by Cody Wiggs, M.A.

Let’s keep this simple shall we? The Law of Parsimony, as borrowed from scientific theory (think Occam’s Razor), states that the simplest explanation is usually the best. From distinguishing evolutionary pathways to analyzing complex statistics, we look to the least complex solutions and usually find what we’re looking for. When applied to our daily interactions and the complex problems we face in our lives, the law of parsimony can offer powerful lessons.

Imagine your thoughts as a flowing river, stretching from the peaks of the mountains to the vast ocean of possibility. Just as water seeks the path of least resistance, when we are functioning at our best our thoughts flow naturally, uninterrupted and unguided by our ego. As soon as we encounter resistance, however, our natural response tends to be to offer mental resistance right back. We worry, we stress, we ruminate endlessly over our possible choices and outcomes; essentially, we build ourselves a dam. Our natural flow state then becomes interrupted and we stagnate in our own anxieties and self-doubt.

Take a lesson from the river here. When encountering an obstacle it does not seek to fight back, to overpower it or to problem solve its way out. Rather, by offering no resistance to the obstacle the water effortlessly and easily diverts its path and continues to flow. Not only does the water avoid resistance – it actually embraces the obstacle, allowing itself to flow over, around, and through it; incorporating the obstacle into its natural path and eroding it over time. When we encounter an obstacle in our life and put up “mental resistance,” we generate a great deal of stress and anxiety. Alternatively, when we embrace our obstacles as a part of our natural path through life, when we dive into our pain, grief, fear and anxiety without judgment and resistance, we cease to allow our obstacles to have power over us.

So often we complicate our lives unnecessarily. A conversation with a friend is analyzed from countless angles rather than taking them at their word. A text message from a romantic interest is read over and over until it takes on entirely unintended meanings. A chance to communicate our hopes, pains, and struggles to our loved ones is missed in favor of pride or fear of being vulnerable. Our own thoughts betray us and create complex stories and explanations with no basis in reality.

If you are willing to let go of mental resistance and judgment, however, you may find that these complications become just another part of your path.

Struggling with a co-worker, friend, or partner? Let them know how you’re feeling. State your needs, and do so with compassion.

Want more happiness in your life? Invite it. Call the people you want to spend time with. Engage in the activities you enjoy. Smile.

Not sure what someone else is thinking or feeling? Ask.

Stuck in your thoughts? Come back to your breath. It is the simplest thing you have in this life.

Be as the water. Keep it simple.

Cody Wiggs works with adults, adolescents, and children. He specializes in adolescent therapy and also offers outdoor sessions at parks and open spaces throughout the Denver area. In addition to his private practice, he provides counseling at Maria Droste Counseling Center as a pro-bono therapist.