December 13th, 2006

An excerpt from: KNOWING: Understanding Human Intelligence



The Intelligent Response

Timothy Wilken, MD


The most powerful human emotion is called calmness. Most people do not think of calmness as an emotion, it is more often described as the lack of emotion.

But, calmness is the most empowering emotion that humans can experience. Calm is the emotion you feel when you do a very effective relaxation exercise and achieve the relaxation response. Calm is the emotion you feel when you do not have a care in the world, and are at peace with yourself and those around you. For some humans the stress of their lives is so high they may be unfamiliar with this emotion. But it is an emotion available to all humans, easy to learn with a little practice.

Reeeeee laaaaaaaaax Ö  Lots of time Ö  Slow down Ö  Let go Ö

Why is calmness the most powerful emotion for humans? When I am calm, I can think well. When I am calm, I have full access to the higher modes of thinking of both my space-mind and my time-mind. When I am calm, I can best solve my problems. When I am calm, I have access to 100% of my intelligence.

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Intelligence is different from knowing. Intelligence is the mechanism for processing incoming information. Intelligence is the hardware. Knowing is the software. And when you are deeply calm you are 100% intelligent.

An individual who has mastered calmness knows that all internal thinking is symbolic. If my body responds to every thought of danger let alone every real danger, then I will truly come to know the meaning of the sentence: “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man only one.”

CALMNESS—def—> The ability to process information without physiological response. The ability to process threatening information without triggering the fight or flight response.


Today most of us die a thousand deaths. When we imagine our problems and stresses, our bodies tense and strain. When we think of danger, we feel afraid. When we think of hurt, we feel anger. These feelings of anger and fear are just our internal sensings of our bodies as they prepare to fight or flee. But when our bodies prepare to fight and flee, they shut down vital systems.

If these systems are shut down for more than a few moments, we shorten our lives and become sick. In a world of chronically frighted and chronically angered individuals, all our lives are shortened, and all of us are sick. In our modern world, calmness is a survival skill. Calmness is the ability to think of danger and hurt without feeling fear or anger.

Humans have the ability to learn, practice, and master calmness. This is the only way to master the space-mind. Methods include Relaxation Training, Meditation, Yoga, Biofeedback Training, and Rational Behavioral Therapy.

The space-mind is not a bad. Besides survival it is responsible for most of our creativity and the thinking that produces WISDOM. The attenuation of human intelligence occurs when the mind-body declares a survival emergency. The space-mind drops into the SURVIVE mode of thinking and it assumes full control. This shift occurs automatically anytime the amygdala is triggered, or the body releases the adversary hormones. That is unless you train yourself differently.

When modern humans feel angry or afraid, their space-minds become large liabilities. When modern humans feel calm, their space-minds are creative, innovative, and powerful processors that serve them well. Thus the only rational choice for modern humans is to learn to control our space-minds. We must learn to withhold activation of the SURVIVE mode of thinking, unless we are confronted by a physical threat where fighting or flighting is both rational and adaptive. Today, nearly all humans waste a great deal of their time, energy, and life being reactive, when fighting or flighting is both irrational, and maladaptive.

Today, anger and fear are commonly perceived to be completely natural. Our casual acceptance of these emotions as normal does us great disservice. Nine-nine percent of living humans are unaware that they have the choice to limit those obsolete emotions and their resultant irrational and maladaptive behaviors, by simply taking the time to master calmness.

Turn off the SURVIVE mode?
When students of dual-mind psychodynamics first learn of the intelligence attenuation caused by anger and fear, they often ask, “Can we turn off the SURVIVE mode?”

The one word answer is NO, nothing is more important to a living organism than survival. Remember the space-mind is a combination of the right neocortex and the limbic system. As Daniel Goleman explained,  during survival emergencies, the more primitive limbic system hijacks the neocortex—hijacks both the time-mind and the space-mind.

The SURVIVE mode does not understand the time-mind, and analysis and opinions are irrelevant. The SURVIVE mode may suppress the time-mind completely. Often in a rage humans lose even their ability to speak. They may swear but that is simply the space-mind making noise with its highly emotional vocabulary.

While the SURVIVE mode more dramatically attenuates the time-mind, it also attenuates the space-mind. The space-mind’s right neocortex is limited and dominated by the SURVIVE mode as well. We lose our ability to see multiple points of view, and many of our more complex physical skills are lost as well. We often don’t RECOGNIZE, the more subtle patterns in our environment, and our repertoire of ACTIONs are also severely restricted. This is why our effective intelligence drops to a fraction of its normal range.

