I was a meek child. I was so shy and reserved that I barely spoke. When I was angry, I didn’t express it. I was a classic bottler of feelings.
Then, at 16, my bottle exploded.
My boyfriend and I were fighting when I lost the plot and threw dishes at him. It felt great in the moment but my boyfriend was madder-than-hell and I had a mess to clean up.
These days, I meditate or go for a walk when I’m angry, but the desire to skim a plate across the room remains. I love Rhianna’s song, Breakin’ Dishes.
On a recent trip to Melbourne, I got my chance to live out my raging fantasies at The Break Room, a place to smash the hell out of dishes, bottles and electronics.
My friend Naomi and I are all smiles when we arrive to the alleyway business on a sunny afternoon.
A small group are finishing up when we walk in. As they’re leaving, a woman says, “Enjoy my wedding photos” to the man at the service desk.
That man is Ed Hunter, The Break Room’s owner. I find out that the woman had brought in the photos to destroy after her marriage break-down. Customers are encouraged to BYO.
To Hunter’s surprise, 70 per cent of his clientele are women between the ages of 20 and 35.
“Walking into it [the business], I had no idea who would come, I just shrugged and thought stressed out people,” he says.
“There’s diverse professions and backgrounds: nurses, teachers, students, lawyers, retailers, hospitality workers. Everyone has there own thing, whether it’s stress at work, home, in their relationship – and this is a great way to deal with it,” he says.
The Break Room is a first for Australia but the concept came from Argentina. Hunter loved the idea of having a place to decompress. He longed for a remedy for the work-sleep-work routine of corporate life.
Smashing anything is often associated with anger – something you do in the heat of the moment when you can’t control your frustration.
“There’s always that urge to thrown your phone against a wall, but reality kicks in pretty quickly when you do that,” Hunter says.
Is visiting The Break Room, which is limited to weekends, a realistic way to release stress and anger? And is breaking stuff the best way to react?
“In a controlled environment, such as The Break Room, it’s really good,” says Oliver Brecht, psychologist and director of psychological services at Insight Elite Performance Psychology in Sydney.
“The issue is that if you’ve trained yourself to break things as a way to deal and cope with your anger and there’s no break room around, you could lash out in a negative manner.
“You’re much better off learning anger management techniques like mindfulness to overcome it long term with a positive, growth-based and resilient mindset, which is effectively training yourself to withstand a tantrum.”
As I suit up for my scheduled wobbly, I hear Miley Cyrus singing Wrecking Ball.
I grab a mashed-up baseball bat and a helmet with a protective face shield and head into a private room. There’s already a mountain of shattered glass beneath the brick wall.
My 20-minute, $47 session includes a box of plates, mugs and a glass water bottle.
As I toss the dinnerware at the brick wall, I laugh. In between throws, I whomp the giant pile of fallen dishes over and over with the bat as death-metal blares.
When every dish lay dead in a million little pieces, I’m tired and sweaty with a big smile on my face. I had fun and it made me wonder if this place is an anger outlet or a quirky entertainment centre.
Although Brecht acknowledges that releasing anger in a controlled environment such as The Break Room, is a positive thing, he says if you’re going to use it as an effective anger outlet, do it regularly, the same as you would a fitness class.
“Break rooms are great when you build them into a regular routine so you are releasing that pressure,” he says.
“But they’re not really conducive to a reactive anger management process.”
Maybe not, but smashing those dishes made me feel happy and alive.
Understanding and managing anger
- Make a list of your anger triggers
- Notice how your body feels when anger arises
- Practise anger-reducing strategies like mindfulness and focus techniques