Has it ever happened to you?
You had a bad day and go to bed feeling crappy. Upon waking the next morning, you dread going to work. Traffic is a nightmare, and once you’re at work, it feels like every difficult situation that could possibly arise magically does. You get home only to snap at your beloved who has no idea how AWFUL your day was, and the next thing you know, you’re fighting. You lay awake, wondering why this happens to you in waves. When something goes wrong, it feels like everything does.
Or maybe every time something important is coming up, you just so happen to get sick beforehand. It happens so often, you can almost count on it.
But in some areas of your life, everything seems to come up roses. You simply can’t understand why some people show up late everywhere over and over when time is never an issue for you, or why certain tragedies seem attracted to people, but never you.
When some areas of your life work and others feel like they’re constantly failing, you’re like a pendulum – good luck, bad luck, good luck, bad luck.
You’re not powerless in this. In fact, you have so much responsibility in the way these waves of good and bad luck go, that if I really revealed it to you, you’d instantly become 100% diligent about the thoughts you think.
Everything after “I am” creates. –Susanne Conrad
It doesn’t matter if you believe in God, the Universe, karma or absolutely nothing at all – whatever it is that you’re thinking about, you are creating. As within, so without.
This has become so true in my life that it’s often comical (though not in the moment most times, sadly). I could tell a number of really embarrassing, charming or truly sad stories here, but suffice to say that I have single-handedly created my biggest triumphs and most heartbreaking tragedies.
Even research in quantum physics points to this. There’s a book called The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart – if you haven’t read it, I urge you to. McTaggart is no spiritual woo-woo person – she’s a very thorough, skeptical journalist who stumbled on this work by accident, and she expertly lays out the ways our lives unfold based on our intentions. Sometimes those intentions are obvious, and other times, they’re a bit more tricky to nail down.
Through therapy, I discovered that certain beliefs of my own came into my life repeatedly, and those beliefs dominated. Like, ruthlessly dominated. I could easily see the ways that my beliefs were taking hold of the circumstances in my life and bending them to their will. I began to say to my therapist, “Oh wow – I just stumbled upon a Dominant Thought.”
Throughout life, there are a number of decisions we make about ourselves, our loved ones and the world. Many times, we make these decisions as children and for whatever reason, they just stick, either to our benefit or detriment. These decisions become beliefs, and in no time at all, these beliefs color (read: create) our reality.
Repetition is the key to mastery. Thought over and over again, these beliefs gel up into one impacted ball, and that ball becomes a Dominant Thought. A Dominant Thought on any subject in your life will get you the same results…over and over and over. Regardless of what is actually true about a situation, the Dominant Thought will whirl in and affect your perception, which always (always, always!) controls the outcome.
Obviously, this is a huge oversimplification. But what I mean to say is, if you’re going through life getting outcomes other than the ones you intended, a negative or untrue Dominant Thought is always the root cause. Find yours, correct it, and watch the whole world blossom around you.
Think of a Dominant Thought as a background program running on your computer. You can’t see when your computer has gotten a virus, but it takes no time at all to witness the implications. Your computer will run slow, have strange errors, delete your documents or shut down unexpectedly. Likewise, when a virus protection program runs on your computer, you may not see all of the ways it protects you, but sure enough, it is there, in the way that certain misfortunes befall the same people over and over again but never come close to a hair on your head.
Dominant Thoughts run in the background of your mind, and even though you may not actively be aware of them, trust me – they are working. It happens to me so frequently that I laugh about it now.
Why call it a Dominant Thought if we’re comparing it to a program running in the background? Because you’ve thought this thought so many times that it is automatic; you don’t even have to think it anymore. It is so ingrained in your cognitive process from years of repetition that it’s running the whole show.
Likewise, a Dominant Thought is not buried somewhere in your subconscious. If you ask to be made aware of your Dominant Thought in any area of your life, it will float right to the surface.
Whenever something is going wrong in your life, if you really sit with yourself and ask, “How did I play a role in this? What is my Dominant Thought here?” the answer will appear before you. Sometimes you need to ask the question a couple of times, but the answer will show up. You’ll know what your Dominant Thought is, because you will feel a gentle yet sure “click” when you hit it.
I’ve made no secret that I’ve had some things unravel in my life recently (see Small Life, Slow Life: When the Unthinkable Happens). I couldn’t make sense of what had happened for so long – it simply felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. But as time went on and the big shocking event stopped having such a hold on me, something about my emotional landscape was bothering me.
Simply put, something about the awfulness of all of it felt incredibly familiar. Almost like I’d created it…and created things just like it in years past.
How did I cause this? I asked myself.
Sure enough, it was the good old Dominant Thought at work.
When I was a kid, my parents divorced and both remarried. In time, they each had children. In fact, I got two siblings in the same week…twice.
Navigating between two families is hard. As a kid and especially as a teen, I struggled with issues of belonging. When I was difficult or felt needy and lonely, I wondered if both sets of my parents would have been happier without me. This is not unusual for one to do, especially because as teenagers, we have a very “the universe revolves around me and everything bad is my fault” mentality. Thus, I created a mythology in my mind that I was a mistake and both families would have been better off had I never existed.