The SURVIVE mode does not allow any interference, or distractions while it is handling a fight or flight emergency. Once the body comes under the influence of the amygdala and the adversary hormones of adrenalin and noradrenalin, the SURVIVE mode assumes total authority in what it assumes is a life and death situation.

Prevention is the Only Cure
You are probably familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s advise that, “An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the case of limiting the effects of the SURVIVE mode on effective intelligence, “Prevention is the ONLY cure.”

We humans can learn to think more carefully, and to condition our emotional responses to threat. This will allow us to effectively prevent the SURVIVE mode from engaging. Step one is to master calmness.

Intelligent Response

In clear distinction to the anger and fear emotions of the fight or flight response, when you achieve the emotion calmness, you are preparing to think well. I call this the intelligent response.

Humans adapt by thinking, and then choosing intelligent ACTION. For us, maximizing our intelligence will best prepare us to adapt successfully to our stressors—these include the physical, biological, and especially the social stressors.

The emotion calmness produces the following profound and beneficial effects:

* Lowers our Blood Pressure.
* Reduces our Heart Rate.
* Turns on our Immune and GI Systems.
* Enhances cellular repair and healing.
* Optimizes our dual-mind Intelligence.

When we are calm, we can think well. When we are calm, we can solve almost any problem. For humans anger and fear rarely help us solve our problems. Preparing to fight or flight is very rarely useful in dealing with other humans who are angry or afraid. Almost always, we will do better with calmness and intelligence.

Many Paths to Calmness
There are many paths to calmness. In a moment, I will present an example of a deeply physically relaxing and emotionally calming exercise that has worked well for me, as well as for many of my patients and students. But before I present that specific example, you are encouraged to read about and explore the many different pathways to physical relaxation and emotional calmness.

Progressive Muscular Relaxation—To start, stretch your muscles and joints, move them around, and shake out the tension. Then, tense your muscles for a few seconds and then slowly release this tension while feeling the warm and heavy sensation that occurs when you relax. Start with the muscles in your toes and work slowly up to the top of your head. First tensing and then relaxing all the muscles in your your body.

Breathing Exercise—Breathe slowly and deeply, using the abdominal muscles (not the chest muscles) to move the air in and out. Even one slow breath in which you breathe in, hold for 2-3 seconds, and then exhale slowly (about 5 seconds) can steady the nerves and refocus attention. Focus your attention on your breathing, especially each time you breathe out. Say the same word or short phrase once each time you exhale (such as the word “one” or “relax”), over and over, while passively letting all other thoughts drift out of your mind.

Guided Imagery—Pleasant or relaxing images can serve to physically relax the body and calm the dual-mind. By controlling breathing and visualizing a soothing image, a state of deep relaxation can occur. This method can be learned by anyone and is relatively easy to begin. Imagine yourself in a relaxing situation. Pick your own relaxing situation, then imagine it with every sense of your body—imagine the colors, shapes, textures, sounds, smells, temperature, and touch of it. Imagery has also been used in addition to conventional therapy in the treatment of cancer and other conditions, in which a patient visualizes disease states being healed or driven out of the body by the immune system.

Meditation Techniques—Ranging from practices associated with specific religions or beliefs to methods focusing purely on physical relaxation, meditation is one of the most popular techniques to achieve physical and mental relaxation. There are literally thousands of different types of meditation, and many can be learned on your own. The meditative state is one in which there is a deep centering and focusing upon the core of one’s being; there is a quieting of the mind, emotions, and body. The meditative state can be achieved through structured (as in the daily practice of a routine) or unstructured (for example, while being alone outdoors) activities. While teachers of meditative arts are readily available, some techniques can be learned though books or online tutorials.

Autogenic Training—Developed in the early 20th century, this technique is based upon passive concentration and awareness of body sensations. Through repetition of so-called autogenic “formulas” one focuses upon different sensations, such as warmth or heaviness, in different regions of the body. Such focus produces physical relaxation and emotional calmness.

Biofeedback—Developed in the early 1960s, this method is accomplished through the use of monitoring equipment that provides feedback as to the internal state of the body’s physiology. For example, instruments can be used to measure muscular tension, skin temperature, galvanic skin response, heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, stomach acidity, muscle tension, or other parameters while persons experiment with postural changes, breathing techniques, or thinking patterns that effect the physical body.

By receiving and experimenting with this feedback, one can learn to identify the processes that achieve the desired result, such as reduction in muscular tension, increase in skin temperature, reduction in heart rate and blood pressure, etc.—all associated with calmness and deep relaxation. Thus biofeedback allows humans to train their autonomic nervous system to react to stress with physical relaxation and emotional calmness.

