Quotes on Progressive Relaxation

Buds of the “Heart leaf” tree (Cercis canadensis or eastern redbud) in Mar 2021

Here are a set of quotes related to a relaxation technique referred to as Progressive Relaxation (and Progressive Muscle Relaxation) developed by Edmund Jacobson.  I found the technique not only effective for returning to calmness but also for better understanding the correlation of thoughts and tension (and ‘no thoughts’ and ‘no tension’).  The quotes are organized as follows:

  • Quotes by Various Authors
  • Quotes by Edmund Jacobson

Additional information on Progressive Relaxation can be found in [KendoNotes NoThoughts]  [KendoNotes ProgressiveRelaxation]  [KendoNotes WhisperedAh].

Relax! 🙂

Quotes by Various Authors

  • From [Samuels_MindsEye]
    • People can become aware of the difference between tension and relaxation in their bodies by tensing a muscle and then letting it go. p. 2
    • It’s not doing the exercises which is most important in the Jacobson method; it’s allowing oneself to relax and remain relaxed.  This concept of allowing relaxation to take place is an important one. p. 2
      • Emil Coue, a famous French pharmacist who wrote on the power of suggestion in the 19th century, pointed out what he called the law of reversed effort: “To make good suggestions it is absolutely necessary to do it without effort . . . the use of the will . . . must be entirely put aside.  One must have recourse exclusively to the imagination.”
    • This is similar to the effect that Zen philosophers have referred to as “letting go.”
  • From [SanJoseUniv_PMR]
    • Edmund Jacobson was a U.S.-trained physician who noticed that all his patients with illness showed chronic muscle tension. He theorized that if muscle tension was significantly decreased, the chance for illness would diminish. p.1
    • The body’s muscles respond to thoughts of perceived threat with tension or contraction.   p. 2
      • Muscular tension is believed to be the most common symptom of stress, and can lead to: – stiffness, pain, discomfort, distorted and disaligned posture, and joint stability. p. 2
    • Relaxation techniques designed to relax muscles, with the idea that if you relieve tension in the body the mind will follow.  Sometimes we are too stressed to slow our minds down first! p. 1
    • As body relaxes, so does the mind. p. 2
  • From [Wildstress_Quieting]:
    • Edmund Jacobson gave us Progressive Relaxation to calm our minds through quieting our muscles. In his life-long process of refining Progressive Relaxation he found a profound, rapid, and easy way for getting control of two disturbing activities that we all have: inner chatter and troubling inner visions.
    • When we chat to ourselves in our heads, we actually use many of the same muscles we use to speak out loud. Talking is so well practiced that we tighten throat, tongue, and facial ways that are unconscious until we learn to spot their movement.
    • Jacobson found he could quiet the mind by reversing the brain-muscle process. If he could get muscles to quiet (relax), this would cause the brain to notice and would respond by quieting.
  • From [Wildstress_Jacobson]:
    • We all know that the brain can command certain muscles in the body to get us out of bed and keep us going until the end of the day.
    • What Jacobson saw, was less observed: the muscles could command the brain.
      • When muscles are active, at some level of tension, messages are being sent to the brain that the muscle indeed is doing something.
      • That something can be an action we are aware of, say brushing our teeth, or the action can be something we are not really aware of: clenching teeth, holding tight neck muscles, locking down forehead muscles, etc.
      • Unconsciously producing and holding muscle tension is a perfect avenue for chronic stress to creep into the body.
    • What would happen, Jacobson wondered, if a person who experienced long term stress learned to relax their muscles on a regular basis?
      • A person could do this sort of work at the end of the day to unwind (actually, un-tense).
      • There would be a double effect: unconscious muscle holding would be stopped and in turn, the mind would be quieted by the lack of muscle communications being sent to the brain from the muscles.
      • Indeed, Jacobson found and proved, released muscles lead to a quieter brain

