Occasionally, two or three events in your life will intersect in a way that surprises you. One may be a thought or a feeling (internal) and the other happens in your environment (external). The two events have no apparent causal connection, but the surprise captures your attention and causes your mind to search for meaning. You wonder if it’s a coincidence or if it means something for you or for your life.
These moments appear in all parts of our finances, work, family, romance, health, ideas, and spirituality, as well as in movies, books, and the news. Like sex, they help make the world go round.
According to one Weird Coincidence Survey the most frequent coincidence is:
“I think of an idea and hear or see it on the radio, TV, or Internet.”
Just below that on the list are:
“I think of calling someone only to have that person unexpectedly call me.”
“I think of a question only to have it answered by external media (i.e., radio, TV, people) before I can ask it.”
“I advance in my work/career/education through being in the right place at the right time.”
Carl Jung introduced the idea of meaningful coincidences to the Western world with the term “synchronicity.”
The purpose of synchronicity, according to Jungians, is to further psychological growth and change—the process of individuation—of becoming who you truly are. One of my research participants reported this example of counseling by coincidence:
“I was separated from my abusive husband. While he was gone on a business trip, I’d decided to reunite with him. He missed his return connecting flight. That night an unknown woman who was being abused by her boyfriend mistakenly dialed a number and got me. [The study participant didn’t report the reason for the woman’s call.]
The fear in her voice somehow made me realize that reuniting with my husband was a mistake. I met him at the airport the next morning to tell him that my plans had changed and he wouldn’t be returning to my house.”
Synchronicity can come to you in any number of different ways. You may find yourself urged to reflect by a street sign, a TV scene, or a song. You may stumble upon something online at exactly the right moment. A stranger may say a few words you needed to hear. Useful reminders are everywhere if you pay attention.
Meaningful coincidences show us how deeply we are connected to those we love.
Many people report having felt the pain of a loved one who was at a distance from them. Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson collected many such stories and my own research participants confirmed this experience. I call it “simulpathity.” Here’s my own story.
“I had experienced coincidences many times before, but none was more startling than what happened when I was 31 years old in 1973. Suddenly, I found myself bent over the kitchen sink in an old Victorian house in San Francisco. I was choking on something caught in my throat. I couldn’t cough it up. I hadn’t eaten anything. I didn’t know what was in my throat. Finally, after 15 minutes or so, I could swallow and breathe normally.”
The next day, my birthday, my brother called to tell me that our father had died in Wilmington, Delaware, at 2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. He was 3,000 miles and three time zones away; 2 a.m. in Wilmington was 11 p.m. in California. My father had bled into his throat and choked on his own blood about the same time I was uncontrollably choking. He died on February 27—my birthday.”
Meaningful coincidences can help get us where we need to go without knowing how we got there.
Mothers just seem to know things about their children—sometimes to an extraordinary degree. The mother of 6-year-old Ruth went into town to shop, when she suddenly had the feeling that she had to turn around. “Where’s Ruth?” she demanded of the babysitter. The sitter responded, “She’s at Ann’s.” Ann was her 6-year-old playmate.
The mother rushed over to Ann’s house only to learn that Ann’s mother thought she was at Ruth’s house. On autopilot, Ruth’s mother drove down the street, over the railroad track, parked, ran through a gate, up a little hill, and down to an old quarry now filled with water.
At the edge of the water sat both children with their shoes off, ready to go wading. Had they stepped into the water, they likely would’ve drowned. The quarry was deep. Ruth’s mother acted upon, and was guided by, some instinct that she couldn’t explain.
I believe each of us possesses a human GPS that gives us the ability to get where we need to be without knowing how we did it. Meaningful coincidences can expand our understanding of how the world works and uncover some of our untapped abilities.