Yoga—With over five thousand years of written documentation, Yoga may well be the oldest self-improvement system that ever existed. There are many different types of Yoga, but all of them contribute to mankind’s self-improvement. Most styles of Yoga tie the physical postures, proper breathing, and focused concentration, together, in one single session. The result almost always includes physical relaxation and emotional calmness. By constant bonding of mind and body, Yoga creates inner harmony that gives the Yoga student an advantage in productivity, organizational skills, creativity, and self-preservation.

Other pathways not described include: Massage, Auto-suggestion, Hypnosis, Chanting, Tai Chi, etc., etc., etc.. It is important to remember that there is no ONE right pathway to physical relaxation and emotional calmness. It is not important to choose one or the other. It is essential that you choose a pathway, and practice it daily, until you have obtained mastery. We all have the ability to anger instantly, we must acquire the ability to calm instantly.

Learning the Intelligent Response

Performing the following exercise once a day for even a few weeks can enable mastery of calmness. This particular exercise is a blend of a breathing exercise, progressive muscular relaxation, autogenic training, guided imagery, and self-hypnosis. When you are ready to perform this exercise, choose a time when you will be undisturbed for 30 minutes. Begin by making a printout of this exercise so you have a written copy. As you slowly read through the exercise, pause and perform each instruction as you read it. Go at your own pace, and then mark your place with your fingertip as you read and move through the exercise so you will always know where you are. There are no hard rules in mastering relaxation. You can go a little slower or a little faster as you like. It really doesn’t matter. You can pause to focus on any instruction. You can repeat any instruction once, twice or three times. It really doesn’t matter. Your goal is profound physical relaxation and deep emotional calmness. You will know you are being successful when you feel the muscles of your body relaxing, and when you feel deeply calm. If any part of the exercise seems not to be working slow down and repeat the instruction. Ö  When you are ready, begin.

ïGet comfortable

Find a comfortable position. You may sit, or lie down as you prefer. Take your time getting comfortable. Move your body until you find the best position. There is lots of time. When you are physically comfortable move on.

ïCalm your breathing:

Take a deep breath,
Hold it for a moment, comfortably, then,
Let it all the way out.

When you are ready, take another deep breath.
Hold it a little longer, when you are ready,
Let it out slowly, thinking:

“I am completely calm. I am completely relaxed.”

(repeat as desired)


Focus on your breathing Ö 

Cool fresh air, coming in, bringing energy with each breath Ö 
Warmed used air, going out, carrying away tensions and stresses Ö 

In Ö 
Out Ö 

In Ö 
Out Ö 

In Ö 
Out Ö 

Cool fresh air, coming in, bringing energy with each breath Ö 
Warmed used air, going out, carrying away tensions and stresses Ö 

(repeat as desired)



As you breathe allow your body to become calm and at peace. Notice how your body moves as you breathe.

Your abdomen rises and falls, like a boat floating on a calm sea Ö 

Rises Ö 
Falls Ö 

Rises Ö 
Falls Ö 

Rises Ö 
Falls Ö 

Rising and falling like a boat floating on a calm sea.

(repeat as desired)



Take a deep breath.
Hold it as long as you can, comfortably, then
Slowly let it all the way out, thinking:

“I am completely calm. I feel deeply relaxed as if there’s lots of time.”

Take a deep breath.
Hold it as long as you can, comfortably, then
Slowly let it all the way out, thinking:

“I am completely calm. I feel deeply relaxed as if there’s lots of time.”

(repeat as desired)



ïRelax your body

Take extra time to relax any area of your body that is uncomfortable.You should slow the exercise whenever you encounter any area of your body that is ill or injured. When focusing on your extremities, you can begin by doing the right side, and then repeat for the left side, or you do both sides at the same time. It really doesn’t matter. Focus on your body. Begin at your toes and move upwards.

I relax my toes. I relax the muscles of my toes. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my toes.

I relax my feet. I relax the muscles of my feet. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my feet.

I relax my ankles. I relax the muscles of my ankles. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my ankles.

I relax my legs. I relax the muscles of my legs. My shins. My calves. All parts of my legs. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my legs.

I relax my knees. I relax the muscles around my knees. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my knees.

I relax my upper legs, my thighs, front and back. I relax the muscles of my hips. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my upper legs.

(repeat as desired)



I relax my sex. I relax the muscles of my sex. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my sex.

I relax my abdomen. I relax the muscles of my abdomen. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my abdomen. I relax the internal organs of my abdomen. I relax my stomach, my intestine , my colon, my liver and spleen. I relax my kidneys and bladder, and all the organs of my abdomen. I relax deeply.

