What is the happiest animal on earth?

I saw the following statement on the front of a T-shirt (a notable and always reliable source of profound information). 

A goldfish is the happiest animal on earth because it has a 10-second memory.

The statement is false (scientific studies debunk the idea), but it does make a good point: There’s value in leaving the past behind and living in the moment. So let’s use this silly, humorous statement to discuss an important topic. 

We humans are, perhaps, the most unhappy sentient beings on earth because we continue to dwell on things we should let go of; things in our past continue to adversely affect us. In these instances we would benefit from a short memory. 

I’m not suggesting that we ignore, deny, or try to erase painful memories. But we can properly and thoroughly process past experiences so they don’t continue to handicap us. The troubling event is still there but it’s been diffused.

Sometimes, we need to simply “drop” minor offenses and inconveniences; such as: Your plane is delayed; someone makes a tacky comment about you; you’re cut off in traffic. Learn to simply dismiss these minor issues. Here’s a post I wrote about mastering the helpful skill of “dropping it.”  

More importantly, we need to properly process and manage major, painful issues from the past such as: a dysfunctional upbringing, getting fired from a job, a major illness, or failed marriage. It’s difficult to just “drop” these issues; they need to be processed, ideally with help from a professional counselor or a wise friend. These issues are often deeply impeded, sometimes difficult to identify, and complicated to resolve.  

One downside to the goldfish syndrome (if it was real) would be that favorable experiences in life—memories that we should remember, savor, and be grateful for—would be lost. So I’m not suggesting we wipe our memories clean; just mitigate the painful and embrace the positive. 

We will find ourselves in a place of quiet rest when we properly process recent and distant past experiences. Disempower the painful and savor the good.  

6 Replies to “What is the happiest animal on earth?”

  1. in the genre of “when it rains, it pours” you might do an addendum to this thought about dropping minor things concerning proper logic combined with proper perspective. The 24 hr. news cycle we live in tends to inflate the importance or urgency of certain things, mainly in proportion to what type of dramatic video they have of said event or development. We do the same with something injurious or embarrassing to our self-world.
    On the other hand we should not ignore the “minor” things because if they form a true pattern, not a conjured or contrived one tinged by paranoia or misinformation or misguided by overwrought emotions, the pattern should be investigated. This is one more reason I strongly advocate regular entries in a journal where I can see if something is forming as to a pattern and if it is of my own bias, my own getting stuck in a mental rut, etc. Our blind spots (see Johari window) are the reason we need counsel (from someone either familiar with my everyday and experiences or a trained counselor) because I may know what is happening around me but be clueless as to my involvement or my true role in bringing it about.

    1. Allan, I absolutely love the way you think. When you retire, put a shingle labeled “counselor” on your door and you will stay busy.
      I hope 2022 will be a good year for you. Don

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