There are plenty of reasons someone visits a rage room: final exams; a demanding and unreasonable boss; upsetting election results. I was there to get out my anger over a recent breakup. I wanted to truly let loose, more than I could at a kickboxing class or by hitting a punching bag at the gym. At the Break Club, there’s no limit to how you can express your anger, and there’s no one there to judge you, making it even more liberating than other rage-channeling physical activities.
Rage rooms such as the Break Club have popped up around the world, from Italy to Russia to Houston. Sessions generally last about 30 minutes, prices range from $20 to $70. Most rage room owners report that the majority of their customers are women, who usually arrive in pairs and sometimes with a photo of an ex-boyfriend.
I didn’t have a photo, just a strong visual of my former flame in my mind as I enter the Break Club. Beside me, my friend and roommate Isabella hyped me up as I warmed up with a punching bag in the corner. She cheered when I hurled my first bottle at the wall.
Throughout my now-expired relationship, whenever I had expressed any sort of frustration or discontent, my feelings were invalidated and brushed aside. So I began to keep my feelings to myself for fear of being told I was overreacting. When the relationship ended, I tried to play it cool. We had a calm conversation; I packed up my weekend bag and told him I didn’t want to be friends. He said I was being dramatic. The whole situation left me feeling as though I had lost the right to express any emotion.
Afterward, I went over the events in my head and talked them out with Isabella, remembering how small, weak and voiceless this person had made me feel. Being told that I wasn’t allowed to feel upset was often even worse than how hurtful his actions were to begin with. When acting like a doormat is the only reaction deemed acceptable, it can make a girl want to explode. Isabella was no stranger to the feeling, either.
So one day sitting in our apartment in Buenos Aires, I mentioned the Break Club. Isabella’s eyes lit up as she told me, “Girl, you know we need something like that.”
For months, we had calmly talked through our problems, analyzing what had gone wrong and letting each other know our reactions were quite normal, not dramatic or exaggerated as we had been led to believe. But we needed something stronger than girl-talk. We needed to smash things.
In the Break Club we did just that, hurling, swinging and smashing while channeling our anger from our failed relationships. I giggled as I destroyed my first bottle, warming up to the idea of breaking glass and a taboo with my metal baton. By the time I starting whacking the printer, I hit with intense force. It felt rebellious and liberating to embrace my most visceral reactions, especially after being with someone who made me feel I had to repress my feelings.
It’s sounds cliché, but look no further than Taylor Swift or Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” to see how pop culture depicts ex-girlfriends as crazy, emotional or unhinged. Of course, these characterizations often ignore the fact that they stem from a culture that undervalues women and their emotions.
I had to let my emotions out in an environment where no one was going to judge me for it. In an environment where intensity is expected.
A few minutes in to my time at the Break Club, my heartbeat was quickening, and I was sweating. I had entered the room full of anger, but the rage began to dissipate with each strike. I swung at bottles like they were baseballs, threw them against the wall and felt the glass shatter as I smashed them against a table. I struck a computer monitor with all the force I could muster. I smashed a keyboard and watched in glee as the keys popped off.
Throughout it all, I barely thought of my former flame. The adrenaline took over, and I began focusing instead on destroying everything in front of me. I wasn’t just releasing my anger, I was getting out of my head and escaping my endless thoughts and tendency to over-analyze.
According to Deborah Cox, a psychologist who has studied female anger, my experience in the Break Club is normal. Women typically suppress and internalize their anger until they reach a breaking point, she says. While it can be unhealthy to take this rage out on someone else, releasing it in a controlled environment can do wonders for stress relief.
You don’t need to go to a rage room to have this experience. They can invoke the same feeling of liberation in other ways, smashing bottles in a private space or letting out an unrestrained scream.
Since that relationship ended, I had been carrying lots of self-doubt within me, unsure of whether my reactions were valid. I didn’t want to take that baggage with me into my next relationship. Instead, I left it in the break room, along with a warped keyboard, remnants of a computer monitor and a pile of shattered glass.