(repeat as desired)


I relax my lower back , my buttocks, my tail bone. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my back.

I relax my middle back. I relax the muscles of my mid back. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my back.

I relax my upper back. Between my shoulder blades. My lower neck and the muscles of my shoulders. I relax the muscles of my upper back. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my back.

(repeat as desired)

I relax my chest. I relax the muscles of my chest. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax the internal organs of my chest. I relax my heart. Imagining as it beats regularly and strong. I relax my lungs. Imagining as they breathe fully and comfortably. Take a deep breath. Hold it as long as you can comfortably, then let it all the way out. Thinking I am completely calm. I am completely relaxed.

(repeat as desired)



I relax my shoulders and my upper arms, my biceps and triceps. I relax the muscles of my upper arms. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my shoulders and upper arms.

I relax my elbows. I relax the muscles about my elbows. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my elbows.

I relax my forearms and wrists. I relax the muscles of my forearms and wrists. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my forearms and wrists.

I relax my hands and fingers. I relax the muscles of my hands and fingers. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my hands and fingers.

I relax from the tips of my fingers to the depth of my shoulders.

(repeat as desired)



I relax neck and head. I relax the the muscles of my neck and head. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my neck and head.

I relax my face, my eyes, my forehead, my nose and nasal passages, I relax my mouth, my lips, and my tongue. I relax all the muscles of my face. I imagine the muscles as they stretch and relax as they become soft and supple. I relax my face.

(repeat as desired)



Now search your entire body for any knots of tension or areas of incomplete relaxation. when you find them simply let them go. As you let the tensions go, think:

“I am completely calm. I feel deeply relaxed as if there’s lots of time.”

Take a deep breath.
Hold it as long as you can, comfortably, then
Slowly let it all the way out, thinking:

“I am completely calm. I feel deeply relaxed as if there’s lots of time.”
Take a deep breath.
Hold it as long as you can, comfortably, then
Slowly let it all the way out, thinking:

“I am completely calm. I feel deeply relaxed as if there’s lots of time.”

(repeat as desired)



ïDeepening my relaxation with the feeling of heaviness

I focus on my right arm. My right arm grows heavy. So very heavy. My right arm feels more and more heavy as if my arm was made of lead. As my arm grows heavy I relax deeply.

I focus on my left arm. My left arm grows heavy. So very heavy. My left arm feels more and more heavy as if my arm was made of lead. As my arm grows heavy I relax deeply.

I focus on my right leg. My right leg grows heavy. So very heavy. My right leg feels more and more heavy as if my leg was made of lead. As my leg grows heavy I relax deeply.

I focus on my left leg. My left leg grows heavy. So very heavy. My left leg feels more and more heavy as if my leg was made of lead. As my leg grows heavy I relax deeply.

I focus on my body. My body grows heavy. So very heavy. My body feels more and more heavy as if my body were made of lead. As my body grows heavy I relax deeply.

I am feeling heavy, so very very heavy. I am feeling calm, so very very calm. I am feeling  relaxed, so very very relaxed.

(repeat as desired)



ïDeepening my relaxation with the feeling of warmth

I focus on my right arm. My right arm grows warm. So very warm. My right arm feels more and more warm as if my arm was resting in the warm sunshine. As my arm grows warm I relax deeply.

I focus on my left arm. My left arm grows warm. So very warm. My left arm feels more and more warm as if my arm was was resting in the warm sunshine. As my arm grows warm I relax deeply.

I focus on my right leg. My right leg grows warm. So very warm. My right leg feels more and more warm as if my leg was resting in the warm sunshine. As my leg grows warm I relax deeply.

I focus on my left leg. My left leg grows warm. So very warm. My left leg feels more and more warm as if my leg was resting in the warm sunshine. As my leg grows warm I relax deeply.

I focus on my body. My body grows warm. So very warm. My body feels more and more warm as if my body was resting in the warm sunshine. As my body grows warm I relax deeply.

I am feeling warm, so very very warm. I am feeling calm, so very very calm. I am feeling relaxed, so very very relaxed.

(repeat as desired)



ïAnchoring your feeling of calmness

Now that you are feeling calm and relaxed, you want to anchor this feeling of calmness to a physical sensation that you can use to instantly recall this feeling when you are stressed. One anchor that is often used is to grip your left wrist with your right hand and squeeze strongly. You may use your left hand to squeeze your right wrist if you prefer, or create your own personal anchor if you like. It really doesn’t matter.

Take a deep breath. Hold it as long as you can comfortably. Let it out slowly thinking.

