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City Weekend

Anger management or violent fun? ‘Destruction therapy’ is all the rage for some in Hong Kong

First rage room opens in the city, where angst-filled customers can smash household objects to vent their pent-up frustrations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 11:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 11:34am

Some people try aromatherapy or hit the pub for a pint to drown their anger, but in Hong Kong, residents can now vent their aggression in the city’s first rage room.

At the Ikari Area in Kwun Tong, participants are invited to don orange jumpsuits and gas masks, arm themselves with metal pipes, and let out their rage on the nearest household appliance.

For HK$300, they have 15 minutes to smash up bottles and old electronics in one of four rooms in a disused office, where black walls are splashed with crude graffiti of male genitalia and Cantonese vulgarities.

Watch: How ‘rage room’ provides Hongkongers a place to vent

On a visit by the Post this week, workers at Ikari Area said the venue is particularly popular with students.

Although new to Hong Kong, the so-called “destruction therapy” was invented in 2003 by a group of Spanish entrepreneurs who wanted to help office workers relieve their cubicle stress by smashing up household items.

But it was not until 2008 that dedicated spaces for smashing things began popping up, starting with Tokyo in Japan, where frustrated businessmen vented their recession-related angst by hurling crockery against the insides of a van.

Now that the trend has reached Hong Kong’s shores, Isaac Ho Siu-tung, the founder of the city’s first rage room, said he was inspired to set up the venue, which has no age limit, after reading about similar places in Canada.

The 28-year-old musician, a lead guitarist with local band Po Hiu, saved up HK$800,000 over several years to establish his anger venting project.

He said the city “needs” this sort of entertainment centre. “Hong Kong people have so much anger,” he said. “They enjoy being able to put their anger [somewhere]. Although I think they come here more for fun, but I still think it helps people if they have anger issues. We can also put people in touch with counsellors to get psychological support if they want it.”

But he admits some Hongkongers are sceptical about his two-month-old project, and he is wary the authorities may choose to intervene in his business if they consider it to be dangerous. “Some have criticised me a bit for opening what they consider to be a violent place in Hong Kong, but others have suggested it is good to have one of these venues here,” he said. “My parents think it is so dangerous – my mother worries that people will get out of control.”

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While it may be in the name of good fun, the therapeutic benefits of rage rooms remain an issue of contention.

Dr Joyce Chao Puihan of the Division of Clinical Psychology at the Hong Kong Psychological Society said she doubted the activity would have significant mental health benefits.

“People can see this as an interesting thing to try out, but if they expect some emotional benefits, then I doubt they will find any,” she said. “In psychological research, we find that the more anger you express, the more anger you will feel. If you go to the [rage room] in order to manage your anger, then I would not advocate that. Exhibiting aggression is more likely to increase the possibility of developing more anger and angry behaviour.”

But Chaosaid those who approached the activity purely as “fun” may find that it could increase their overall sense of well-being. “Otherwise, your money may be better spent on medication or traditional therapy in treating low moods,” she said. “We find that to avoid anger, you should practise the opposite, so for example – compassion. This could help you more than exhibiting anger”.

The concept of rage rooms has spread around the world, from the United States and Argentina, to Singapore and Australia. A number of outfits claim they drew inspiration from a memorable scene in the 1999 cult film Office Space, where three office workers take their work blues out on a printer, decimating it with a baseball bat.

“We like to think we’re doing the world a favour by providing a [cheaper] alternative to standard therapy!” Toronto’s Rage Room says on its website.

In Moscow, angst-filled Russian clients are even encouraged to hurl paint on walls to express their anger in a safe and legal way.

And customers in Hong Kong seem to agree.

A 26-year-old finance worker, who asked not to be named, said she had seen online videos of similar rooms in the United States and thought it looked fun.

“My experience was great. Once you get into the room you just focus on destroying things and taking the anger and stress out,” she told the Post. “I think it’s good for stress and anger management because we all need to have some place for release.”

She said she tried out the activity to deal with “life-related” anger problems, and thought once every two months was enough to help get it out of her system.

But another user took to Ikari’s Facebook site to complain, saying: “There wasn’t much for me to smash. Couldn’t really let my anger out”.


OTHER QUIRKY WAYS TO DE-STRESS

Given our hectic lives, perhaps it’s no surprise that Hong Kong’s high pressure environment has spawned some inventive ways to de-stress.

1. Therapy dogs

These furry friends aren’t just cute – they’ve been shown to help people deal with stressful situations.

2. Whispered actions

Autonomous sensory meridian response – or ASMR – is a reaction from watching clips of others gently carrying out mundane activities while narrating what they’re doing in whispers. The people who are into this – known as “tingleheads” – swear by it, and there’s even a Cantonese version of the trend.

3. Pole dancing

Exercise is a well-known de-stressing technique but in terms of sweating it all out, pole dancing is just as good and a newer approach. Hongkonger and professional pole dancer Leon Yee found the exercise gave him newfound confidence.

4. Rub your palm

Polytechnic University scientists found that rubbing the spot between your index finger and thumb minimises stress.

5. Stewed pig brain

It sounds a little odd, but Chinese medicine practitioners believe pig’s brain can help calm people who are thinking too much.