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Monday, May 2, 2011

Exploring Synchronicities - Part I

What Are Synchronicities?
Have you ever had the uncanny experience of thinking or dreaming about a person, place or an event and then having your thoughts or dreams actually manifest in your life?

Exploring Synchronicities

For most people, when this occurs, especially if these experiences occur with any regularity, it can be an awe-inspiring event that seems mysterious and even perplexing. Some people attribute these uncanny experiences to a connection with the divine. Others believe they are intuitive experiences, and others aren't sure what to make of them. But, for the majority of people who experience these uncanny events, they feel meaningful, and in many cases, they can be life changing experiences. But how are we to understand these events?

Psychoanalytic Theories About Synchronicities:
There are many views about synchronicities and their origins. Most theorists agree that synchronicities are meaningful coincidences. They seem to occur out of the blue and from nowhere. Often, synchronicities are pleasurable experiences that leave people feeling more integrated and that they are part of something much larger than themselves, as if their internal experiences are, somehow, connecting to something external that is much larger than themselves.

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung:
Most of the literature on synchronicities is dominated by the writings of Carl Jung, who wrote about his experiences with synchronicities after he and Sigmund Freud had an irreparable falling out about the occult in the early 1900s.

Carl Jung

Sigmund Freud
Prior to their falling out, Freud, who was the father of psychoanalysis, viewed Jung as the "heir apparent" for psychoanalysis, the person who would carry on and continue to expound and develop Freud's views on psychoanalysis. Based on the literature and their letters to each other, it seems that Jung also saw himself in that role before their falling out. He used Freud's psychoanalytic theories with his own patients, but it seems that he felt that there was something missing in Freud's theories that he wanted to explore on his own.

Early on, Jung revered Freud. Jung was young enough to be Freud's son. Based on their correspondence to each other, Jung seemed to see Freud as his spiritual father. Jung's own father was, supposedly, very distant with Jung and his relationship with his mother was severed at a very early age due to her mental illness, so Jung grew up being a lonely child. So, his relationship with Freud was very meaningful to him, like the father that he never had. In their early correspondence to one another, there is a tone of father-son affection between them.

But for Jung, although he had great admiration, respect and reverence for Freud and he used Freud's psychoanalytic theory with patients with some success, he came to feel that there was something missing. He continued to explore psychoanalytic concepts on his own, and he came to the conclusion that Freud's psychoanalytic theory placed too much emphasis on sexuality and resolving the Oedipus Complex. Jung came to feel that Freud's psychoanalytic concepts were devoid of a much-needed sense of spirituality and were missing the importance of the pre-Oedipal period of infancy.

As you may know, Freud was essentially an atheist and a rationalist. Jung, on the other hand, had a strong sense of curiosity about all types of spirituality from different cultures and also about the occult. Freud was also curious about the occult, but only to a point. He was wary of what he came to see as Jung's obsession with the occult and this is what eventually lead to the break between them.

One fateful day, Jung and Freud were talking about psychoanalysis and the occult in Freud's study. Apparently, Freud warned Jung against getting too involved and obsessed with the occult. If we can imagine this scene: Here were two geniuses who, until then, liked and had a mutual affection for one another, who were beginning to clash over ideas that each of them held very dear. According to the story, Jung began to feel very angry, as if he was burning up inside. Then, suddenly, as if from nowhere, they were both startled by a loud noise from Freud's bookcase. It seemed to come from nowhere.

As the story goes, Jung told Freud that this noise was evidence of occult phenomenon. Freud was curious about what just happened, but he wasn't buying that this had anything to do with the occult, so he dismissed Jung's assertions, which angered Jung even more. So, Jung told Freud that he would prove to Freud that the noise was an occult manifestation and predicted that it would happen again. And, sure enough, the loud noise occurred again and Freud was startled and amazed by this.

After this Freud and Jung each explored what this sudden noise might have been. Jung continued to attribute it to a mysterious occult manifestation. Initially, Freud was curious about this and he didn't completely dismiss it as out of hand, especially after Jung seemed able to predict that it would occur a second time. However, over time, Freud concluded that the noise occurred due to a change in temperature in the room and the bookcase, which was made of wood, creaking (although he seemed to have no explanation as to why it occurred a second time, as Jung predicted). After that, he dismissed Jung's ideas about the incident completely, which continued to infuriate Jung.

As previously mentioned, early on, Freud saw Jung as the "heir apparent" who would carry on his psychoanalytic theory and his legacy. But as Jung continued to explore the occult, Freud became concerned that Jung's ideas would be harmful for psychoanalysis. As the story goes, Freud feared that people would view Jung's ideas about psychoanalysis and the occult as outrageous and this would lead to the demise of the development of psychoanalysis. Freud had dedicated his life to developing his psychoanalytic theory, and he very much wanted to have a proponent of his ideas, his "heir apparent," to be taken seriously so that psychoanalysis would continue to grow and develop throughout the world.

After the incident in Freud's study, their relationship became more distant, which must have been painful for both of them, but it was especially painful for Jung. After the break in their friendship and professional relationship, Jung had what Jungians have come to describe as "a creative illness, " essentially a nervous breakdown. However, being the creative genius that he was, he was able to continue to see patients through this period and he also began writing about his own internal experiences in the Red Book, including his experiences with meaningful coincidences, also known as synchronicities.

Jung saw synchronicities as being inspired by the divine. In his view, which is the view that dominates in professional literature, when someone experiences a synchronicity (or a meaningful coincidence), he or she is getting in touch with the collective unconscious and archetypetal figures in the spiritual or occult realm. Jung felt that, because these uncanny experiences occurred suddenly and out of the blue, they could not be researched or explained in any other way.

Exploring Synchronicities - Part II:
Also, see my article: Exploring Synchronicities - Part II where I continue to explore the fascinating phenomenon of synchronicities and present an alternative, psychodynamic theory, based on the work of the NYC psychoanalyst, Gibbs A. Williams, Ph.D., that differs from Jung's archetypal/collective unconscious theory.

In the meantime, keeping a journal of your synchronicities can be a fascinating experience, especially if you include the context of what's going on in your life at the time.

I am licensed NYC psychotherapist, contemporary psychoanalyst, hypnotherapist, Somatic Experiencing therapist, and EMDR therapist.

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

photo credit: efigment via photopin cc
photo credit: wordscraft via photopin cc

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