In some countries of the Middle East and North Africa, a type of stress relief called destruction, or rage therapy, is rising in popularity.
The antithesis of yoga or meditation, this activity aims to release people’s negative emotions, such as anger and frustration, in a very physical way.
Rage rooms have existed in Japan since the 1990s, providing people from all walks of life, from business professionals to teenagers and their parents, with an outlet for their stress.
Shattering glassware and taking a sledgehammer to electronics, is how some people in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates are venting their negative emotions at The Smash Room.
Having opened in 2018, the venue has more than 500 monthly customers and about 75 percent are women. Thirty-six-year-old Dorita Dsouza from India is one of them.
She has been smashing glassware and other items monthly for about a year. It’s her free pass “to be bad,” she says.
“For me, it’s the crunch of glass,” remarks the accountant. “There’s this, like yoga calm strangely, that comes after you’re done.”
There’s no one way to release rage, according to The Smash Room.
Some customers choose to attend the organization’s seasonal ‘screaming yoga’ classes to eliminate their worries. Unlike conventional yoga, these sessions involve cathartic wailing and, of course, smashing.
There’s also a yearly Valentine’s Day bash for the heartbroken, where the dejected can take a hammer to a windscreen bearing their former partner’s spray-painted name.
The Smash Room’s co-founder, Ibrahim Abudyak, helped develop the concept of rage rooms in the UAE after he lost his job and his marriage ended.
He believes he's discovered a way to make stress-relief fun, whilst simultaneously helping to shatter some regional stigmas surrounding mental health.
“We want to create a safe haven for people to let their frustration and their anger out,” says Abudyak, “Because all of us here in this society, we’ve been discouraged to show emotions.”
For some, unresolved daily stress can contribute to depression, commonly characterized as a low mood or even chronic sadness. This, if left untreated, can impair a person’s ability to cope with daily life.
According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 264 million people globally, with most of them women.
Some mental health experts say that stress is on the rise in the Arabian Gulf, especially in major cities which tend to have intense work cultures and a large number of expatriates living away from home.
While places like The Smash Room might provide some with a feeling of relief, UAE psychiatrist Dr. Samer Makhoul says it is not a medically recommended solution for people with clinical depression, or those struggling to cope with aggression.
“If somebody has a problem with anger, this is a model that encourages them to use that again and again,” says Dr. Makhoul, department head at the American Center for Psychiatry & Neurology.
Instead, he recommends an exercise regimen to release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin which can improve a person's mood and wellbeing.
“Usually we need intensity, five times or more a week, for 30 to 40 minutes based on the recent research,” he says.
For those who don’t enjoy running, however, smashing car windows might still be their preferred physical and mental relief, be it medically therapeutic or not.
Banking on that being the case, The Smash Room hopes to franchise its operation across the region.
In the UAE, they also plan to deliver ‘mini smash stations’ to people’s offices. Allowing employees to step outside of a tough day at work and let off steam in a fun way.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA: SMASHING FUN
Casie from New Zealand posted this of a moment she spent with a friend at the Smash Room saying that she loved destroying glasses instead of washing them.