By Rebecca Douglas

Who among us hasn’t dreamed of knocking the photocopier into next week when it jams up and displays a ‘PC load letter’ error? Well, some enterprising sparks have answered our prayers.

Trend monitors J Walter Thompson Intelligence named ‘destruction therapy’ as one of the top 100 crazes for 2018 – and ‘craze’ is an apt term. Having traversed the US and Europe, destruction therapy has reached our shores. At cash-for-smash establishments like The Break Room in Melbourne, Project Break in Adelaide and The Smash Pit on the Sunshine Coast, patrons can choose a crate of dinnerware and out-dated electronics, don a protective suit and go to work with a baseball bat to release their pent-up rage.

Destruction therapy is billed as an ideal antidote to exam stress, a break-up or our busy, angst-ridden lifestyles in general, but is this a nifty anger-management solution or simply adding fuel to the fury?

Smashing good time

Ed Hunter, owner of The Break Room in Melbourne, established his business after looking for a way to escape corporate life and release his own stress. He saw the idea in Argentina and decided to reproduce it in Australia.

Aside from choosing one of the standard packages, clients are allowed to bring their own breakables as well, leading to some creative crates of objects. One woman smashed in her ex-mother-in-law’s gravy boat, while a group of people brought in glitter-filled garden gnomes to add some extra pizzazz to the flying debris.

Surprisingly, 70 per cent of The Break Room’s clientele are women. Hunter surmises this is because women tend to be judged more harshly by society for expressing anger and are seeking a guilt-free space to do so away from prying eyes. “As a man, it’s somewhat more socially acceptable to get angry,” he says. “We give you permission to get a little bit loud, a little bit angry and feel what you need to feel.”

Patrons can sometimes be timid at first, but soon learn that they are allowed to let loose. Destruction therapy is an alternative to internalising our anger and then expressing it at inappropriate times and wearing the consequences. “We’re all very, very good at bottling up our emotions until that one time when it blows up for exactly the wrong reason at the wrong person at the wrong time. We’re here to be a bit of a buffer between you and that time,” Hunter says.

The Break Room has also incorporated Baker-Miller pink into its logo, baseball bats and design accents to help its customers emerge feeling better than when they walked in. In 1979, a series of experiments found the colour reduced aggression and violent behaviour in prisoners, although the research has since been disputed.

Hunter trusts his clients know the difference between an occasional visit to have fun, blow off steam and get their adrenaline pumping, and a serious mental health issue that requires therapy. “If you’ve got anger issues or you’re going through a really tough time in life, I highly recommend going and talking to someone about it because we are not here to fix your anxiety or your anger issues,” he explains. “We’re definitely not a long-term thing.”

Creating calm

Clinical psychologist Renee Mills says that while it was once believed that unleashing your anger purged it from your system, that view has changed.

“When I studied to be an occupational therapist in the 1970s, expressing anger was taught as the best therapy. We got patients to paint a face on a cushion – say, of your mother-in-law – and then stab it,” she says. “All feelings were seen as needing to be expressed.”

Mills says the medical community’s view changed in 1995 with the release of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence. It turns out that acting out when you see red increases the chances of a similar reaction the next time. “Every time you express anger, throw a cup or yell, you are making your neural network thicker, which makes you more likely to get angry again – sooner and more intensely,” she says.

This response takes over your brain and prevents effective problem-solving. On the other hand, bottling up your anger is not a healthy solution either. “When you internalise anger, it will come out in some form, sometime. Children who were abused can become furious when they turn 40 or when they have their own children. Commonly it comes out as depression (anger turned inwards) or physical illness,” Mills says.

According to Mills, the best way to deal with your rage depends on its cause. She suggests treating it as your body’s alarm system to alert you that something is wrong. “If you need to protect yourself, do so. If there is no danger, there is no need for a fight-or-flight response,” she says. “Choose an action to calm the unnecessary response – breathe deeply, have a cold shower, or go for a run – or challenge your thought. For example, ‘There is no danger here’ or ‘He didn’t cut in front of me to annoy me, he was just merging.’”

Getting your blood pumping will help restore rational thinking. “Healthy physical activities activate different parts of the brain and get good blood flow into the cortex, which facilitates rational thinking,” she says. “Any physical exercise is good. Some people prefer aerobic activities like running and some prefer yoga – it really comes down to personal preference.”

REINING IN ANGER

Curb your rage with these calming tips from Renee Mills.

  1. Change your perception

If you’re stressed from too much work, break it down into bite-sized tasks. De-personalise any agro you feel towards your boss by understanding the pressures they’re under and how they treat the whole team, not just yourself.

  1. Alter your environment

For times when reframing your outlook on the situation doesn’t work, changing your environment and remove yourself from the situation might be the best option.

  1. Adopt a zen mindset

To prevent anger before it has a chance to take hold, practice a calming philosophy every day where you expect minor setbacks and inconveniences like someone cutting you off on the road and choose not to let it get you down.

Written by the lovely Rebecca Douglas.