Monday, November 28, 2016

The Anger Room

When she was a teenager on the South Side of Chicago in the late 1990s, Donna Alexander fantasized about setting up a space where stressed-out people could relieve their tension in a safe, nonviolent way — by smashing mannequins, televisions, furniture and other objects. She was confident in her idea, but she wasn’t sure how to turn it into a business.

Finally, in the fall of 2008, and by then living in Dallas, Ms. Alexander began an experiment. She invited current and past co-workers to her garage to pulverize items she had collected from the curbs in her neighborhood. “I would play music on my laptop and just let them have at it,” she says. She charged $5. Soon, word of the stress-relief sessions spread throughout Dallas.

“I started getting strangers at my door asking if my house was the place to break stuff,” Ms. Alexander said. “When that happened, I knew I had a business.”

Over the next few years while she looked for a suitable location for the company, Ms. Alexander accrued a four-month waiting list. In December 2011, she quit her job as a marketing manager for a steakhouse to officially start the Anger Room in a 1,000-square-foot space in downtown Dallas.

The Anger Room charges $25 for five minutes of crushing printers, alarm clocks, glass cups, vases and the like. Prices rise to about $500 for custom room setups. The most expensive setup so far has been a faux retail store, replete with racks of clothing. (...)

Sessions in an anger room are meant to be therapeutic. But mental health professionals question the efficacy of rampaging in a faux cubicle or whacking airborne glasses.

“Although it’s appealing to think that expressing anger can reduce stress, there is not much evidence of that,” says George M. Slavich, a clinical psychologist and director of the Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research at the University of California, Los Angeles. “On the contrary, the types of physiological and immune responses that occur during anger can actually be harmful for health.”

Mr. Slavich recommends stress-reduction techniques that can be incorporated into daily life, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, meditation and cognitive behavior therapy.

Nevertheless, customers of the Anger Room have paid to re-enact a scene from the movie “Office Space,” in which the main characters, a trio of disgruntled computer programmers, beat a printer with a baseball bat. The company can also customize the workplace experience, recreating a customer’s own office.

“You have a desk with a computer and phone, chair and a mannequin dressed up in a suit, uniform or whatever relates to their real-life issue,” Ms. Alexander says.

Customers are provided with protective equipment that includes a helmet, goggles, boots and gloves. And they can pick out a music soundtrack — including classical, R&B, grunge and heavy metal — and an array of objects to swing.

“Some of our typical options are baseball bats, golf clubs, two-by-fours,” Ms. Alexander says. “We get things like metal pipes, mannequin arms and legs, skillets, legs from tables. Sledgehammers, crowbars and things like that.” Off-limits are sharp objects and those that use ammunition. (...)

Customers have included executives at large corporations, including Hilton and Microsoft, Ms. Alexander says. In the first year, the Anger Room’s revenue was $170,000. Since then, she has received about 2,500 inquiries from other aspiring anger-room entrepreneurs, and she is in the process of drafting a licensing agreement for franchisees.

by Claire Martin, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Cooper Neill
[ed. Sure beats this: Actually, Let’s Not Be in the Moment]