Have you ever felt like all the planets were aligning in your life? Have circumstances ever flowed “by themselves” to help you reach your goal? Have you been thinking about something and have you felt that the universe was sending you a very direct sign of the path you should follow? If so, it is likely that you have experienced what is known as Jungian synchronicity, a phenomenon that, due to its emotional impact, can sometimes mark a turning point in our lives.
What is synchronicity, according to Carl Jung?
Synchronicity is not a modern concept, but goes back to the ancient Vedas. However, it was Carl Jung who coined this term to refer to those mysterious coincidences that we experience and end up decisively influencing our path or transforming our conception of the world.
Jung defined them “The coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events, which have the same meaning or value for the subject who experiences them. With the principle of synchronicity, is proposed the existence of events or patterns in the psyche that are accompanied by objective events of great significance.”
Spiritual synchronicities, as they are also called, are actually a strange and inexplicable conjugation of external events with internal events that only make sense to the person who experiences them. Although these events may seem random or coincidental, they are deeply interconnected with our thoughts, feelings, and intentions. In fact, synchronicity is also known as “meaningful coincidences”.
In short, it is about those significant moments in which life takes a turn, generating new ideas, learning or opportunities. It’s like the universe is rolling out a red carpet for us to help us get to a certain point along the way. Synchronicity is the universe speaking directly to us.
The nature of Jungian synchronicity
Synchronicity is that moment when you say: “What a coincidence!”, but in reality chance and causation have little to do with this phenomenon. Jung began to reflect on these strange coincidences when a patient of his was telling him a dream in which there was a golden beetle. Just during the session, Jung heard a knock on the window glass and leaning out to see what was happening, he saw that it was a ketonia, a golden-green insect similar to the one in the patient’s dream. That coincidence made him wonder if it really was a completely chance event.
Later, in the 1920s, Jung had the opportunity to experience the phenomenon of synchronicity on a more significant vital level when he traveled to Tunisia, the Indian pueblos of New Mexico, and the Maasai tribes in Uganda and Kenya.
While investigating the collective unconscious, he discovered highly significant experiences in his patients’ lives that were marked by synchronicity. Jung was convinced that they were not simple coincidences, so he began to explore this phenomenon together with the quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Nobel Prize in Physics in 1945 and his patient for a while.
Both came to the conclusion that, in synchronicities, unlike the cause-effect principle in which it is possible to follow a logical thread of events based on our decisions, a simultaneity-significance relationship applies. Jung believed that synchronicity is not a mere synchronism, but implies the simultaneity of two events whose meaning is found in our unconscious.
For this reason, synchronicities are usually accompanied by an intense emotional experience, which occurs in unison with the event, which invariably has a symbolic character that only we can capture and understand.
Jung went one step further by stating that synchronicities are possible due to our symbolic heritage (archetypes) internalized over the centuries, which make up the collective unconscious, which our psyche accesses to capture the meanings of the Universe. And he was not the only one who thought in those holistic terms as William James had anticipated: “We are like islands in the sea, separated from the surface, but connected in the depth”.
Jung and Pauli came to the conclusion that there is a much deeper connection than we suppose between the world around us and our thoughts and desires. At certain times, these psychic contents can end up creating coincidental circumstances that only have value for those who experience them because they attribute a symbolic meaning to them.
The 3 types of synchronicities that you may have experienced
According to Jung, significant coincidences can present themselves in different ways in our lives:
1. Coincidence between a psychic content and a specific vital event. This synchrony is surprising due to the coincidence in time and space, so that we can feel that our thought, dream or desire materializes, literally, in a specific event. An example of this Jungian synchronicity is when we think of someone we haven’t seen for a long time and suddenly we find him or he calls us.
2. Coincidence between a psychic content and a general event. This kind of Jungian synchronicity doesn’t always affect us directly, but it is deeply tied to the collective unconscious. In this case, our thoughts, dreams or desires seem connected to a general event that impacts us deeply, such as premonitory dreams before catastrophic events occur. In fact, during the days leading up to the 9/11 attacks, many people reported having precognitive dreams. The same thing happened just before the two World Wars broke out.
3. Out of sync coincidences. In this case, there is a time lag between the psychic content (thought, dream, desire) and the event, which can occur months or even years later. An example of this Jungian synchronicity is when we dream something and months or years later we live it in much the same way, or when we wish something would happen in a certain way and, after a while, it really does happen, although at first it seemed quite unlikely.
Tuning in to synchronicity
In synchronicity, we are the ones who establish a non-random link between our inner world and what happens outside. When we notice a significant coincidence in our life it is because we need it and in some way we favor it.
It is no coincidence that, as Jung himself pointed out, synchronicity phenomena intensify during crucial moments in life or in our collective history. For example, during a bereavement, falling in love, pregnancy or moving to another city, as well as during pandemics, destructive natural phenomena or wars.
We can think of synchronicity as the language of the Universe, the path it chooses to make us understand that we are all interconnected, both physically and mentally and spiritually, so that everything that happens to us always makes sense, we just have to understand its meaning.
For this reason, although significant coincidences usually occur when we least expect it, if we want to promote synchronicity we must show ourselves to be more receptive and attentive to the world.
The more attentive we are, the more likely something significant will happen that can become a signal, from small conversations to a song on the radio or a chance meeting. Sometimes you just have to be careful. The key, to a large extent, is learning to flow and not force circumstances, but live what happens with an open and curious attitude that allows us to decipher the meaning beyond the obvious.
To increase the occurrence of synchronicity, we must also learn to recognize and interpret those significant events, for which we need to connect with our intuition, that inner voice that guides us and is often a source of wisdom and transcends the limits of rational thought.
When we pay attention to our intuition, we can discern the deeper meaning behind meaningful matches and have valuable guidance for our personal journey. To do this, we must cultivate full attention and self-awareness, two qualities that help us to be more present in the here and now, in tune with the most subtle signs and signals that the Universe sends us. This way we will be better prepared to recognize synchronicities and take advantage of the opportunities they bring us.
Jung, C. (1988) Sincronicidad. Málaga: Ediciones Sirio S.A.
Jung, C. (1984) La interpretación de la naturaleza y la psique. Barcelona: Editorial Paidós.