Poet unpacks emotional experience after visiting a rage room

Allows for the healthy expression of pent-up anger and frustration, which can lead to emotional clarity. Picture: Liza Summer /pexels

Allows for the healthy expression of pent-up anger and frustration, which can lead to emotional clarity. Picture: Liza Summer /pexels

Published Jun 3, 2024


Rage rooms, also known as anger rooms or smash rooms, are places where people can break or smash objects to release their frustration. The idea is simple: by smashing things in a controlled setting, people can vent in a safe space, reducing stress and pent-up emotions.

These rooms have recently gained popularity as a form of recreational therapy. They offer a seemingly appealing way to blow off steam without consequences. But is breaking stuff really a good way to manage stress?

Research in mental health suggests otherwise. While rage rooms provide a controlled space for venting, breaking objects does not truly relieve anger. In fact, expressing rage in this manner can, it seems, can intensify it rather than provide the catharsis people are hoping for.

Joy Sullivan, author of Instructions for Travelling West: Poems, shared her rage room experience with Goop. Sullivan describes herself as gentle and kind-hearted, good with toddlers, animals and the elderly.

Participants often leave feeling lighter, happier and more relaxed. Picture: cottonbro studio/Pexels

She once saved songbirds from her cat’s claws and still cries when a wine glass breaks.

Known for her tender poems, Sullivan wouldn’t seem like the typical customer for a rage room. But, intrigued by the statistic that many rage room visitors are women, she decided to give it a try.

Though not often angry,  Sullivan’s familiar with grief, which she describes as a constant companion. Her visit to the rage room revealed unexpected feelings of rage lurking beneath her usually calm exterior.

Rage rooms started in Japan but quickly spread worldwide. After the pandemic, interest in these rooms surged, especially among women.

These rooms aren’t the first spaces designed to help women express emotions often kept under wraps. In Japan, hotels have crying rooms, and Tokyo has a pessimist café where people can openly show their misery.

For many women, rage rooms provide a unique and physically intense form of therapy.

Rage rooms have many benefits:

Stress relief

Venting physical energy in a controlled environment helps release built-up stress and tension.

Emotional release

Allows for the healthy expression of pent-up anger and frustration, which can lead to emotional clarity.

Mental clarity

Smashing objects can lead to a feeling of mental cleansing, providing clarity and renewed focus.

Enhanced mood

Participants often leave feeling lighter, happier, and more relaxed.

Cathartic experience

Provides a unique form of emotional release, which can be especially cathartic for those who struggle to express anger.

"It's my first time, so I order a small bucket of glass objects," Sullivan wrote. "I smash a ceramic pitcher and, with a sudden snap, my hidden rage surfaces. Memories flood back: the frat boy who pinned me down in college, a professor who propositioned me during a private reading of my poems, and the man at a grad school party who cornered me and groped me, asking if I was wearing underwear.

“A friend later said it must have been a joke—but ten years on, I still don't find it funny."

Rage rooms offer a way to process and release pent-up anger. Through smashing objects, participants can confront past traumas and frustrations in a controlled environment.

However, it's crucial to consider if this method truly helps in the long term. Experts caution that while the immediate relief can feel therapeutic, deeper emotional healing involves understanding and addressing the root causes of anger.

For now, rage rooms provide a popular and cathartic outlet for many, especially women looking for a way to break free from their bottled-up feelings.

Many women, especially those from evangelically puritan backgrounds, are taught to be quiet, gentle, and agreeable. We're advised to use soft voices and display good manners.

Anger, we are told, is unattractive in women. So, we suppress our rage. But anger can be powerful; it helps us recognize injustice and protect ourselves. Often, we hold onto anger because it validates our pain.

Reflecting on her past, Sullivan realised that anger could have acted as her shield. In moments of deep hurt and confusion, she felt small and helpless. Not knowing how to fight back, she froze, believing that "good girls" must endure the unacceptable.

“For me, smashing things in the rage room isn’t about being destructive,” Sullivan shared. “It’s about learning how to channel anger. It helps me move from a place of harm to positive action.

“It taught me that I don’t want to destroy things but that I need to acknowledge and use my anger. I need to hold that powerful feeling in my body and listen to it.”

Since her experience in the rage room, Sullivan has wondered if her lifelong depression might actually be rage without an outlet. The rage room provided an escape valve, helping her release anger from her body and perhaps stop beating herself up emotionally.

After an hour in the rage room, her friend Sara declared it to be the most fun she's had all year. Sullivan felt a mix of exhaustion and clarity like she had undergone a profound cleansing experience.

“It’s better than therapy, yoga, or meditation,” she said. Driving home with small pieces of glass still clinging to her body, she felt liberated and found herself singing.