I spotted an item called the rage room on TV news recently. Set up by a woman laid off her job and needing to process the resentment that went with the layoff, it is her job now. The concept is beautifully simple. Clients pay a fee to enter the room; it is set up with furniture and implements of destruction. The client may be as violent and destructive as he or she desires. The experience is cathartic and the client goes away feeling much better.
The owner says she uses her own product to address the resentment she still lives with over her job loss along with various other existential frustrations. She says she always feels better after a session and adds her clients think it a wonderful innovation. A psychotherapist expressed concern over clients getting the idea that what can be done in private might be acted out in public.
There are serious problems with the concept, the least of them being the danger of acting out, although – if access to other “safe” forms of violence is a guide – there is a real possibility of tragedy. Numerous studies show, for example, a small percentage of people who enjoy pornography develop the same tolerance for porn as an alcoholic gains for alcohol. Repetition becomes less satisfying and the user seeks a more graphic – read violent – high; fantasy can become reality. The same goes for repeated use of violent media with the universal being users become less and less sensitive to human need; compassion goes out the window whether or not acting out occurs.
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This can only happen with rage room clients who fail to resolve their rage in the room, but that IS the elephant in the room. There is no resolution – by the owner’s own admission – only the mental orgasm of indulgence for awhile. And there is a larger issue – an addictive issue.
We live in a culture of rage in America. It is the shape and character of our election cycle, and our culture wars. It knows no party lines. As a people we are – to paraphrase the old movie – mad as hell and past caring who knows it. Unless we address the roots of our rage and seek healing, we continue to spiral out of control and into darkness. We become addicted to the nihilism of our rage. A rage room does not address these roots any more than pornography addresses the human need for intimacy or violence the need to impact frustrating circumstances. On the contrary, the room encourages dependency by giving less satisfaction as we invest more energy in the catharsis. This IS the larger issue, and the solution will not be comprehensible to secular minds.
Secular models are limited to compensating or cathartic behavior. They can do a temporary purge like the rage room or they can teach coping skills – kind of like managing pain without hoping to eliminate it. A lifestyle of repentance is the only thing that can open a sufferer to the healing/resurrecting power of God.
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We are not talking about repentance in the sense of sorrow for sin and commitment to mend our ways, although that can be the first step into authentic repentance. Repentance itself is a full-bodied refocus of our attention and dependency on God Himself as revealed in His Son and channeled through His Spirit. It is recommitment to seeking and permitting Abba to be God for our healing, peace and identity as His child. It is no one-time act, but rather a repeatable surrender that bears interest every time we invest in Him as opportunity for life. This is as true for people suffering from addictive rage as for every disease from the common cold to cancer.
Some years ago I was privileged to pray for a volunteer in the Alabama State Capitol. We began conversation at first encounter and she revealed her need for a kidney transplant. Our prayer was repentant – we asked Him to either replace or provide a transplant. We reasoned the transplant was just as good as a new one because it would give God glory in front of the medical witnesses. But a new one obviates the need for immune suppressant drugs and such.
The good news is I never heard which way her prayer was answered, only that she is now in robust good health. It is good I have no details because that moves me to trust more and demand less. It draws me closer to God my source. And it is a whole lot more satisfying than the momentary feel-good rush of a rage room.
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