Cathartic 'Rage Rooms' Grow More Popular, But Could Actually Increase Aggression


Destruction in a Russian rage room in early 2016. Artyom Geodakyan/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis
Destruction in a Russian rage room in early 2016. Artyom Geodakyan/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

In 2008, Donna Alexander revived an idea from during her teenage years in Chicago's South Side. She set up a room full of ordinary household items in the garage of her Dallas home and invited friends and family to break them as stress relief. Three years later, the notion had become so popular that she opened Anger Room in north Dallas, complete with rooms mimicking a workplace, living area and kitchen — all full of items to smash for a fee.

While the "rage room" concept is all the rage in Europe and parts of Canada, it's still a burgeoning trade in the U.S. People pay to enter a room set up with TVs, computer monitors, dishes, glassware, tables, chairs, couches and more — and unleash primal violence, smashing the items with a baseball bat, crowbar or a sledgehammer.

The founders of Germany's first rage room, pictured here in 2014, enjoy the calm before the storm.
The founders of Germany's first rage room, pictured here in 2014, enjoy the calm before the storm.
Peter Endig/dpa/Corbis

"Our rooms vary depending on the customer," says Alexander. "We make life-like settings to help them relate to where their anger is coming from. They love being able to break things that they have been trained not to."

Stephen Shew, who co-founded a Toronto-based rage-release company, provides an enclosed room, protective gear and the opportunity to buy time with breakable items and a bat or crowbar. At The Rage Room, in addition to the usual suspects — plates, glasses, vases, lamps — buyers can select from an a la carte menu that includes picture frames, wooden chairs and specialty items. And for an extra $20, enthusiasts can bring their own stuff to smash, he adds.

"When we first began the Rage Room, printers were the biggest ticket items that people requested," Shew says, "so now we carry a long line of printers for people to smash."

Shew finds there are two primary reasons for people to visit a rage room. "Many people come for the novelty, to be able to smash things for fun without having to deal with the cleanup," he says, adding that it's become a trendy date and family activity. "The second biggest reason people come is because they had a stressful week or a bad breakup."

These are the customers who bring an ex's old gifts to destroy, or who want to pound a printer into oblivion, just like the cast of cubicle jockeys in Office Space.

"Many of us have worked in a high-stress office environment and have seen the toll it can take on your mental health," says Shew. "We figured we could lighten the load by giving them the option to smash those pesky printers that remind them of their office jobs."

But can smashing things really make people feel better? Maybe, says Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist.

"Because rage is such a varied phenomenon, a rage room could be a release for some, but may simply reinforce anger for others," Durvasula says. "For folks who typically do have well-modulated emotions, and who may be going through a unique stressor like a difficult breakup or a bad boss, then a rage room may be a nice one-off."

Office printers, the bane of many cubicle workers, have become a popular item to smash.
Office printers, the bane of many cubicle workers, have become a popular item to smash.
Artyom Geodakyan/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis


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