Anger Rooms are now available in many countries like the US, Canada, Australia – and now, Singapore – as a go-to venue for people to smash objects: a safe way to unleash their anger. It is seen as an alternative to relieve stress; though, it may not be good for our health.

The first Anger Room made its début

The first ‘Anger Room’ was opened in Dallas, Texas back in 2011 – in a concept drawn by then-teenager Donna Alexander. The rooms are designed like a mock office or kitchen, furnished with objects like televisions, computer monitors, printers and all sorts of furniture that people can destroy.

Their weapon of choice? A wide range, including tennis rackets, crowbars, baseball bats or even golf clubs. To ensure safety, all customers must wear protective gears – e.g. hard hats, gloves, boots and goggles – and the time limit must be followed strictly.

While most customers normally choose the more popular five-minute session (charged at USD25), some can last it all out for 15 minutes or even a full 25-minute session. This idea quickly caught on to other cities and beyond the US, with one establishment now in Singapore at Balestier Road, since May 2017.

A ‘quick fix’ for something deeper?

Price-wise, visiting an anger room would be a cheaper option rather than a visit to the psychotherapist. The main idea, after all, is to release anger in a designated space and be confined in a safe room for that purpose. However, health experts are warning that this would not be a sustainable way of releasing strong emotions – be it frustrations, anger or sadness.

Clinical and forensic psychologist John P. Garrison warned that these rooms could be counterproductive as they do not address the underlying issue of the problem. It treats only the surface – and could furthermore reinforce aggressive and violent behaviour rather than treating the deeper problem.

This can also lead to normalisation of violence and aggression. Psychologist Bernard Golden highlighted that such rooms glorify feelings of rage; as people are reacting to anger rather than pausing and reflecting on their own anger. To learn to choose constructive habits for any given situation takes time and patience and the brief period of bashing things up is an instant fix with no effective long-term remedy.

Dr Golden also cited that research has shown that repeatedly engaging in such activities is characterised as “rehearsals” – making participants to be more likely to engage in such activities and increase the likelihood of ‘acting out’ in the future. In his blog, he further shared that while anger comes from a perceived threat, it also offers us invaluable information which needs time for a person to explore.

Alternative solutions to beating the stress

Stress is a global health problem and can be a silent killer; especially in today’s fast-paced world. Managing stress may come in naturally for everyone – but, it is a skill that can be learnt with time and patience.

Here are some simple suggestions to managing stress:

• Keep a journal to track your sensors and identify what triggers your negative reactions
• Develop healthy responses that work, and pick up techniques like deep breathing exercises or meditation to help melt away the stress
• Disconnect and set aside some time daily to allow your body to recharge
• Pinpoint the sources of stress and work them out one at a time. (For work-related stress, talk to your supervisor. For family-related issues, seek family support and share the workload.)

Some people would argue that it is human nature to have the need to act freely and ‘smash objects’ in a safe and controlled environment; for instance, out of sight from their children. Maybe it is a good one-off idea for the retrenched or broken-hearted, to unleash their pent-up emotions.

Nevertheless, as long as there is demand, Anger Rooms will be here to stay. Managing anger and stress can be picked up as we traverse through life. Healthcare practitioners must promote healthy living in a holistic manner and recommend other long-term effective solutions for the patients. MIMS

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