Caged by Rage: Are Rage Rooms Helpful?
When this theme was introduced, one of the first things I joked about was going to a rage room. While they're certainly not cheap–from nearly $40 per person for just 30 minutes of smash time to upwards of $125 per person for 45 minutes–one website advertised, “our rage room helps cure your anger.” Hallelujah! Was this the answer I’d been looking for?! Forget journaling, running and therapy (just as expensive)–was the solution to break sh*t? Based on further research and advice from a plethora of psychologists, rage rooms are actually not a constructive way to deal with anger in the long run.
Rage rooms were created by companies in Japan in 2008 as a way for employees to release their emotions in an intense period of time, stemming from the Freudian idea of catharsis. By “fixing” employees as quickly as possible, these companies could capitalize on their increased productivity. Some still believe in the benefits of catharsis, but modern psychologists identify aggressive explosions to reinforce feelings of anger. What’s more, the recent outcome of studies dating back to the 1960s show that if people learn that acting violently is okay in one situation, they may do so at other times. Especially for people who have engaged in destructive behavior in the past, rage rooms can reinforce negative coping mechanisms.
It’s impossible to touch on cultural norms around anger without thinking about gendered expectations. Here’s a statistic to unpack: according to Vantroy Greene and other rage room owners, up to 95% of their visitors identify as women or gender-nonconforming (USA Today/Vice). Why is that? Society teaches men that anger is the only valid form of emotional expression while at the same time discouraging non-men from expressing their anger (if they do, they risk being dismissed or villainized). A study from Southwest Missouri State University, however, showed that non-men are as angry and act on their anger as often as men. They also found that men did not know how to proceed when made to suppress their anger, while non-men were more able to control immediate responses to anger. So though rage rooms might be enabling for those inclined towards violence (statistically: men), they could be a safe way for non-men to express themselves in a way they have never been free to experience.
Ultimately, a visit to a rage room may offer brief relief but it won’t solve your deep-seeded rage. Anger is a natural response to situations in the world around us and we aren’t taught how to express our anger in healthy ways, the underlying causes of anger or that it can be a catalyst for positive change. Often a facade for deeper emotions including inadequacy, determination, exhaustion, fear and loss, anger is complicated. Dealing with these feelings can call for mental and written reflection, adjustment of thought patterns, open communication, plans of action and most importantly, time. This kind of change takes practice and is never “finished.”
Art by Alex Kasel