Relax , Chapter 3
Written by Leonard M. Leonard
Designed + Illustrated by Will Dinski
Original Copyright 1952
What do do about worry? Volumes have been written on the subject. But as Sherlock Holmes would say, the answer is elementary – very, very elementary: You can do something or nothing.
Are you worried because you’ve been careless with your work? Start being careful with it. Are you worried about a pain in the chest. Have it diagnosed and treated. Here are two kinds of worry that you can do something about. Action can get rid of them by the roots.
But most of our worries probably aren’t that kind. We worry about things which may happen in spite of us, or which already have happened in spite of us. Our worries are “untouchables” flying into the unborn future, or falling into the long-dead past.
The thing to do about such worries is the very most – and also very least – that can be done about them. Nothing. Nothing at all.
And that means not worrying, either. For worry is anything but passive. It is a strenuous effort.
Every play tug of war? You remember how you braced and stiffened your body to resist the pull of your opponents. That’s the kind of work you do when you worry. You tense up to resist something you don’t want to happen. It follows that if you just didn’t resist, you just wouldn’t worry. And from this comes a top-flight technique for peace of mind and body.
Stop resisting. Be willing to let things happen. This was the keynote of Annie Payson Call’s method of relaxation. She was among the greatest teachers of relaxation, and among her pupils was George Bernard Shaw.
When you resist the possibility of something happening, she taught, you tense up, function less efficiently and thereby invite the catastrophe you fear.
Take the matter of catching a train, for example. On the one hand, you want to catch it. But if on the other hand you’re afraid you’ll miss it, you set up a force of resistance. You are so busy resisting the idea of being late that you become panicky and clumsy. Everything seems to go wrong. And so you are late, after all.
Probably you have had this experience. You are in such a fearful rush that you fumble around buttoning your shirt. You put your socks on the inside out. you nearly fall down the stairs in your haste. Then you find that you forgot something and have to rush back. The cause of your inefficiency is not your eagerness to be prompt, but your resistance to the idea of bing late.
It is quite the same with other things. When we are fearful of any consequence, we dilute our power to avert it. But when we are quietly willing that it occur, we instantly lose the tensions of fear which direct us toward it. Relaxing, our minds and bodies function freely and effectively.
What is resistance? In physics it is defined as a force tending to prevent motion. It may very well be the force with is holding you back right now.
Are you worried that you’ll fail – on the job, at the social function, in a game or sport? Are you haunted by worries of sickness, accident, catastrophe? Unlock your tensions with an easy willingness for anything that may come. You will be better prepared to cope with any emergency – and meanwhile, you’ll feel better!
This is a prescription for relaxing and a philosophy for living. Calm thoughts, quiet confidence, steadier nerves and better achievement are the seeds which you can sow with less resistance.
What should you do about worry? Nothing. Nothing, that is, but to stop doing. Stop resisting so much, and be willing to let things happen.
Autoptic’s Reading Series is an opportunity for the public to come see comics and zine creators and experience an excerpt of their work in their own words.
At the end of last year, I read this guide from Creative Circle and decided it was time to refresh my CV. I’ve designed a fully illustrated version in the past, but for 2019 I’ve finally felt comfortable enough to utilize my hand-drawn style.
You can see the PDF for yourself. Will Dinski, free agent artist & designer.
Congrats to the team at Max-Grad for a strong showing at this year’s Educational Advertising Awards. The brochure I illustrated + designed came home with the Silver in the brochure category. Read the full listing here.
Are you Working Too Hard Without Knowing It?
Fine! You are a busy person, and you want to get ahead. Hard work doesn’t scare you. You aren’t a bit lazy. This is all well and good – but are you doing needless work, wearing yourself out by using power you don’t need and which gets you nowhere?
Tense people are like that. Literally, they overpower themselves. And at the end of a day, they are “done in” – tired out, not by their regular work, but by the excess energy they have wasted in doing it.
Right now you are reading, and nothing seems simpler than that. You are using only the muscles of your eyes. But wait a minute! Does your throat feel a bit taut? Are your lips moving faintly? Possibly you are trying to “say” the words to yourself as you read, calling into action nerves and muscles which aren’t needed. Going a step or two further, you may be holding this booklet in a manner which calls for excess muscular exertion. You may be standing when you could sit. You may be reading in a poor light, with causes extra effort for your eyes. And then again, you may be fidgeting, tapping with your fingers or feed, toying with a cigarette or key chain.
Now these are all little things. Still, they put nerves and muscles to work which ought to be at rest. And they are multiplied by the hundred during the course of the day.
Tension? It is simply the contraction of a muscle, motivated by a nerve. Over-tension? It is simply too many muscle contractions, caused by over-active nerves. A tense, nervous or high-strung person? They are simply one who needlessly works their nerves and muscles.
The calm person conserves power. They employ no more than they need to perform efficiently in any activity. They practice economy in the management of their body, and of their mind.
The mental side of the picture counts most in relaxing. For the capitol of your body is in your head. Here your private government sits and controls your affairs. From you brain come the orders to your nerves and muscles. A jittery mental government flashing jittery orders makes for jittery nerves – and a jittery person.
