|M. de Fontgibu & the plum pudding from Prosper de Roos on Vimeo|
I received this question about coincidence and synchronicity from one of my students:
“I had a question regarding coincidence, recently I’ve been frustrated at my life and the answers seem to be appearing from everywhere, I just wanted to know whether the answers really have meaning or am I justifying it with my subconscious mind.”
What is synchronicity and how is it different than coincidence? And more importantly, what does it mean?
Psychologist Carl Jung first described synchronicity in the 1920s. He viewed synchronicity as an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated.
In other words, the same or similar events happen close enough together in time, that have nothing to do with each other. Because of the remarkable nature of this happening, it usually draws our attention as something that has particular meaning.
A coincidence sounds very similar. In fact, the only difference is that a coincidence has no meaning to it. The meaning only comes from us and what emphasis we place on it.
Now here is my theory. Patterns happen around us all the time. Our subconscious mind absorbs and notices everything and filters out most of it from our conscious waking state. This is a good thing otherwise we would be overwhelmed with stimulus.
The subconscious mind has many functions, one of which is to get our attention and relay messages. Think of meditation. When we slow our brain waves down, we get closer to the state of the unconscious mind and it’s easier to see patterns, symbols and understand their meaning. Sometimes the unconscious mind brings certain things to our conscious attention.
So when is a cigar, just a cigar? One way of telling if it’s a sign or if it’s a coincidence, is to put yourself totally out of the equation. That means two things:
1) Don’t actively seek out the patterns. Synchronicity comes out of the blue. If you are looking for patterns, you can find them anywhere.
2) When you do notice synchronicity happening, don’t automatically assume the meaning. This is where trusting your intuition counts.
A well-known example of synchronicity involves the true story of French writer Emile Deschamps and plum pudding. In 1805 Monsieur de Fontgibu first treated him to plum pudding. Ten years later, he was in a restaurant in Paris and saw plum pudding on the menu. When he tried to order it he was told that the last piece was just served to another customer. He sees Monsieur de Fontgibu in the restaurant who happened to be the “other customer” eating the last piece of plum pudding. In 1832 Emile Deschamps visited a restaurant with a friend and is once again offered plum pudding. He tells his friend of the incident in Paris and says that the only thing absent in that moment was Monsieur de Fontgibu. And then, Monsieur de Fontgibu (senile by that point) wanders into the restaurant by mistake.