The promise goes: rent a room for an hour and work out your frustrations with a bat.
An “anger room” may not sound like a relaxing destination, but since 2008, the strange concept has existed to provide guests a canvas to express their rage. Some do so in the hopes of decompressing and de-stressing. Others are just excited by the prospect of breaking stuff.
The premise of these outlets is comically simple. Break stuff. Go nuts.
The New York Times seems to have an infatuation with anger rooms, having profiled Manhattan’s Wrecking Club earlier this week and The Anger Room in Dallas late last year. The allure and interest are understandable. While some people may prefer to listen to rainforest noises during a massage or meditate, there’s an inherent attraction, or at least curiosity, to taking things in the other direction and exorcising one’s issues with a baseball bat.
Research on the psychological effects of this bizarre activity is scant — anger rooms exist more as a novelty than anything else — but the attraction and growing popularity seems to be governed more by a primal instinct (unsurprisingly) than a practical desire to decompress. However, that hasn’t stopped the Dallas outpost from headlining its homepage with “Relieve Stress & Anxiety.” This particular location has, according to the Times, seen three Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton mannequins “utterly destroyed.”
The Wrecking Club in New York offers crowbars and bats to its guests while also listing an impressive roster of a la carte additions to the experience, including dishes ($20), cell phones ($5), and large TVs, which seem to be the bargain of the bunch at only $25.
It may sound like a fun way to spend a few minutes, but the net effect, both short- and long-term of manufactured rage is the subject of debate.
In an interview with the University of Michigan, Ricks Warren, a psychologist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry, discussed the fallout from anger rooms and using aggression to work through anger.
“Initially, people probably do feel better after smashing things, and this may be because endorphins are released because it can be a good workout. But research shows that people get even more angry dealing with anger through aggression. There is an outdated Freudian catharsis model that has been promoted by therapists which encourages ‘getting it out.’ This model has been disproven repeatedly.”
For those who prefer to manifest and relieve themselves of stress in other ways, “crying rooms,” as GOOD covered in 2015, appear to be not only a more effective, but also a safer alternative. The fact that crying rooms have failed to proliferate in the States may be a testament to our national ethos, the current climate in which we live, or both. Anger rooms can be alternately consumed as mindless fun, whereas crying rooms exist on a more profound and emotional plane. As such, an anger room, as violent as it is, serves as a more versatile destination.
Belying the mystique and visceral attraction to anger rooms is the fact that they may not only fail to help but actively hurt the participants in their quest to clear their souls of anger. Says Joyce Chao Puihan of the Hong Kong Psychological Society, “In psychological research, we find that the more anger you express, the more anger you will feel.”