“I am completely calm. I feel deeply relaxed as if there’s lots of time.”

Take a deep breath. Apply your anchor. Grip your wrist tightly and squeeze. Now focus on the sensation of your anchor thinking:

“Whenever I feel my anchor, I will feel completely calm and relaxed. When I am calm, I am strong.”
Continue to focus on the sensation of your anchor. Take a deep breath. Hold it as long as you can comfortably. Let it out slowly thinking.

“When I am calm, I am strong. When I am calm , I can solve any problem.”

Take a deep breath. Hold it as long as you can comfortably. Let it out slowly thinking.

“I am completely calm. I feel deeply relaxed as if there’s lots of time.”

Apply your anchor. Now focus on the sensation of your anchor thinking:

“Whenever I feel my anchor, I will feel calm and completely relaxed. When I am calm, I am strong.”

Continue to focus on the sensation of your anchor. Take a deep breath. Hold it as long as you can comfortably. Let it out slowly thinking.

“When I am calm, I am strong. When I am calm, I can solve any problem.”

In the future, whenever I am confronted with any stressor, any difficult situation, I will remember the power of calmness. I will apply my anchor and feel instantly calm. I will feel instantly relaxed. I will always remember:

“When I am calm, I am strong. When I am calm, I can solve any problem.”

Take a deep breath. Hold it as long as you can comfortably. Let it out slowly thinking:

“When I am calm, I am strong. When I am calm, I can solve any problem.”

(repeat as desired)



ï Rehearsing for future stressors

Now imagine some real problem that is going on in your life today. But as you imagine this problem feel calm and relaxed while thinking:

“Anger will not help me, fear will not help me. Only calmness can help me. I will be calm and strong.”
Take a deep breath. Hold it comfortably. When you are ready exhale thinking:

“When I am calm, I can think clearly. When I am calm, I can think well. When I am calm, I am fully intelligent.”

As the images and thoughts about your problem come into your mind simply watch them from this detached perspective of calmness and deep relaxation. Imagine yourself dealing with the stress in your life in a calm and relaxed way. See yourself solving your problems in calmness by thinking well by thinking clearly.

Continue this exercise a few moments as you like…..always thinking:

“With the mastery of calmness, I can neutralize any stressor and solve any problem.”

(repeat as desired)



ïReturning to normal consciousness

Now prepare to return to normal consciousness. Imagine a cool wind blowing across your forehead. As you feel the coolness, think:

“My forehead is pleasantly cool. I feel a pleasant sensation of coolness on my forehead.”

Now imagine your body is growing lighter. Imagine your body is filling with energy. Very slowly take a deep breath. As your body fills with air think:

“I feel cool and pleasant. My body is growing lighter. My body is filling with energy.”

And now slowly return your thoughts to the external surroundings, the present place, the present time. Begin to move your toes,…. contract your fingers,….  contract and relax your facial muscles,…. swallow your saliva,…. clench your fists and stretch your arms and legs,…. inhale and exhale deeply,….

slowly open your eyes,…. look around and notice your surroundings,….remain quiet for a few moments…..



You can continue to practice this exercise from your written copy. Alternative ways of accomplishing this exercise include: 1) have someone else read the exercise for you, 2) reading this exercise into an audio recording device, and then playing the audio recording as you relax. If you decide to make a recording, you will want to practice the exercise a few times by reading it aloud. This will give the sense of pace that will work best when you make your audio recording.

In some ways using a printed copy is best. It allows you to modify the exercise at will. You can stop to focus, or repeat as you need. Very soon you will have memorized all the words anyway. Then you can do your practice from memory.

However, it is OK to do the exercise in anyway that suits you. It really doesn’t matter. You may also mix and match the different techniques. You may like to buy some ready made relaxation tapes or CDs. You might like to take a stress management class. Or, sign up for Yoga. It may be of great benefit to see a psychologist for a few sessions of relaxation training, or to work with a biofeedback therapist for awhile. All paths that lead to profound physical relaxation and deep calmness will enable the intelligent response. Practice makes perfect.

Mastery of calmness is the most powerful skill you can acquire. It is both life changing and life enabling.

I strongly recommend practicing once or twice daily for the first eight weeks, then at least once every other day for another six months. At that point you will be an expert. You will be able to calm and relax yourself instantly at will. With practice calmness will have become second nature. Never hesitate to calm and relax yourself. And, just as importantly never hesitate to share this Knowing with other humans. You can give no greater gift than the mastery of calmness.

With the mastery of calmness, you are conditioning your body to react to threat with the intelligent response rather than the maladaptive fight or flight response.



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