You may be lying down, presumably in a state of complete bodily rest. But still you may be tense, drawn tight by the contraction of muscles which were stirred up in you mind.
Dr. Edmund Jacobson of the University of Chicago has made some remarkable tests. By connecting electrical instruments to the muscles of patients who were lying down with their eyes closed, he was able to measure the activity of their muscles caused by the mere process of thinking or imagining!
If they were told to visualize an object, such as a building, tension was noted in the muscles of their eyes, as though they were actually viewing the structure. If they were told to imagine that they were counting or reciting, tension was noted in the tongue, lips and throat, as though they were actually talking aloud. If they imaged that they were lifting a weight, the muscles of their arms became tense with the effort, and so on.
So you see that you can do needless work by thinking unnecessary thoughts and imagining unnecessary activities.
Economize. Don’t waste your power, don’t waste your thoughts! This is the essence of relaxing.
What are waste thoughts? Mark them down as worrisome thoughts, hateful thoughts, suspicious thoughts, envious thoughts, jealous thoughts. And see what they do to you.
Let’s suppose that you are lazily wretched out in the hammock at home, resting up from a hard week’s work. Relaxing – that’s word.
“Don’t disturb him,” says your wife. “He’s all tired out, poor guy. Leave him alone!”
The trouble is you aren’t leaving yourself alone and might be better off if someone else disturbed you. For in the theatre of your mind, you may be staging mighty dreams: a love story, scenes of infidelity and revenge; a tragedy, in which you lose your job and go hungry; a melodrama, compete with an H-bomb; a short story subject called “An Encounter With The Boss”; a newsreel showing the funeral of a rival you envy.
Sure, it’s all mental. You are just thinking, worrying, suspecting, imagining. All mental. Or is it?
Not quite. The words you imagine you are saying, the fights you imagine you are waging, the blows you imagine you are giving and receiving – all these thoughts are tensing up the nerves and muscles of your body. To be sure, these activities are not actually happening. Yet on a small scale, your body is enacting them. Your mental workout is a physical workout too.
It is all effort. It is al futile. And right here we reach the whole secret of relaxing: stop giving yourself need-less work.
Spare your body and your mind. Be good to yourself. That is what it means to relax.
Below is the first chapter from the booklet, Relax written by Leonard M. Leonard.
Originally published in 1952, I’ve updated the illustrations but left all the text as it is in my version of the booklet. Further chapters will be released throughout the year. I trust you’ll find its suggestions as amusing and useful as I have.
RELAX — AND WIN
Do you want to do a better job — or play a better game of cards? Learn to relax.
Do you want to enjoy a calmer, happier home life with new freedom from worry and fatigue? The answer is the same — learn to relax.
Relaxation is the art of dropping tension. You can do almost everything better if you do it with less tension, by being as relaxed as you possibly can be. For tension is a tightening-up of the nerves and muscles inside of you which makes them respond poorly to the tasks they have to do.
Prolonged tension may affect the body organs, too, and is believed to be responsible, wholly or partially, for many bodily ills — among them heart, stomach and nervous ailments and certain types of high blood pressure. Even our sexual lives can be greatly weakened by tension.
When you are tense, your mind and body are overactive. You bring needless power into action and literally wear yourself out to no purpose. You are apt to feel tired too much of the time, setting in motion a vicious cycle which cheats you of fun in life. Strain and fatigue lower your mental as well as physical resistance so that you become easy prey for all sorts of fears and worries, which in turn create additional tension.
Actually, relaxing is a simple thing. In the truest sense, it means doing nothing at all! Why should people have to learn to do that? The hectic type of life we lead today has made it difficult for a great many people to relax. For one thing, it has surrounded us with so much to do and to get that we may have acquired the habit of always doing or getting — and of being afraid of not doing and not getting.
Even when we think we are relaxing, we are apt to be doing something or worrying about something which makes us tense. We may call it relaxing, for example, when we are playing a quarrelsome game of cards in a tense effort to win, or fighting our way to the mutuels booth at a race track, to place a bet which only tenses us up still more.
When we say we are most relaxed, we might be found in an armchair watching television or listening to the radio and growing tenser by the minute as a murder yarn unfolds.
So we must learn to relax largely because we don’t know what it is like, or how enjoyable it can be. Most of us are so used to tension that we may not even realize when we are all keyed up, wither at work or at play.
Tasting the first fruits of real relaxing can prove to be a revelation to you. You can gain a brand-new sense of ease, calm, confidence and serenity that you will want to use more and more in your daily life.
But don’t start with the idea that you have a big job cut out for you. Don’t grit your teeth and say, “I’m going to learn to relax, or else!” There is no effort in relaxing. It is just the opposite. It is a dropping of effort — that is to say of all unnecessary effort.
You are not going to take up relaxing as a burden. Instead, you are going to drop the burden of tension which you have been carrying with you to your work and to your home. The emphasis is not on what you have to do, but on what you don’t have to do. And you are going to enjoy it. So relax!