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Using an Expletive to Turn a Curse into a Blessing: THE “YES! THANK YOU” PRACTICE

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

--Melody Beattie


How many times a day do you say, or are tempted to say, some sort of expletive?

“Shit!” Now I am late for my appointment.

“Damn!” I am always so clumsy.

“Crap!” Not again!

I’m not talking necessarily about the kind of word that would get a kindergartner in trouble for saying it. I’m going with the dictionary definition: “an exclamatory word or phrase.” We’re talking about anything between “drat” and ... well, you can fill in the blank.

You drop something. Your technology trips over Mercury’s retrograde. You stub your toe on the coffee table.

And then there are the sanitized versions: “Dam!” “Heck!” “Good Grief!” “Mamma mia!” “Freakin’... “ In less tolerant times, the language of “curse words” was recognized as having power to not only bring social judgments, but also to attract negative consequences to ourselves, so we whitewashed them a bit.

How many times per day do you utter an expletive aloud, or mutter it to yourself, under your breath? How many times per day do you unconsciously grit your teeth, or tighten your shoulders, or clench your gut as something does not go your way? Both usual and unexpected pressures can create the subconscious feeling of stress which we then lock into our bodies through the reflexive action of the sympathetic nervous system (ie. the pathways for “fight or flight or freeze”.) Research has shown these physical reactions to stress, often completely outside our awareness, are responsible for many conditions, from headaches to irritable bowel syndrome to hypertension to chronic pain.

When we encounter unwanted obstacles to to what our ego wants, we generally resort to three options:

  • directing responsibility outside ourselves with blame,

  • pointing the finger at ourselves with guilt, or

  • cursing ourselves with shame.

Here we add our YES! THANK YOU” Practice to this list of possible responses.

It is a lightning-quick practice to bring mindful awareness to our habitual micro-aggressions against ourselves.

“YES! THANK YOU. I dropped my phone.”

“YES! THANK YOU. My computer keeps giving me the same error message.”

“YES! THANK YOU. I’ve bumped my funny bone.”

“YES! THANK YOU. I have just become aware of an opportunity or a challenge.”

Why would we do such a practice?

First of all, this practice opens us up to the truth that is expressed in this wonderful aphorism:

“Your arms are too short to box with God.”(For the atheist, simply substitute “Reality”, “the cosmos”, etc. for a deity name.)

This idea points to a deep truth -- much of our suffering comes more from our resistance to Reality than from reality itself. Hence the expression, “pain is mandatory; suffering is optional.” Or, as Lawrence of Arabia said, “the trick is not to mind that it hurts.” The “YES! THANK YOU” Practice is a simple, everyday tool to help us become aware of when we are being pinched, poked or prodded to act in resistance to WHAT IS. All these tiny reactions can block the flow of energy, goodness, or simply relief from the struggle of being human.

When we use “YES! THANK YOU” as our default expletive, we acknowledge that what has just happened is, in fact, Reality, and we declare that we are not resisting Reality. At least as we bring mindfulness to this tiny piece of space and time over which we actually have control in this instant, that is our own mind’s reaction, we can choose to cancel the expletive with an affirming “YES! THANK YOU.” Not just a gritted-teeth jeering "yes, thanks for nothing", but really stopping and at least allowing that there could be an unknown gift this this experience.

And so, this practice helps us to ask the question, could there actually be some message or benefit that this is happening in my life? The practice invites us to open ourselves to new, empowering interpretations of Reality. When we utter “YES! THANK YOU” In the face of a painful moment, we open ourselves to possible narratives that offer more solutions than we would have if uttering any of the other available expletives. Let’s look at how this can play out with some examples.

Example 1.) Screw her! “She left me because I’m no good” might be the subtext of one of our standard expletives.

On the other hand, “YES! THANK YOU” just might open me to other possibilities:

  • “She left me because she’s moved to a new stage of her spiritual development that requires her to move on.”

  • “She left me because she’s got a particular wound that requires no relationship, or a new relationship, for her to heal.”

Or any of a zillion other possibilities.

Example 2.) “Damn, I have a migraine. AGAIN. I have to force myself through my day again. Will it get so bad I have to spend the afternoon puking again? I better take my medicine quick.”

“YES! THANK YOU THANK” invites additional options:

  • “Should I try the acupuncturist my friend recommended?”

  • “I could lock myself in the bathroom stall for 3 minutes and do that relaxation technique my therapist taught me.”

  • “Something in my body is trying to get my attention. I wonder what it is trying to tell me?”

  • “I’ve got to work on my resume tonight so I can find a less stressful job.”

With this approach, our potentials continue to expand.

One note: this practice is not a spiritual bypass strategy of papering over loss or grief. Just the contrary. The “YES! THANK YOU” is inclusive of our full experience. It allows the energy of loss to move freely through our bodies, minds, and spirits, rather than getting tucked away in some subterranean cellar to haunt us down the road.

In this broader space of possibility that “YES! THANK YOU” affords us, we can find room for forgiveness, excitement, or even joy, that is not necessarily available in the subtext of “drat!” We open ourselves to the possibility that there are forces greater than those we can perceive that are at work.

When we even notice that we have made a micro-judgment that is disempowering, we can choose to utter a short syllable to discover a more empowering interpretation, the briefest relief from feeling that life is conspiring against us, a thought which opens the doorway to being unlimited. “YES! THANK YOU.”

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