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A smashing time: Rage Room visitors let loose as emotions and glass fly

Jason Lepine uses a bat to smash a glass vase inside the Rage Room at Battle Sports in Toronto on Monday, August 11, 2015.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
August 21, 2015 - 7:00 AM

TORONTO - With a swift swing, the wine glass instantly shattered — and Jason Lepine was just getting started.

Wielding bats, a golf club and a crowbar, he delivered pounding blows to a stack of plates, an owl figurine, a wooden chair and a VCR, crushing them into piles of debris.

"The first glass I thought right away about my mother. I just thought: 'This feels so wrong. I can't be smashing vases and glasses,'" said Lepine, 29. "It probably goes back to being a child that you're not supposed to do that.

"Once you break through that, it's like: 'Oh, I'm allowed.' And you start to let yourself go."

Housed within Battle Sports, a recreational entertainment facility in Toronto, the Rage Room has welcomed a steady stream of customers seeking to release pent-up emotions by smashing objects.

Battle Sports co-founder Tim Cheung recalled hearing about two teens in Serbia who opened up a similar room in 2013. In a "high-stress city" like Toronto, he thought residents would embrace the concept.

"From a very young age, we're taught to protect things and keep things whole rather than to break things. So, there's a certain element of taboo," said Cheung.

"I think that's what gets people's attention is because they can go against that instinct."

Visitors don white coveralls, protective gloves and a face mask and select a "weapon" of choice, which also includes a hockey stick and rackets.

For $20, the half-hour session includes a stack of five plates for customers to crush. They can add on options from an eclectic a la carte menu, including vases and garden gnomes.

Cheung said printers are especially popular, given the "innate hatred" for the equipment, pointing to a famed scene in the '90s cult classic "Office Space," in which workers destroy a malfunctioning device.

Unleashing frustrations while decimating old technology is also a prime focus of the Luddite Screen Smash in Toronto.

"I don't know a single person who hasn't wanted to smash a computer at some point," said workshop leader and organizer Rob Corbett, who will host his next event on Sept. 27.

"I'm not opposed to technology.... But it can be so frustrating when it doesn't work — and we've all hit those moments."

The inaugural event in July was "quite intense" but still light-hearted, Corbett recalled.

"It was really interesting to see that the emotions that were coming out were much lighter. There was a giggle underneath a lot of it," he said.

"We put on these great protective coveralls and face masks and gloves and we looked ridiculous. But all of that, again, is about getting out of your head and just thinking of it as emotional and fun and silly."

Calgary psychologist Patrick Keelan said he isn't surprised that individuals would be drawn to smashing items to ease stress, but doesn't necessarily think it's the most effective strategy.

"I would agree it might make the person in the moment get some short-term relief. I guess the issue about whether you want to encourage it would be: 'Are there negative consequences of doing it even though a person does feel good about doing it in the moment?' I think there are."

Keelan said many studies show that behaving aggressively towards inanimate objects could lead to an increase in the intensity of anger and a greater likelihood of behaving aggressively towards people.

"My other concern is if you focus on this way of dealing with emotion — like anger and frustration — that will detract from the person using skills and strategies to deal with these feelings in a manner in which research has found to be effective."

For Cheung, he finds tranquility in the act of smashing.

"I do Muay Thai pretty regularly ... and it gives me a very calming effect. And I find the same effect with Rage Room," he said.

"When I've done a session ... I feel that same calm. I feel very in control of my emotions after that."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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