurs. She believes that even though rage rooms have an aura of fun, they are a means of clearing up emotional trauma. She shares an especially memorable encounter with one of her patrons, who arrived with her best friend seemingly to just have a fun time. After a long session of laughter, yelling, tears, and excitement, one of the women emerged holding a broken body-building trophy. She had broken everything in the trophy besides the chest. With tears streaming down her face and hands shaking, she asked Birmingham to keep it. She then divulged that she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to keep that area intact as a representation of her struggle.  “We hugged and cried together as she thanked me for building The Relief Room. She knew she was sad. She had not realized how angry she was about the diagnosis and her impending treatments. She felt cheated out of a portion of her life and was grateful to discover this about herself and release it, “ relates Birmingham, who says that this incident was by far the most impactful moment at her business.

 Wrecking Your Work

New York City is a stressful place to live, which is perhaps why it is home to four rage rooms: three in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn.  

New York is the perfect location for this type of business according to Jeffrey Yip, owner of Rage Cage. “Although it’s a great place to be in, it can also be very stressful at times. I started this business as a place for people to have fun doing a unique activity with the added bonus of stress relief,” he explains. Yip, who says that holiday season is his busiest time, also believes that one of the best occasions to enter The Rage Cage is on a first date. “It’s a great time and place to destress!” he maintains. I am not sure if shadchanim would agree.  

 Tom Daly, a former accountant, found a niche in the market when he realized that businesses cater to physical needs such as food and shelter, but not to psychological needs like stress and anger. That is why in 2017 he opened his very own destruction room called The Wrecking Club in Midtown Manhattan where customers can pick from a menu of mayhem and  let out all their aggression by bashing items in his 300-square-foot space. He cleverly named the various session packages he offers. There is the “Couples Therapy,” “Hit it and Quit it,” “Mad House,” and “The Top Shelf,” ranging from $94.99 to $245 (“Hit it and Quit it” is a cheaper option at $25 for 15 minutes of bashing bliss). Business must be good since Daly told The Penny Hoarder.com that The Wrecking Club hosts about 30 people each day. 

Swing Your Stress Away?

Why does it feel so good to smash stuff? Experts explain that the act of destruction not only feels good for your muscles, allowing them to release some tension, but it also increases its production of endorphins, neurotransmitters that create feel-good thoughts in your brain. 

As you continue to punch, you will find your focus is improved, increasing your concentration and helping you forget the reasons why you are stressed.

Mental health professionals warn, though, that anger is a natural emotion and must be dealt with in a productive, constructive manner, and while rage rooms can temporarily relieve stress, they should not be used as a substitute for therapy in treating chronic anger or stress. Even more alarmingly, recent neuroscience research suggests that the repetition of certain thoughts, feelings, or behaviors trains the brain to engage in them regularly. While using an anger room may provide temporary relief, it may increase the likelihood acting out in the future.  

“Since the purpose of the rage room is to ‘let it out,’ the breaking of items with a lead pipe or baseball bat may temporarily make one feel better. The reality is that it does nothing positive to relieve one’s stress or anger in the long-term, therefore possibly even causing an increased likelihood of future acting out, in an uncontrolled setting. In addition, this method robs us of the opportunity for self-reflection and the understanding of our anger,” says Adina Mahalli, a certified mental health expert and family care professional specializing in trauma therapy. 

Is Letting it Out the Way to Go? 

It’s healthy to let out some steam every now and then, but in today’s overpriced and fast-paced world, our lifestyle doesn’t afford us the time and luxury of laying on a therapist’s couch venting our troubles away for $100 an hour once a week. I don’t know how I feel about the normalization of throwing TV screens across a room or smashing office equipment into oblivion. Is it possible that hurling and hammering can lead to happiness?  

 Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld of Project Genesis – Torah.org observes that when a person is in a state of rage, they have clearly lost it as they rail and lash out. “They slam the door, bang their fist on the table. Why? What did the poor defenseless table do to deserve such treatment? It’s not the table they’re angry at, is it? Why is such behavior the natural reaction to frustration?” Rabbi Rosenfeld says that acts of anger are typically signs of extreme frustration where the reaction tends to be striking whatever is nearest, which hopefully is an inanimate, but what is achieved by doing this? Rabbi Rosenfeld believes that it causes the individual to feel a sense of assurance as he feels he’s in control of his life. “Now subconsciously I’ve shown that I exist. I control my surroundings: I can hit, yell, bang my fist, frighten others, and hurt their feelings. And in my own perverted way, I have shown that I am the master of my own little world.” To Rabbi Rosenfeld, this is a form of idolatry. 

Rather than resorting to smashing items, Rabbi Rosenfeld recommends that those with pent of feelings of anger accept that G-d is the Controller of all things; it is His universe and not ours.  “And if things don’t go our way, isn’t that ultimately G-d’s doing and G-d’s decision? Should I really anger because it has become clear to me that I’m not the boss?” 

Looks like rage rooms are not such a smashing idea after all. 

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