Quotes by Edmund Jacobson

  • An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body...
  • From [Timeline_Jacobson]:
    • It might be naive to say we think with our muscles, but it would be inaccurate to say we think without them.
    • Quick eating is a characteristic of those who are tense.
  • From [Jacobson_Relaxation]
    • There is probably no more general remedy than rest. p. 1
    • Chapter X:  The Influence of Relaxation Upon Mental Activities:
      • p.183
        • (e) Every skilled subject was requested to relax the muscles of the eyes, forehead and brow extremely, but at the same time to have visual images.  Some reported failure with chagrin, and tried it over again.  Everyone found the combination impossible.
        • There seems to be additional grounds for believing that the experience of contraction accompanies imagery.  The profoundly relaxed individual has a characteristic appearance (chap. v); does not look or act like an imagining or thinking person; shows no movements of the eyeballs, however slight, if the lids are closed; later reports that he was not mentally active; gives no evidence of the results of thought-processes; and often goes to sleep.
        • Relaxation of the residual tension of the small muscles of the sense organs is a delicate matter that requires practice.  All observers agreed that, when this was done, mental imagery dwindles or cases in a corresponding way.  The face of the individual who is so relaxed makes a lasting impression on the beholder; his eyes, if open, are vacant in appearance and practically motionless; they seem to be “not looking.”   His countenance is expressionless.  One student, watching the investigator illustrate such relaxation, stated that it looked “as if the individual could not possibly be thinking.”  The thesis that progressive relaxation brings with it absence of thinking is apparent, literally, on the face of it.
      • p. 184
        • This thesis also harmonizes with the experience of all the subjects and patients who considered that it was impossible to be relaxed extremely and to have images at the same time.  With the advent of the one condition, the other invariably ceased.
      • p. 186
        • With the preceding background of various investigations, we find, therefore, the experience of muscular tenseness a “sine qua non” (Editor;s note:  necessary condition) of imagery, attention and thought-process.  This is not so strange as at first it seems; for everyone will admit that, when a sense organ – for instance, the eyes – are active, the muscles that control them also are active, and the sensation from the controlling muscles evidently plays a useful role in vision.  Accordingly it seems a matter of course that when the original visual experience is repeated, taking the form of imagery, the muscular experience that goes with it also is repeated.  In this way the individual doubtless at least in some measure “controls” his images and thought-processes.
      • p. 188
        • 7.  All the subjects and patients who attained high skill in progressive relaxation spontaneously arrived at, and agreed in, their conclusions regarding psychological activities.  With visual imagery there is a sense as from tenseness in the muscles of the ocular region.  Without such faint tenseness, the image fails to appear.  With complete ocular relaxation, the image disappears.  This may be done by individuals of greatest skill and experience, not alone lying down but also sitting up with eyes open.
        • Motor or kinesthetic imagery likewise may be relaxed away.  “Inner speech,” for instance, ceases with progressive relaxation of the muscles of the lips, tongue, larynx and throat.
        • Auditory imagery also is attended by a sense of tenseness, sometimes perhaps felt in the auditory apparatus, but characteristically in the ocular muscles.  The individual tends to look toward the imaged source of sound.  With the relaxation of such looking or other tension, the auditory image is absent.
        • Progressive relaxation is not, as a rule, perfect or complete save perhaps for brief periods of time.  It is during such brief periods that imagery seems altogether absent.  However, when the relaxation of the muscles of the sense organs seems to approach completeness, there takes place the diminution of image-processes.  It appears that natural sleep ensues after the imageless state is maintained for a relatively prolonged time.
        • With progressive muscular relaxation – not alone imagery, but also attention – recollection, thought-processes and emotion gradually diminish.
    • Chapter XVII Electrophysiology of Mental Activities
      • p. 327
        • In clinical and experimental studies, as stated, trained observers reported independently that sensations as from slight or pronounced muscular contractions occur during mental activities
      • Conclusions p. 344
        • 6. Electrical records, along with subjective reports, indicate that, during general progressive muscular relaxation, imagery and thinking processes dwindle and disappear.


[Jacobson_Relaxation] Edmund Jacobson, Progressive Relaxation:  A Physiological and Clinical Investigation of Muscular States and Their Significance in Psychology and Medical Practice, 2nd ed., University of Chicago Press, 1938.

[KendoNotes_NoThoughts] “The Experience of ‘No Thoughts’, Progressive Relaxation and Edmund Jacobson,” KendoNotes.com, Dec. 28, 2020.

[KendoNotes_ProgressiveRelaxation] “Progressive Relaxation: ‘Mother Knows Best,’” KendoNotes.com, Dec. 27, 2020.

[KendoNotes_WhisperedAh] “The ‘Whispered Ah’ – for Calmness, Muscle Relaxation and the Posture,” KendoNotes.com, Dec. 4, 2019.

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