Thwack therapy Anger: Smacking a dummy really, really hard with a foam baton can make you feel better. Or so David Morgan believes.

August 02, 1998|By Martin Miller | Martin Miller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - From his second-floor office on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, entrepreneur David Morgan has a dream.

His dream is that someday whites and blacks, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, and the rest of God's children will take a foam baton in hand and beat the living daylights out of a 5-foot dummy.

Another critical part of the dream is that they'll pay his new business, Anger Behind Closed Doors, for the privilege. For less than $10 a session, clients can enter one of two padded, sound-retaining "venting rooms," where they can scream, kick, punch and swing their way to better mental health, Morgan says.

"How many times have you wanted to choke someone because they really deserved it? And, of course, you can't do it," said Morgan, a fit 52-year-old resident of West Los Angeles. "But here you can do, say, feel what you want."

Morgan believes that if people spent just a few minutes every week in one of his padded rooms, the world would be a much happier place. Instead of road rage and violence, people would work out their frustrations constructively by letting off steam by smacking around one of his dummies, or an inflatable Goofy or Donald Duck punching bag.

To ensure that anger is released and not merely recycled, Morgan coaches beginners on how to get the best results.

"I don't want people to just go bananas in there," says Morgan, who left the construction business last year to start the company. "Otherwise, you leave the same way you came in."

He instructs each client to tie his or her physical acts to a specific angry thought. Thoughts like "The boss yelled at me" or "My girlfriend broke up with me" power most of the thrashing that occurs in the venting room, Morgan says.

Having only just opened in June, and with a limited advertising budget, business hasn't been booming, so to speak. About 40 people have tried out the venting rooms, with only about three or four regular customers.

One recent afternoon found 39-year-old Prather Jackson face-to-face with the green dummy. Jackson, editor and publisher of three community newspapers that carry advertisements for the facility, says he was eager to get out his frustrations with the newspaper business.

After a few moments of raining down blows upon the dummy, Jackson broke one of the foam batons. (Not to worry, Morgan says; a baton is destroyed every week.) Like most beginners, a sweaty Jackson emerged after less than five minutes of swatting.

"It felt like an eternity in there," says Jackson. "It's physical, but it's also very therapeutic."

After acting out their anger, clients unwind in the "thought and relaxation area," where they listen to soothing music through headphones.

"People said I was crazy to try this," Morgan says. "But there's so much stress out there ... so much."

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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