Next time you’re feeling the need to vent, get rid of your stress and anger, and just let it all hang out, if you’re in Houston or some other city that offers Rage Rooms, you’re in luck, although you have to fork out $50 for 15 minutes of action (that’s almost 6 cents a second, by the way!). A rage room is a relatively small enclosure with a variety of breakable objects like glassware, dishes, an old TV or computer, etc. You have a bat in hand and wear goggles and a helmet for protection, and spend 15 minutes smashing all this stuff.
Fun? You betcha! And if you do it a couple of times for kicks or curiosity it isn’t going to change your life. But are rage rooms a good way to learn how to cope with anger? Probably not. Based on some sound research, psychologists generally recognize that aggressive venting of anger, stress, frustration, and other emotions that tend to make us uncomfortable – well, the venting just doesn’t work. In fact, it’s likely to backfire.
Think about it. You’re in this room and start smashing things. You begin to get worked up and swing harder and harder, breaking everything in sight. When you’re all done, you feel really good, relieved (except you’re out fifty bucks). There’s no doubt that aggressive venting of emotions generally has a satisfying effect, but – and here’s the problem – that satisfying effect is short-lived, very temporary. Those nasty emotions will return. Now ask yourself, in the rage room what type of action did you experience that had a satisfying result? You got it – energetically letting it all come pouring out. That’s fine if you’re in a rage room, but what if you’re with your boss, your spouse, your kids, a friend, or whomever? An excessive display of rage may not be in your best interests!
One of the biggest flaws of rage rooms is that they do not help you resolve an issue or learn how to transform frustration and hostility into constructive anger. Thus, although probably harmless when done occasionally and with realistic expectations and perspectives, rage rooms can potentially allow you to practice and enjoy aggressively acting out your anger. That’s great in the rage room, but what are you going to do when you’re really furious and the room isn’t there?
Rage rooms remind us of a fad used in marital therapy 30-40 years ago. During a counseling session couples were given harmless foam or balloon-type bats and told to vent their anger and hostility on each other using the bats. This was supposed to be a safe way to get conflicts out in the open and allow them to vent their feelings by harmlessly lashing out at each other. Well, it didn’t work, and in some cases escalated the conflict to the point where an actual physical altercation broke out in the therapist’s office! The harmless bats led to emotional arousal, awakened a lot of underlying negative emotions between the spouses, and encouraged them to get physically aggressive.
A major part of the problem here is that you probably feel you should not be angry. How many times have you told yourself that? From early childhood, you were told you must avoid and manage your anger. You were not supposed to get angry at home, school, in public, or at work. You grew up believing it is wrong to be angry and it should be avoided. This is an irrational belief.
Coping effectively with anger requires you to remember that, like all emotions, anger provides you with information. You must use that information to determine the best direction your actions should take. Should you withdraw from the situation (a co-worker made you angry and you want to tell him to go to hell), or should you confront it (a misbehaving child made you angry)? You should not try to get rid of anger when you experience it. Rather, you should seek constructive social interactions for transforming the anger, such as becoming appropriately assertive, determined, competitive, achievement-oriented, or persistent, depending on the situation. There are also physical activities like boxing, walking, running, martial arts, and weight lifting. These activities can produce endorphin (natural) highs, a sense of personal control and pride, distraction from what is bothering you, and better health. They are also more appropriate than convenient and simple “middle-finger” actions that, at best, produce mostly childish behavior and waste energy, or at worst, lead to additional anger and harmful confrontations.