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Some thoughts on learning from meaningful coincidences

These comments assembled in May, 1992 by David Jodrey

(August 1995 email address:

"Synchronicity" is a term coined by C. G. Jung, who used it to refer to coincidental events which have no apparent "common-sense" explanation, but which are meaningful to the human participant. The glossary of Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung's autobiographical work edited by Aniela Jaffe, defines synchronicity as "the meaningful coincidence or equivalence:-

(a) of a psychic and a physical state or event which have no causal relationship to one another. Such synchronistic phenomena occur, for instance, when an inwardly perceived event (dream, vision, premonition, etc.) is seen to have a correspondence in external reality: the inner image of premonition has "come true";

(b) of similar or identical thoughts, dreams, etc. occurring at the same time in different places.

Neither the one nor the other coincidence can be explained by causality, but seems to be connected primarily with activated archetypal processes in the unconscious."

Many of the most striking synchronistic events are connected with dreams. In The Tao of Psychology, Jean Shinoda Bolen discusses using dream analysis techniques as a way to understand synchronistic events - whether or not they are connected with dreams.

Tips for dealing with the possibility that a particular dream may be a premonition are given in Dreams That Come True, by David Ryback:

"The appropriate response to a dream is usually the same whether or not the dream comes true. There are several steps to take when you wake up remembering an impressive dream:

1. Write it down or record it as soon as possible after waking.

2. Consider the possibility of your dream coming true.

3. Prepare yourself mentally for the realization of your dream.

4. Take preventive measures if the dream event is unpleasant.

5. Do what you think should be done before the dream comes true.

6. Plan what you will do during and after the dream event to minimize its negative impact or to maximize its positive impact.

7. Tell someone your dream."

Some suggestions for using synchronistic events in your life are given in Alan Vaughan's Incredible Coincidence:

"Assume that your life has meaning, and that the events in your life are meaningful, and are telling you something. Developing awareness of your life's events is the best way to hear what they are telling you. By doing what the events in your life tell you to do, you will be fulfilling your inner self's destiny.

Suggested actions:

Many, though not all, synchronistic events fall into a category that might be termed "intuition". Arthur Deikman thoughtfully analyzes various concepts of intuition in his book The Observing Self, and points out that Jung's use of the word "intuition" as one of the four psychological functions, on a par with thinking, feeling, and sensing, differs from the sense in which it is intended here, as "knowledge not derived from reasoning or sensory information." Awakening Intuition is a book by Frances Vaughan, a prominent psychologist who has been president of both the Association for Humanistic Psychology and the Association for Transpersonal Psychology. (As far as I know, the correspondence of surnames between Frances Vaughan and Alan Vaughan is purely coincidental - the latter would call this the "synchronicity of synchronicity".) Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who writes regularly for the New York Times, endorses Frances Vaughan's book: "Frances Vaughan shares her good common sense on the slippery ins and outs of intuition, the meaning of dreams, practical problem solving, and what it is to be invaluable workbook." F. Vaughan gives the three basic stages in training the mind for the development of intuition as: "

1) Quieting the mind

2) Learning to focus attention, or concentrate on that aspect of reality that one chooses to contact at a particular time

3) Cultivation of a receptive, nonjudgmental attitude that allows intuition to come into conscious awareness without interference."

About the use of a support group in developing intuition, she states:

"Finding one, two, or more friends with whom you can share your interest in the development of intuition, as well as your successes, failures, hopes, and fears, can facilitate and accelerate the process of development. Sharing experience with someone who is willing to listen, without judging or interpreting, is very useful. Keeping a journal to record intuitive flashes, hunches, insights, and images that come to mind spontaneously at any time of the day or night, can help stabilize and validate them."

Suggestions for further reading (in addition to Jung's introduction to Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching and two papers on synchronicity in Vol. 8 of Jung's Collected Works):

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