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Synchronicity: Meaningful Coincidence or Chance?

Young Man From Isfahan

The Young Man from Isfahan, a Middle Eastern folktale, dramatizes the surprise nature and feeling of fate associated with synchronicity. Here the young man thinks he is fleeing death by racing off to Samara when actually he is aligning with destiny by doing so. When we find such themes portrayed in myth and folktales, it can be valuable to ask, "What might this have to do with me?"

What is Synchronicity?

Synchronicity is a term originated by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl. G. Jung that attempts to explain the paradoxical occurrence of events that are tied together without obvious cause but have intrinsic meaning to the person experiencing them. Jung said, "(Synchronicity is) the coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same meaning." (Peat, n.d.). An example would be thinking of someone when suddenly the phone rings and it is them, or perhaps considering a new course of action and finding that very endeavor mentioned repeatedly in conversations, on TV or in the news. Further examples of synchronicity.

'Synchronicities take the form of patterns that emerge by chance out of a general background of chance and contingency and hold a deep meaning for the person who experiences them. Often these coincidences occur at critical points in a person's life and can be interpreted as containing the seeds of future growth. Synchronicities could, therefore, be said to involve the meaningful unfoldment of potential.' (Peat, n.d.)

Here is a specific example. 'For years I worked primarily as a shop assistant in a retail store as my ‘day job’ while pursuing creative interests ‘on the side’. I had dreamed of completing a university degree though I was afraid to take the financial risk and quit full time employment. When I heard the owners were selling the shop but that all the staff would remain, I felt a sense of relief. The job was my bread and butter. I laughed saying, ‘The only reason I would quit this job would be if Ms. X bought it!’ (Ms. X was the one customer in all my years there whom I had clashed with significantly.) ‘If she’s the new owner,' I laughed, 'I’ll resign and go back to school.’ I knew the odds of that being the case were next to impossible.

Three days later I found out that Ms. X had indeed bought the shop.

I made good my promise and resigned, starting my first study period at university two weeks later.'

These ‘events’ when viewed from the outside may seem to have little causal connection. One woman buys a business, another enrolls at university. For the person experiencing it, however, it was an epiphany. The statement made as a ‘joke’ turned out to foretell a major life change.


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