Is there meaning in coincidence, or are we trying to impart meaning to make sense of our lives?
For materialistic scientists, coincidences are a matter of statistics, they happen to almost everyone at some point. However, people desperate to find meaning or order in their lives, are eager to interpret those coincidences in a way to impart meaning on them.
For Carl Gustave Jung, one of the icons of modern psychology, coincidences are related to an intangible process which cannot be explained by causes and effects, but instead by meaningful invisible connections or “synchronicity”, as he coined it in the 1950s.
Jung updated his definition of the term “synchronicity” from time to time. He also called it the principle of correspondence, which means everything is connected in a meaningful sense, in his book Aion, Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self.
“When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them – for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes,” Jung said.
He believed that due to the incomplete human understanding of nature, humankind “excludes observable facts from our understanding or else formulates them in an unjustifiably negative way…” to dismiss the possibility of coincidences as meaningful connections.
But others, like Gibb A. Williams, a psychoanalyst and the author of Demystifying Meaningful Coincidences, disagree with Jung and his passionate followers.
“You’re looking for patterns. It’s like you’re on your own psychological scavenger hunt. You look for pieces to fit the puzzle. The completed pattern is experienced as a synchronicity,” Williams said.
An interesting ‘coincidence’
One of the most famous cases of whether a coincidence hides a meaningful fact, or not, happened to Jung during a therapy session with a young female patient. She was a fierce rationalist.
Jung explained the famous incident in his book, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle.