Gratitude and The Yellow World

Gratitude and The Yellow World

In The Yellow World, Albert shares with us the important lessons he learned from his experience with cancer as a child. He does not have any rules; however, he does provide us with a list of twenty-three discoveries that have helped – discoveries which he hopes will change the way we sometimes think of life.

The Yellow World us feel grateful for the life we have and to appreciate whatever challenges life throws at us. While Albert does not use the word ‘gratitude’ once in the book, it is all about gratitude.

In The Yellow World, Albert shares with us the important lessons he learned from his experience with cancer as a child. He does not have any rules; however, he does provide us with a list of twenty-three discoveries that have helped – discoveries which he hopes will change the way we sometimes think of life.

He makes it very clear that there is no key to beating cancer, no secret plan. He tells us all we can do is listen to your own strengths and create our own fight and let it lead us where it needs to go. Albert lost his leg, one lung and a big chunk of his liver to cancer. He does not have a secret to beating cancer. He suggests that if he had written such a book, it would be so disrespectful to everyone who is dealing with cancer now and to all his friends who did not make it while he spent the best part of his childhood and early adulthood in and out of hospitals.

It’s not every day that you hear someone say that their cancer was a gift that helped them to be a better and happier person. He hopes that we can find a way to apply to our day-to-day life the lessons he learned from his dealing with cancer. Albert wrote The Yellow World as an adult through the eyes of a child; therefore, do not expect any deep, philosophical discussion on the discoveries he shares with us.

The list of twenty-three discoveries that he provides us are based on people whom he encountered while he had cancer. The title of each chapter begins with a quote that has resonated with him and became the foundation of his outlook on life – not just while he was dealing with cancer but to deal with any aspect of life.

So, what is the ‘Yellow World’? In Albert’s own words:

The yellow world is the name I’ve given to a way of living, of seeing life, of nourishing yourself with the lessons that you learn from good moments as well as bad ones.

In other words, it is being grateful for whatever life dishes out to us. For example, the first discovery is Losses are positive. This was inspired by his traumatologist who told Albert the day before they cut off his leg:

Give your leg a goodbye party. Invite all the people who have some connection to your leg and give it a great send-off. Hasn’t it supported you all your life? Well, support it now that it’s walking away.

We may not resonate with all twenty-three of Albert’s discoveries that he shares with us. Indeed, some of us may have difficulty relating to some of Albert’s discoveries. It may in parts be a little offensive to some. Do remember this was written by an adult through the eyes of his childhood as a young boy (from the age of 14 to 24) who was dealing with cancer.

There were several discoveries that resonated with me. For example, Losses are positive is all about learning to accept losses. He exclaims that losses are positive and that we need to learn to accept losses. I do feel a simple Buddhist philosophy undertone to not ever be attached to what we have and to what we have gained in life because in the end we lose it all – including our own life.

Albert states we suffer losses every day, some cause us to be so upset while others just worry us. He provides us with a simple checklist to deal with losses. When you lose something, if you convince yourself that you are not losing it, then you’ve beaten the loss. Let it go: mourn it for a bit if you need to. He provides us with the following steps to deal with losses:

  1. Focus on the loss; think about it.
  2. Suffer with it. Call the people connected with the loss, ask their advice.
  3. Cry (our eyes are our private and public windscreen wipers).
  4. Look for what you can gain from your loss (take your time).
  5. In a few days you will feel better. You will see what you’ve gained. But remember that you can lose this feeling as well.

Another discovery that I loved is – When you are sick, they keep tabs on your life, a medical record. When you are well you should do the same: keep a life record.

He explains that when we keep a record of our life we can easily see how life is cyclical and can see high points and low points repeating themselves. Most importantly our life history can help us find a solution for everything in our life.

How often have you found yourself regretting something you have done in the past? A doctor once told Albert to trust the person he used to be and to respect his former self. We must not be upset by wrong decisions we may have made. Who we are today is a consequence of the decisions we have made in the past. Albert suggests that the world would be a better place if we accepted that we all make mistakes and we should not try to find excuses or look for someone else to blame. He states that there is joy in the knowledge that we have made the wrong decision and acknowledge this.

Albert refers to those people that have made a deep impact on his life as ‘yellows’. We all have yellows in our life. These are people that are very special in our life. Yellows may be our friends or our partner; they may be a person whom you just met 10 minutes ago that you may never meet again in your life. However, yellows do have a profound influence on your life. Albert says they may be a reflection of you:

They have some of the things you lack and knowing them causes a qualitative leap forward in your life.

I know that Albert says that this is not a self-help book. This is where I disagree with him. I think of The Yellow World as a personal memoir that has become a self-help book. I believe that a self-help book as a book that provides us with advice to be a better person, to live a more meaningful life or to express gratitude.

So, why did I write about The Yellow World?

Remember, it started out with me researching the clinical studies about gratitude, wellbeing and health. However, a recent challenge reminded me of The Yellow World. While I am still dealing with the challenge, rereading the book has given me strength to deal with it and even helped me be grateful for this challenge.

Many of us in clinical practice often have clients who are dealing with many personal challenges that are affecting their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I hope that as a therapist you are able to be one of those ‘yellows’ that Albert talks about.

The world needs more yellows!


While Albert refers to ‘yellows’ as those special people in our lives, what essential oils are your ‘yellows’? Which essential oil do you find yourself turning to in times of need to help you get through your challenges? How does it help you?