Are you angry at the moment? Perhaps it’s the heat, or the pent-up frustration of daily Zoom meetings that should be emails. Maybe it’s a father-in-law who knows which buttons to push. Or maybe it’s 2023 and The Grapes of Wrath can no longer be ignored.
This is probably why the Anger Room has become so popular. The idea is simple: a room filled with everyday objects – ceramics, glass, furniture, gadgets, electronics and so on. Customers suit up in safety gear (helmets, gloves, face shields, jumpsuits) and pick from hammers, rods and other tools to try to break and destroy objects, letting off some steam. Forget store signs that say “You broke it, you bought it.” In these establishments, you bought it exactly to break it.
Indians have been raving ever since the country’s first Ris Kotha, the delightfully named Cafe Bhadas, opened in 2017 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Patrons can break the set of six teacups and saucers into smaller ones. ₹150. To go for something bigger, air conditioner, TV set or fridge, cost between ₹200 and ₹800. There are RAZ rooms all over the world, and now in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Some charge by the hour, some by item. But they all promise the same thing – a safe place for anger management.
Can we feed the beast in our efforts to tame it?
“It’s always intrigued me that as a human species, we’ve come a long way to build this great society,” says Nikhil Kaithwas, PhD researcher at Delhi University’s Department of Anthropology. “There are instances where I think we still have a part of our prehistoric past, this tendency to be violent and aggressive.”
Many studies indicate that physical violence can be cathartic, triggering positive emotions in the perpetrator. When those feelings are legitimized, even through safe channels, problems begin. “At the end of the consumer, it can lead to a sense of joy, power and mastery that they pay for,” Kaithwas says. “Can this kind of exposure to violence lead to addiction? Are there ways to monitor if it’s having a different effect on customers, or is it just an entertainment activity like arcade games at the mall?”
Medical professionals who study and treat violent outbursts say the stress-release they provide is usually short-lived. Regularly bashing China is not going to ease anyone’s problems. More worryingly, the dopamine rush induced by violent action can lead to addiction. And make a person angry.
“When you get angry and condition your mind for violence, it can habituate you,” says Nand Kumar, professor of psychiatry at AIIMS in Delhi. “People are trying to capitalize on the idea of anger management. Notably, they’ve been using the word catharsis inappropriately. This idea is completely different from what these anger rooms offer.
Excited customers will then smash the fridge and dinner table as well as their inbuilt comping mechanisms. Kumar recommends going for a walk and running or dancing instead.
It is also worrying that women make up a large part of the customer base. “This highlights the need for broader social change to address gender-based violence and toxic masculinity,” says mental-health therapist Aruba Kabir. “It’s okay to feel angry and stressed sometimes, but it’s important to address these emotions in a constructive and healthy way for our own well-being and the well-being of those around us.”
Besides, what’s the point of smashing all the plates if you can’t destroy the patriarchy?
It started with an accident. In 2008, after the global economic recession, anger chambers were established for Japanese workers to find some relief from long working hours and stressful office environments.
The idea soon spread to the United States, the United Kingdom, Serbia and Argentina. Customers can also bring their own items to some rage rooms.
There are also physical risks, with clients often injuring themselves in the process, possibly making them angry.
From HT Brunch, May 20, 2023
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