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Smash Therapy: Is It Healthy or Harmful to Break Things?

smash therapy
Foto: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - chuttersnap

If you like the idea of letting your inner Hulk out in a controlled environment, read this guide to smash therapy — including its pros, cons and controversies.

We’ve all been angry, and sometimes the feeling is so intense that it makes us want to hit and destroy whatever made us feel this way. Normally, we don’t have many things to break without regret, and this is exactly where rage rooms come into play. In a rage room, you can pay to smash and destroy everything you see. But can it really help manage anger and get rid of negative emotions? Here is everything you need to know about smash therapy.

Why is it Good to be Angry?

Anger is one of our strongest emotions. We experience it when something unfair or unpleasant happens to us. As it often makes us want to hurt someone or something that makes us feel it, anger is frequently linked to violence. It’s for this reason that we are typically expected to refrain from expressing our anger in a way that can intimidate or hurt other people.

However, anger doesn’t always deserve the bad reputation it gets. Anger can be constructive when people use it to solve a problem rather than just let off steam. In fact, constructive anger can benefit us both socially and psychologically.

5 Benefits of Anger

Smash therapy can be dangerous.
Smash therapy can be dangerous.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / WenPhotos)

Like all of our emotions, anger has a part to play. Let’s take a look of some of the benefits of this feeling. 

1. Anger helps us feel in control

When Harvard researcher Dr. Jennifer Lerner studied how Americans responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she discovered that those who felt angry about them had a better sense of clarity and less fear of possible attacks in the future. Another one of her studies shows that anger makes us more risk-friendly and increases our sense of control over events.

2. Promotes cooperation

While uncontrolled anger can lead to violence, suppressed anger can cause depression. It’s much healthier to express your anger in any form of relationship than to keep it inside. If the anger is justified and the response is appropriate, expressing your feelings can help resolve the problem and strengthen the relationship in the long term.

3. Helps us survive

Anger plays an important role in human survival and evolution. In fact, our primal “fight” reaction comes from anger. When we are attacked, anger is what helps us fight back and defend ourselves. It provides the aggression needed to fight the attacker.

4. Motivates us

Remember how your body feels when you are angry? Your breath and heartbeat quicken, and your muscles are tense. The way our whole body reacts to anger makes it obvious that this feeling is meant to drive us to action. Research shows that anger can provide you with the energy that may be necessary to achieve your goals or to correct difficult or unjust situations.

5. Expands emotional intelligence

According to research, those who choose to accept their unpleasant feelings, such as anger, demonstrate higher levels of emotional resilience and intelligence. In contrast, those who prefer to focus on the good and ignore their “bad” feelings often fall short in this regard.

There is no doubt that anger can be beneficial if managed correctly and expressed in a constructive way. But can smash therapy help us manage anger and use it to our advantage?

What is Smash Therapy?

In a rage room, you pay to break things.
In a rage room, you pay to break things.
(Foto: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash / Daniel Becerra)

Rage rooms, wreck rooms, smash therapy, destruction therapy — there are many names for this type of activity. The concept is simple: you can book a room full of things to smash and destroy however you like. You can bring friends, play your favorite music and let yourself loose.

Smashing venues promise entertainment like no other. The main purpose is to have fun by breaking the rules of the outside world. On top of that, smashing things is also believed to benefit our mental health

Benefits of Smash Therapy

Here are three surprising mental health benefits of smash therapy:

1. Empowerment 

We’ve been warned not to break things our whole lives. It can feel really empowering and refreshing to break this norm. According to rage room workers, their clients feel an increased sense of self-confidence and self-empowerment immediately after the very first session.

2. Emotional catharsis

Do you usually choose to conceal your anger and not show it publicly? In this case, breaking the rule and releasing pent-up stress and anger can be a truly cathartic experience. Emotional catharsis is the expression of formerly repressed feelings in order to overcome problems associated with them. In psychology, catharsis is thought to be beneficial in terms of reducing stress and anxiety

3. Coping with trauma

If you are dealing with difficult and traumatizing life events, such as the loss of a loved one, illness, or divorce, smash therapy can help to release bottled-up emotions and make progress towards healing. It’s crucial to remember, though, that it can’t be considered an actual therapy or a treatment for mental health issues. 

Dangers of Smash Therapy

Smash therapy can encourage aggression.
Smash therapy can encourage aggression.
(Foto: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash / Christopher Ott)

Smashing things in a rage room can help you vent negative emotions. However, it doesn’t address the underlying reasons for your anger, and its relieving effect is often very short-lived. In other words, smash therapy can’t serve as a long-term solution for suppressed anger and aggression. It’s also unlikely to help with deeper anger management issues and can even be dangerous for people who have them.

Rage rooms appear to be the ideal place for those who struggle with anger issues. However, reality can actually be very different. In fact, when given the freedom to kick, destroy and smash everything in their path, such people might feel even more encouraged to behave violently.

It’s a dangerous myth that letting your anger out is the best way to manage it. The real challenge of anger management is learning how to deal with negative emotions without violence. And swinging a hammer in a wreck room is unlikely to help with that.

Smash therapy is first of all a form of entertainment that can also give you quick emotional relief. If you are overwhelmed with stress and often feel like breaking things out of anger, consider getting professional counseling.

Recommended reading: How to Find the Right Therapist in 6 Steps

No-Smash Tips for Anger Management

Learn how to manage your anger in a healthy way.
Learn how to manage your anger in a healthy way.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Engin_Akyurt)

Being able to manage your anger in a healthy way is important for everyone, including people who never exhibit violent behavior. When you can’t control your anger in the heat of the moment, you might say or do a lot of things you’ll later regret. You can hurt people you love or lose partners and friends, creating serious problems for yourself and others.  

Remember that constructive anger is always oriented towards solving the problem. And if your anger makes you do things you regret, try using these simple techniques to calm down and better access the situation. 

1. Breathe and relax

There are many breathing and relaxing techniques that can help you soothe your temper at the right moment. The trick is to find out which one works best for you. Remember that you’ll need to practice mindful breathing regularly in order to master your skills and see the result. 

Learn how conscious breathing can change your outlook.

2. Step away from the triggering situation

One of the best ways to manage your anger is to step away from the negative situation if possible. Take a break to calm your head and rethink if you feel like you are ready to lose it. Try to explain that you are not running away from the problem but are trying to manage your anger and have a more productive conversation later. Stepping away from a heated, unhealthy situation shows emotional maturity, not weakness. 

3. Do a quick workout

If you feel like smashing something out of anger, why not crush some squats or go for a jog instead? Anger gives us an energy boost that can be used for actual physical activities. Exercise can help clear your mind and give you a clearer perspective on whatever makes you angry. Looking for inspiration? Try a joy workout

4. Distract yourself with a new activity

It’s nearly impossible to quit thinking about something while you’re furious about it. Distracting yourself with something else is the best technique to mentally “switch to another channel”. To allow your brain to relax, try to choose something that is not too stressful.  

5. Create a “Calm Down” kit

What do you usually need to calm down and relax? It could be a cup of your favorite calming tea, relaxing music or a fidget toy. Whatever it is, make sure it’s ready for you to grab and use whenever you feel angry.

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