Is a Flood of Coincidences Challenging Your Sanity?
Try coincidence counseling.
A barrage of coincidences can challenge worldviews by their existential significance and the fear of the immensity they imply.
They may also induce the brain to try to expect meaning in everything, which may lead to heightened “associative thinking,” compared to the normal state of mind. The person sees coincidences everywhere and misses elements of real life.
Having not attended a high school reunion in 20 years, Kathy Meyers felt compelled to attend her 45th reunion in July 2015. After renewing old connections, why did she start experiencing a long series of coincidences? They occurred as many as five times a week. Some made her laugh. Others were right time, right place. Many others were in what she called the “give me chills” category. She began to question her sanity or at the very least her long-held belief system.
So, was it a coincidence that one of those series of coincidences led her to rediscover Carl Jung and synchronicity, and then led her to discover my website? She thought about contacting me for a consult. She did not need a standard psychiatric evaluation since she was happier than she had been in a long time. Many people told her that her joy was contagious.
Then in April 2016, what compelled Kathy to attend an Ohio State University spring football game even after she was warned there would be 100,000 people and parking would be a nightmare? She randomly selected gate 18 out of 30 to enter.
She started talking to a family of five who was waiting in line in front of her. They had driven to Columbus the night before from Virginia. Neither parent had graduated from Ohio State, both were originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and were now living in a rural area of Virginia. They wanted their three kids to experience a big college stadium. Kathy thought, okay—to drive this far to watch the Buckeyes with three kids, for which they had to pay five dollars each—maybe there is something else.
She asked if they were from Charlottesville (because that is where I live). No, they lived about 90 minutes to the northwest. She explained that she had been having a bunch of weird coincidences and was considering scheduling an appointment with someone doing coincidence studies. That was when the man said, “Oh, you mean Dr. Bernard Beitman, the Yale-educated psychiatrist studying coincidences?” The man had heard me interviewed on the radio. Then his wife said to Kathy, “Is that another one of your weird coincidences?”
Gate 18 out of 30. Out of 100,000 people, Kathy finds a man from Virginia who knows about me. How does one estimate the low probability of that happening?
She took this as a sign to drive from Ohio to Charlottesville to consult with me. We met for 90 minutes each of 3 consecutive days. We discussed her many coincidences, large and small.
She returned to Ohio more confident in her intuition, more willing to engage others in conversation and connection, and more willing to follow the “compels” that helped to produce coincidences. She decided to put an end to her miserable marriage. The many coincidences had become teachers for her, urging her to individuate, to become herself.
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As was Kathy's experience, a barrage of coincidences makes it difficult for coinciders to step back and analyze. A third person can be helpful—a relative, friend, or professional person. Kathy’s series was so overwhelming that she needed someone who could help her categorize her coincidences, see the themes, and help her come to some conclusions.
She is one of the first clients in a new discipline—coincidence counseling.
A year later Kathy emailed me this:
Hope this finds you well. I want to share what I've learned over the past year. If I had not contacted and met with you, I would never have understood what these “coincidences” are teaching me. That the universe has always “had my back”—I had just stopped paying attention for 34 years. And it keeps putting people in my life at the right time and place to help me move forward with continual joy despite my not being where I had hoped to be by now through no fault of my own or my attorney's. This has all been about timing; none of the “coincidental” events have been random. For example, my divorce that should have been completed August 2017 was postponed until October, then postponed again until January 2018, again until March, then to April 27, and then until June 6, causing a “homeless purgatory.” Instead of allowing something over which I had no control consume me with anger, I kept finding positive reasons for each delay. Although I came close to going over to the “dark side,” the experiences I started having after the high school reunion drastically changed my life view, so I did not shut myself off from the support and love from family and friends. I've always been more comfortable with giving, not receiving. I'm learning how to receive acts of kindness with no strings attached from the kindest person I have ever met and who would not “coincidentally” be in my life now if the divorce had been finalized earlier. If the divorce had not been postponed from October to January and then to March, I would not have been available to assist my mom and developmentally disabled sister after my mom had a cerebellar stroke in January. I wouldn't have made plans to go to Indianapolis on May 29 if the divorce had been finalized earlier. I will save this “gave-me-chills” experience for another e-mail. I would have been house-hunting, moving, and getting settled into my new home or traveling instead (what I thought I would be doing last summer). Plus, I wouldn't have been out of school, would have had to take time off from work, and would have been distracted while working with my students if the divorce had not been postponed. Whatever is protecting me from being anxious, frustrated, and angry in order to remain productive, happy, and positive, I am grateful. Take care, Kathy
Kathy is learning how to find the positive in neutral and potentially negative circumstances. It may not be the universe by itself helping her. She is co-creating more positive and useful outcomes.