Do you think it’s important to pay attention to things like coincidences? If so, you might just be interested in Jungian psychology.
For instance, have you thought about calling someone you haven’t spoken to for ages? And then suddenly they call you out of the blue? Have you remembered a relative you haven’t seen for years and then you bump into them in the weirdest of places? In Jungian psychology, this is synchronicity.
“Synchronicity: A meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.” – Carl Jung
Jungian Psychology and Synchronicity
Carl Jung is one of the founding fathers of psychology. He emphasised the importance of the psyche and put forward the notion of the introvert and extrovert personalities. Jung also believed in the power of the unconscious, in particular, the collective unconscious. And this brings us onto synchronicity. In Jungian psychology, synchronicity is all about ‘meaningful coincidences’.
The word synchronicity comes from the Greek words ‘syn’ (which means together) and ‘chronos’ (which means time).
Jung was always interested in the psyche. However, unlike Freud, who thought everything revolved around repressed sexual desires, Jung believed in deeper levels to our unconscious mind. He just couldn’t work out what they were.
Then he started having nightmares about a ‘monstrous flood’ that swept across the whole of Europe. At first, the flood was water, drowning thousands of people in its path. Then it turned to blood. Jung had always recorded and analysed his dreams from childhood, but he simply couldn’t understand this one. Then extreme fascists began to rise across Germany and he witnessed the start of WW1. Now his dreams made sense. They were kind of a premonition of what was to come. And so began Jung’s work on the collective unconscious.
Jung was a great believer in the spiritual side of a person.
He was also extremely in favour of using a holistic approach when it came to dealing with people. Jung was convinced that everything in the universe is linked. As such, he thought that humans must also be connected in some way. To him, this suggested a collective unconscious of humankind.
Jung believed that our human psyches are linked and we that communicate in the form of meaningful coincidences, or synchronicity. According to Jungian psychology, events that occur over the world connect all of our psyches. This accounts for meaningful coincidences.
“Synchronistic events disclose deep interconnections between mind and body, between one person and another, between humans and the natural world.” – Professor Roderick Main
So what do we mean exactly when we say synchronicity? In Jungian psychology, synchronicity is defined as meaningful and causally related connections between physical and mental events.
So, in other words, physical events occur that have some inner meaning. But what’s the point of them? Jung believed there is a deeper level of the collective unconscious that underpinned the physical world.
As such, in his mind, synchronicities break through this collective unconscious to prod our conscious minds. Jung suggested the reason synchronicities occur is so the universe can tell or teach us something important.
Examples of Synchronicity
Jung described a particularly difficult patient that he felt was psychologically inaccessible. This was partly because she believed she knew everything and wouldn’t listen to his advice. Jung had spent hours trying to break through her barrier of reality. She had always refused to accept anything other than rational evidence.
The patient recalled a dream in which she was given a golden scarab beetle. This was a very expensive piece of jewellery. Just as she was telling Jung he heard a light tapping on the window. The tapping continued so he opened it. Outside he found a large scarab beetle with a gold colour similar to the golden one in the woman’s dream. He handed it to her, and said, “Here is your scarab.” The experience of the dream and the real-life event was enough to break through to the patient. She overcame her problems.
Another patient recalled a story to Jung about the deaths of her grandmother and mother. That on each occasion a flock of birds arrived and sat on the window sill. After these deaths, her husband had gone to see a doctor about his heart problems. One the way home, he’d collapsed in the street. A few moments after, he’d set off to the doctors a flock of birds had arrived. They had positioned themselves on a window sill at the wife’s house. She saw this as a sign of his impending death.
But is this really synchronicity? You could say that perhaps the woman had become conditioned to associate birds with death. So what about all the other times birds appeared at her window? It’s likely that she ignored or forgot about those times and only concentrated on times that meant something to her.
Steve Jobs and Synchronicity
You might not know it but Steve Jobs was a huge believer in synchronicity and often cited it as a resource he came to rely on.
At his Stanford University commencement speech, ‘How to live before you die’, he recalled how, by pure accident, he ended up taking a calligraphy course. This course was to help him later on design the typography for his first Macintosh computer. Jobs also used his intuition when he gave up work altogether to travel to India and study Buddhism. It was here that he learned how to relax and meditate. Meditation also gave him the strength and faith to follow his own path in life.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs
Of course, there are criticisms of Jungian Psychology and in particular, synchronicity.
When a theory that gives us a reason for existing comes along, we gravitate to it. Confirmation bias is when we only look for information or clues that support our ideas. Consequently, it’s easy to see why a person would try to link events that might otherwise have no meaningful connection.
It’s very tempting to believe in synchronicity. To think that coincidences are trying to tell us something. It stops us feeling alone. Ultimately, it gives us permission to feel connected and special. I mean, who wouldn’t want to think that all those strange coincidences actually mean something? As humans, we have a desperate need to connect and to feel important.
Synchronicity gives us a significance and an order to our lives in an otherwise chaotic and random world. Synchronicity means that we mean something. That our lives are not in vain. That there’s something else going on out there. After all, it gives us hope that we are all here for a reason.
“Coincidences are like road flares, calling our attention to something important in our lives, glimpses of what goes on beyond everyday distractions. We can choose to ignore those flares and hurry on, or we can pay attention to them and live out the miracle that is waiting for us.” – Deepak Chopra.
As a final note, I want to mention an interesting piece I found by 19th-century philosopher Schopenhauer, called ‘An Apparent Intention of the Fate of the Individual.’
In it, he asks you to look back at your life when you have reached a certain age. He says that our lives are like novels, all perfectly written, with accidental meetings scattered here and there that lead us to our career, partner, and where we live.
Now that we look back, all those little accidental meetings seem as if they were all planned in advance. Events that appeared to be devastating were actually turning points. It’s only when we look back that we understand. So, know that we know, why not relax and look forward once in a while?