Obviously, this created a lot of pain. And I of course know now how untrue and damaging this thought is.
I still carry these beliefs around, though to a lesser degree now. If I’m not careful with the thoughts I think, though, these Dominant Thoughts will slide noiselessly back into place. When times are bad, I’M NOT WANTED still shouts itself in my mind, along with its cousins: I don’t matter; I’m invisible; I’m taken for granted; I don’t belong; I’m never chosen. And when I’m feeling overwhelmed, the other beliefs kick in too: There’s not enough time; he/she needs me too much; they just want me to conform; I’m always suffocated and controlled; I’m not valued.
I don’t need to get into specifics to illustrate how clearly this has created massive pain for me in the past…even the not-so-recent past. The REAL kicker is when you have two Dominant Thoughts that oppose each other. Woo, watch out for those guys – if you haven’t witnessed major emotional turmoil yet, you’re in for a rough ride!
So what’s the way to change a Dominant Thought?
Will it to be changed.
No, really – that’s it. Often, the absurdity of whatever Dominant Thought you have in an area of your life will inspire a strong desire in you to correct it immediately. For example, if your career is always plagued with negative people and circumstances, discovering that your Dominant Thought is I hate work & I’m unappreciated no matter what I do will bring a swift realization that your DT is truly harming you.
Change the thought to I am appreciated for what I do at work and I truly enjoy a lot about my job and just believe it, even a little bit.
Don’t confuse this with saying really cheesy affirmations, which I am not a fan of (sorry, Louise Hay). This will only work for you if you implement a new thought that feels believable. So if “I’m appreciated for what I do at work” feels too far-fetched for you, forget it and try a smaller step. Try “I do my best at work and I know others see that.” See? That wasn’t so bad.
It’s not magic or spiritual juju – it’s the psychological phenomenon of perceiving what you believe. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” you have heard people say. No, sweetheart – that is not how it ever works. It is always, always “I’ll see it when I believe it.”
Ever notice how when you’re thinking about a new car, you somehow end up seeing that car everywhere? Or how when you hear something god-awful about landfills, you suddenly notice that freaking everyone is littering? Or when you think of a person you haven’t seen in ages, suddenly their name is in the air?
We notice what we’re looking for. Your brain has an evolved search function that rivals any computer.
You can alter Dominant Thoughts in absolutely any area of your life – health, career, relationships, money, and yes, even luck. I changed a Dominant Thought to “I am the luckiest person I know” some time ago and sure enough – no matter what happens, luck is always on my side. I used to have problem after problem – parking tickets, clumsy accidents and injuries, running into rude people, random acts of destruction – and those things simply don’t happen to me anymore.
You may have Dominant Thoughts running amok with a specific person you interact with (“She’ll never understand me/treat me right”) or situation (“I was so much happier in my previous job than this one; I never should have left”) but I guarantee you that these Dominant Thoughts are the product of a much bigger DT, or what I like to call the Umbrella Thought. The Umbrella Thought is a master Dominant Thought – one where every little thought hits it like water droplets and its trajectory is changed.
Dominant Thought: I can’t control my eating.
Dominant Thought: I’m an emotional eater.
Dominant Thought: I just hate exercise.
Umbrella Thought: I’m fat. I’ll always be fat.
See which one you need to change? The other ones will change on their own once you tackle that big guy.
Change your Dominant/Umbrella Thoughts, and watch yourself begin to make beautiful things.
So, to break it down:
1. Notice areas of your life where you are experiencing unintended or painful results.
2. Sit calmly and ask yourself, “What is my role in this? What is my Dominant Thought here?”
3. Listen. Your mind will bring up several beliefs immediately. Some of these beliefs will contradict – some people believe they are lovable and unlovable at the same time (ahem). Find the thought that is the real kicker, or the Umbrella Thought. The little connected thoughts will change in response to your new Dominant Thought, so don’t worry about them for now.
4. This whole process should only take you thirty seconds, or a couple of minutes maximum – any longer than that and you’re overthinking. The Dominant Thought is the one that “clicks” – you will know it because it will have emotional resonance.
5. Ask yourself, “What would I like my Dominant Thought to be in this area of my life?”
6. Will yourself to change the thought. Over the next several weeks, catch yourself thinking the old thought and immediately replace it with the new. Sometimes I’ll say, “Re-do” or “Rewind!” and immediately replace it with the thought I want to be thinking. Write the thought you’d like to have 10 times in a journal before bed, or write it on a Post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror. Make it the wallpaper on your phone. Whatever it takes! Just get that new thought into your consciousness.
7. Watch how your world changes, and enjoy. When you’ve mastered a new Dominant Thought, make sure you level it up to create even more success and contentment. Change a successfully-integrated “I am a loving person” to “I am love personified in thought, word and deed. I bring love to every person I meet.” There is no limit to how far you can go with this!
8. Repeat the process when unintended results crop up again, which they will. Because that’s life and the growing part is what makes it beautiful!
What are your most empowering/destructive Dominant Thoughts?