Ultra-popular 'rage rooms' are helping people cope with life by smashing shit

Ultra-popular 'rage rooms' are helping people cope with life by smashing shit

CultureNovember 23, 2016 By Isabelle Kohn

Ever have one of those days where you don't wanna wake up?

Everything is fucked, everything sucks?

You don't really know why, but you wanna justify ... ripping someone's head off?

... Oh hi, sorry. Didn't see you there. Those were just some Limp Bizkit lyrics. They're very bad.

But ... they're also pretty descriptive of humanity's collective mood these days. With things like the election, rabid social media, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Kanye West's whojamawhatsits percolating ominously in our atmospheres, it's all too easy to feel overcome by feelings of rage, helplessness, depression and an overall, seething discontent.

Perhaps that modern sentiment explains the increasingly global popularity of a little thing called "rage rooms."

Inside a rage room, visitors pay a modest fee ($20-$30) in exchange for the unspeakable satisfaction of demolishing an assortment of fragile objects like TVs, cups, shelves, mannequins, and anything else that shatters into a million pieces when you introduce it to a sledgehammer. There's no limit to the amount of material destruction you can wreck once you're inside, you can chose whatever angry or dramatic music you want to play over your antics, and there's no buzzer that rushes clients to leave when the time's up — instead, you get a few minutes to catch your breath and think about the tiny Armageddon you just unleashed.

All this is available in rage rooms so that visitors may be offered the simple and entertaining opportunity for catharsis; and the rare gift of release through sanctioned, yet peaceful violence. It's not often that us humans are allowed to flex the full force of our anger when we're feeling out of control, and we often have to bottle it up inside where it turns to anxiety and emotional distress.

Rage rooms offer a respite from this; a place where you can let it all out at once.

For instance, take this man ... look how happy he is that he destroyed something:

Evelyn Botto, 25, who visited Buenos Aires' Break Club with a male friend, described her experience as "delightful." At first, it took her a little bit to warm up, but after a few minutes, she got really into it.

"I've never broken a bottle before. I've dropped a bottle or a glass, but to do it on purpose is totally different," she told Broadly. "I feel really liberated."

She chose Metallica has her soundtrack.

Since the opening of the first rage room in Japan in 2008, the trend has spread like bird flu to countries like Australia and Italy, as well as throughout the United States.

Interestingly, however, the anxieties that lead people to visit rage rooms seem to differ from country to country.

For Americans like Botto, friend drama, work stress, family problems and something called Election Stress Disorder have created a huge amount of psychic detritus, things one can conceivably unload during a rate room session.

"This year was just crazy for politics. It seems like stress was high," said Russell Chastain, owner of The Smash Shack in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Before the elections, he provided visitors with both Trump and Clinton stickers to place on bottles and plates that they eventually broke.

Even in Buenos Aires, people are using rage rooms to channel their political anger ... although they're angry for much of the same reasons us up North are. Broadly reports that rage room operators have been citing Trump as a source of stress (his approval rating is even lower in Argentina than it is here — a miniscule six percent of Argentines say they'd vote for him. Botto referred to him as a "globally hated figure.")

Meanwhile, across the pond in Japan, people are frequenting rage rooms like the Venting Place in response to a recession which has increased the strain on country's workforce and put them on edge. Japanese rage rooms also list university exams and recent break-ups as reasons for pent-up anger.

But ... how much do rage rooms actually curb stress levels?

A lot, in turns out. Especially for women.

Smash Shack owner Chastain told Broadly he thinks this is because "men feel comfortable letting off steam aggressively, in the form of activities like martial arts classes, whereas 'girlfriends and spouses don't have an outlet like that.'"

Actually, the science backs that up. According to the American Psychological Association, studies have shown that there are gendered differences in how men and women handle stress —  while men are more likely to de-stress through physical activity, women usually seek inner calm through interpersonal relationships ... which are great, but don't quite pack the literally punch of safe violence.

Maybe that's why rage rooms are so particularly liberating for women, who studies have shown are actually punished by society when they show their anger. In a rage room, where women are presented with lighthearted, socially sanctioned spaces to let off steam, women feel safe expressing the anger and frustration society doesn't typically allow them to, which can help soothe negative emotions in ways no best friend named Carol and a pumpkin spice latte can.

This theory is up for debate, though.

Female anger researcher and psychologist Sandra Thomas says using aggression to vent can actually generate more anger. She finds that physical activity or calming procedures are healthier ways to reduce stress.

However, expert Ramani Durvasala told How Stuff Works that the safe aggression that rage rooms offer can be a positive outlet for those who already manage their emotions well. In fact, The Break Club's owner, Guido Dodero, reported that some clients are actually sent by their psychiatrists as part of therapy.

Eh, whether they truly work or not, we can't deny that we'd love to take a pickaxe to a printer while Enya plays in the background ...