A few weeks ago I was staying at a hotel for work. One day at around 6 in the morning I heard some sort of God-awful commotion out in the hallway. I opened my door to take a look and about 20 feet from my door I saw a toddler having a full-on, furious, screaming, thrashing, toddler tantrum. The child was with a woman who I assume was his nanny and she was amazingly calm and unperturbed in the face of this kid’s violent emotions. The child was red in the face, breathless with rage, so angry he looked like he would bite anyone that came near him. “Get it all out” she said in a voice warm and relaxed. “You goin’ to have tree minutes to get it all out’ja system” she told her charge. I liked her voice. It was low and dark and soothing. She had an interesting accent. In it I heard a warm dry place, palm trees blowing in the hot breeze. Jamaica maybe? St. Kitts? Nevis? She looked at me with an apologetic but almost conspiratorial gaze, as if to say “once this exorcism is over we will be on our way”. And indeed, after about three minutes the child, exhausted by his own apoplectic fury, stopped thrashing, stopped wailing, got to his feet and raised his arms in surrender. Pleading without words to be lifted up and pressed to this kind woman's ample breast.
“There now, there now” she cooed, as she rubbed the child's back and winked at me with a smile. “There there. It all gonna be okay. Shhhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhhh.” They made their way down the hallway, turned a corner, and were gone.
When I got to work I told my colleagues about what I had seen and about how wonderful it would be if we all had a nanny like that. Even in adulthood. A loving and patient nanny who, when we were angry or exhausted or frustrated or confused, would take us outside and give us three minutes to just “get it all outta our systems”.
“They do have that” my assistant Peter offered. “It’s not really a nanny though. It’s more like a place. They're called “rage rooms”. “What in the world” I asked, perplexed, “are rage rooms?”
“Oh, they're all over the place now” he said. “It’s a room where you go and break shit with a baseball bat. Like you can destroy a car, or a stereo or an entire set of china with no consequences.” “No way!” I countered. But, quick to the draw and sensing my disbelief, Peter had already Googled “rage rooms” for all of our edification.
“Here it is” he said, clearing his throat as if preparing to make a speech. “Before your frustration, anxiety and rage get the best of you, do something about it. Get yourself and your anger to a rage room. Most rage rooms have an indoor setup where you can smash a car and release all of your pent-up frustrations. Rage rooms” he continued “are spaces where guests can spend 15 to 30 minutes in a private room smashing items like cars, sheets of glass, china, flat screen TVs, computers, stereos and other electronics with baseball bats, crow bars and sledge hammers. On average the cost of one rage room session ranges anywhere from $50 to $1000 depending on the type and amount of items you are destroying. Protective eyewear and gloves are included.”
I was stunned and secretly delighted. One of my earliest wishes as a young child was that someone would abandon a car down in the deep thicketed part of George Field Park (the closest park to my childhood house) where it would sit…invisible, rusting, and to all but me, a secret. I would be the only one who would know about this car and it was a long-held fantasy in my preteen years that I could use that car - as needed - to extinguish some of the rage that cursed my days and nights and I’m sure had started percolating inside of me the day I was born. Growing up I felt a fiery rage toward my poor unsuspecting parents and at my home “situation” which I deemed less ideal than every single one of my friends’. I felt “different” from everyone else. I just wanted to be a normal girl with a normal home life. I also wanted a dog. But that was not in the cards for me. In retrospect I see that my childhood was exactly as it was meant to be, and that when it comes to childhood experience there may be no "normal" for anyone, but at the time I was furious. I felt as if I had been gypped by life itself. And so I would close my eyes and imagine myself running down the hill, baseball bat in hand, to the park. Morning noon or night, it didn’t matter, the car would be waiting for me. I would imagine myself there, several times a week, effectively working some of that acid-like rage out of my system. I would envision myself hysterical - crying and screaming and smashing the windows of the car over and over again. I saw the car shrinking in size over the years until I had battered the poor thing into something that looked less like a car and more like a pile of smashed twisted metal and shards of broken glass. But this fantasy helped me. As a child, after losing myself in a car-smashing fantasy I would emerge as if from a dream. Heart pounding, dazed, sweaty, short of breath, but oddly much more peaceful than when the fantasy had started.
Once I started drinking and drugging as a sophmore in high school my anger was dampened a bit by those numbing agents but when I stopped drinking at age 32 it all came rushing back in a monstrous wave and I began, almost as soon as the day I stopped drinking, to think about smashing things again. How good that might feel. How cleansing. How freeing. How necessary to keep me sane.
That thought scared me and also made me ashamed. I was secretly enraged that my anger, so long hidden, so long repressed, should come roaring back right as I quit drinking and drugging. As if stopping drinking and drugs was not hard enough, now I had that seething rage to deal with. My old nemesis had returned to battle it out once again. Eventually I did learn to deal with my anger in ways that do not include drugs and alcohol and in ways that do not include smashing things with a crow bar.
And yet...the idea still appeals to me and I can’t wait to go to a rage room and see what it’s all about. And of course, to finally realize my childhood dream of violently breaking some shit with a baseball bat.
I was so happy to hear that I’m not alone in my desire to smash breakable items to smithereens. I’m thrilled that I share this desire with others, and that we can work out some of our internal angst in a soundproof and padded room (and not the same soundproof and padded room that comes free with purchase of a straight jacket). My anger used to frighten me. “Normal nine year old girls don’t lie in bed dreaming about smashing cars to bits with a baseball bat” I would reprimand myself after the fantasy had ended. So I was absolutely thrilled to hear about these rage rooms. I may be a freak who wants to break shit but there are other freaks out there who have the same impulse. The same fantasy. “I’m not alone” I crowed to my co-workers. “This rage room idea is brilliant! I’ve been dreaming about this very same thing for decades!” At this point most of my colleagues turned away, suddenly and obviously pretending to be extremely busy.
When I was younger I lived in fear of my own anger. As if one day it would erupt and I would go berserk, hurting myself and others in the process. It scared me to think that I had this rage running rampant inside of me. Happily, in the past several years, something has shifted. I still have anger inside of me but it does not derail me, it does not frighten me, and if anything I am as curious about this anger, when it comes, as I am about any of my other feelings, including but not limited to joy or boredom. This anger is just a feeling. A feeling that comes and goes like the wind. And the longer I stay sober the less control it has over me. I have other tools now to help me deal with my anger when it does come - justified or (more often than not if I am honest) unjustified. But anger is like a drug and if I have learned anything in these years of sobriety it is that drugs and I are not a good match. So I stay away as best I can from situations that will cause me rage. But when it does arrive (as it will) I treat it much in the same way that the kind nanny cared for her charge in that hotel hallway. I give it three long minutes to rant and rave. I let it “get it all outta its system”. Then, once it has exhausted itself, I pick it up, hold it to my chest, rub its back and soothe it with a simple and beautiful “there there now, there there. It’s all gonna be okay. Shhhhhh. Shhhhhh. Shhhhhh.”
And it works.