Synchronicity and the Search for Meaning
By Alan James Strachan, Ph.D
Meaning is as necessary to people as food. Whereas food nourishes our bodies, meaning feeds our souls, enabling us to recognize who we are and what our purpose is in the grand scheme of life.
Meaning can arrive via many avenues. One of the most mysterious of these is what the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung called synchronicity. Synchronicity refers to events which are meaningfully, but not causally, related. Let me give you an example:
In 1990 I was interviewed for local television by Bruce Bratton. Bruce was concerned about the psychological after-effects of the 1989 earthquake, and, since I knew something about the psychological impact of trauma, he invited me to be interviewed.
We met at a local television studio, and a few minutes into the interview I was describing why it is that people have strong psychological reactions to natural disasters. I explained that it is easy for us get attached to the ordinary, familiar aspects of our lives. Our routines give us the reassuring sense that reality is predictable, and that we have a measure of control over our lives. A serious earthquake, in particular, since there is no warning, suddenly and dramatically alters our world. Many of the familiar elements of our lives are changed, flooding us with a huge wave of unfamiliar sensory input. I emphasized that anything which upsets our routine, particularly if it is a crisis, is psychologically stressful.
Just as I was making this point there was an explosion in the studio. A large light bulb, which was situated behind and above Bruce, violently shattered, spewing white hot fragments throughout the studio, including one which came directly at me. Momentarily frozen in shock, the studio technicians burst into frantic activity to cope with the accident. Miraculously, nobody was hurt.
In the midst of the chaos, I found that a part of myself was utterly delighted. As I sat in my chair, this very calm part of me thought, "This is incredible! This is exactly what I was talking about! In the midst of the routine recording of an interview, something totally unexpected has happened, and people are responding with a mixture of panic, fear, and confusion, trying to make sense out of what has occurred." It was a synchronicity: What I had been saying to Bruce did not cause the light to explode -- i.e., science has not established a causal link -- but the bursting light was a meaningful confirmation of the point I was making.
I love synchronicities because, through them, I feel a sense of connection with the world. I also feel deeply connected with my heart. It is as though, in that synchronistic moment, the universe is showing me that what I am thinking or feeling or saying is meaningful, and such confirmation is like food for my soul.
There are many ways for us to discover meaning in our lives, and synchronicities are among the most unique and magical. The synchronicities I have experienced are moments of grace, aligned like pearls along my path. They are welcome affirmations that, for the moment at least, my search for meaning in this mysterious world is going well.
(originally published in Connection Magazine, October 2002, 37)