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The Law of Subtraction

Creating space for abundance using powers of attention and intention.

Key points

  • Since Freud’s initial discovery of the unconscious mind, there has been a new awareness and focus on the tremendous power of attention and intention.
  • The law of attraction holds that universal abundance is infinite and that it will yield in favor of where we direct our attention and intention.
  • The law of subtraction says that we must first create space for change, as if our lives are too full, the universe will offer these to a more available recipient.

I think most are aware of Sigmund Freud, like him or not, regardless of his metaphorical referencing to cigars. Many of his theories are now considered to be somewhat outdated, though it is doubtful that anyone would attempt to retract the credit he deserves for his discovery of the power of the unconscious mind. Let’s face it: The unconscious mind drives the bus.

Attention vs. intention

Since Freud’s initial discovery of this largely un-pioneered territory, there has been a new awareness and focus on the tremendous power of attention and intention. From a neurological standpoint, only what we choose to attenuate to will make it into our long-term memory. Think about it. This means that all of the zoning out we do on a daily basis has our valuable life-minutes headed straight down the rabbit hole. That is unless we learn to become more mindful by existing in the present moment. The only way to make long-lasting memories is to actively pay attention.

William James, the founder of psychology, once said:

“My experience is what I agree to attend to ... Everyone knows what attention is. It is taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought ... It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others (Goldstein, 2011).”

Photo by Mel Stratton, Pexels
Source: Photo by Mel Stratton, Pexels

This implies a certain narrowing and simplifying of thought, to hone in on what is truly important.

James’ 1890 definition of attention provides us with the perfect segue to the second pillar of cognitive power, which is intention. Once we choose what to attenuate to we can then put forth our intention, kind of like the turbo engine of thought.

Intention is about living deliberately by actively making conscious decisions.

When we do so, really do so, the universe yields and unfolds in favor of our intentions. This is the basic premise of the law of attraction, that universal abundance is infinite. All we need to do is focus the power of the mind and we open the door for new relationships, career opportunities, as well as unlimited health and wealth (Byrne, 2010).

When this principle is genuinely embraced and envisioned without holding back or allowing fear to get in the way, the results are limitless.

The importance of receiving

That said, it is also essential to embrace the law of subtraction. This principle holds that we can ask for all of this abundance, but if we don’t make room for this to be received, the gifts will keep rolling right by us. If we think of this in an everyday, regular-life sort of way, it makes perfect sense. Let’s say that someone is feeling stagnant in their current career and decides to put their intentions out there to the universe that they are ready for something new (Doughty, 2021).

The universe will hear it and get right on it, offering new connections and opportunities leading to this exciting new life change. However, if this person is too busy to notice these gifts dangling in front of them, or they are too busy to actually make this shift to something new, the very fluid universe will keep moving along and offer this to a more available recipient.

Here is a more concrete example. Let’s say that you have been in a clothes rut, and you have been tossing around the idea of acquiring some new clothes, perhaps even a complete wardrobe overhaul which will give you a whole new look. You are ready to bedazzle your friends at work.

Photo by Meru Bi/Pexels
Source: Photo by Meru Bi/Pexels

So, you put your intention out there full-throttle, though you did not realize that your closet is chock full of clothes you have not worn in months or even years. Your closet is packed so tightly that there is no room for new clothes. Well, guess what? No new clothes will be coming any time soon as there is no room.

This is the law of subtraction. We need to create space for the new changes we are asking for (Doughty, 2021).

It is the same with putting an intention out there for a new relationship or career. We must make room first. We need to trim down our busy schedules to make time for these serendipitous gifts. We need to be open to receiving the abundance we are asking for, truly open.

Also, we need to focus on the abundance we already have and be grateful for this. Abundance attracts more abundance.

And, as Deepak Chopra (1994) has said, “Everything that happens in the universe starts with intention.”


Byrne, R. (2010). The power. New York, NY. Atria Books.

Chopra, D. (1994). Seven spiritual laws of success: A practical guide to the fulfillment of your dreams. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing.

Doughty, A. (2021). The law of subtraction sh#ts on the law of attraction (just let go). Retrieved from

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (4th ed). Stamford, CT. Cengage Learning.