Q: The other night, I had a dream about a woman who I haven’t seen for probably seven years. I woke-up wondering why she was in my dream after all this time, but then that afternoon I was walking downtown and saw her across the street!! I couldn’t believe it. How is that possible?? Can you explain how I can dream of someone I haven’t seen in years and then see them later that day?!
A: Whoa. I can only imagine that this experience left you stunned. These kinds of experiences are bizarre and incredible, and we’ve all had versions of them: You have a dream about someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, and they call you the next day; or you find yourself thinking about a largely unknown musician and walk into a cafe to hear one of his songs playing. Usually, people notice these things, chalk them up to crazy coincidences, and forget about them. But this experience of yours is a big one! The coincidence itself is just too big, separated by years, and it does make you wonder: how the heck do these things happen?
Situations just like the one you describe were a phenomenon that Carl Jung termed synchronicity, a word we’re all now quite familiar with. The term and concept denote a seeming coincidence that is just too bizarre, and too meaningful, to be totally accidental. They are events that are statistical outliers, like a sudden mutation in evolutionary biology, that science cannot entirely explain but do nonetheless occur. These situations are seeming acausal; there is no way to explain how one event caused the other, or how something else caused both. As a result, they totally test our understanding of the way the world works and leave us a bit dumbfounded.
The connection point between these two events is you. The dream was yours alone, and the matter of that woman being out-and-about in town is, in itself, totally unremarkable. What is remarkable, however, is that the two events occurred in your awareness within a very short period of time. You are the connection point. So what does that mean?
Just like a magnet attracts iron to itself when charged, there is some suggestion in quantum physics that our own psychic lives, and the energetically charged complexes we carry around, can also make things move and occur without any known physical interaction. The dream originated from you, and you noticed the woman. It is possible that these two “events” occurred in your awareness because a complex of energy you have was triggered in some way. We certainly do not understand just yet how these synchronistic events occur, but I would put money on the fact that science will show us more in the coming decades about how they are, in fact, related and are not simply crazy happenstance.
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Satya is a therapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in applicable dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and the stage of life between young adulthood and mid-life. www.quarterlifecounselor.com
A friend called the other day to catch-up and we spoke for a while about life and plans for the future. When we hung-up the phone, I realized she had been a part of my dreams the night before. I wrote her.
I forgot to tell you, you were in my dream last night.
We were traveling together and happened upon a little store with old books in the back. I walked up to one shelf that had small, almost square books, covered with old white leather. There were simple titles on the spines. I picked-up the first one to examine it, a book that had just three or four short words in the title, including either “One” or “God.” You walked up to look at it too. We talked about what a great old book it was. On the inside page there were numbers written in pencil, it turned out to be $95, I think, with just the number 95 and a dash written on the inside page. It was signed too, we saw, realizing why the price was so high. The author’s name was something Garcia, three words, though it was not Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A male author. We were both were intrigued and loved the little book though we chose not to buy it.
My friend shortly thereafter wrote me back.
Federico García Lorca? I was just at a used book store today and came across a biography on him, and it did have the price written in pencil on the inside cover…
She also went on to write that when she had been exploring topics for her thesis, she had given great consideration to writing on Lorca’s exploration of the concept of Duende — a hard to translate Spanish term that explores the visceral experience of becoming possessed by a muse or a dark instinct, a feeling typically associated with being overwhelmed in the creation of art or music. The phrase “Tener duende,” in Spanish, can be understood as meaning “to have soul.”
The mystery of our shared experience is what draws me into the study of psyche. It was in some ways the smallest of coincidences. I did not dream of a death that then occurred shortly after in real life, nor did my dream offer her any terrific insight into her life. Nonetheless, it holds tremendous meaning. The reality of the uncanny exchange suggests to me how much we do not know. For me, it is like the mystical experience of realizing that God is everywhere, always, but rarely seen. When such inexplicable overlaps of experience occur, it offers a glimpse into other levels of life in the world, a sixth sense that we all have but rarely remember to use.
The experience is a reminder for me of the collective unconscious, the potential fallacies of our notions of linear time, the explorations of human physics and the boundaries between singular human experiences. These questions are less explored in the field of psychology than in physics, but they blend in analytic psychology in a way that keeps me hooked. There is so much that we do not know, so many layers of existence and consciousness that we do not yet even know to question.
I just came upon this wonderful passage by Jung on synchronicity that offers a thorough discussion of the concept and the questions it raises.
Though synchronistic phenomena occur in time and space they manifest a remarkable independence of both these indispensable determinants of physical existence and hence do not conform to the law of causality. The causalism that underlies our scientific view of the world breaks everything down into individual processes which it punctiliously tries to isolate from all other parallel processes. This tendency is absolutely necessary if we are to gain reliable knowledge of the world, but philosophically it has the disadvantage of breaking up, or obscuring, the universal interrelationship of events so that a recognition of the greater relationship, i.e. of the unity of the world, becomes more and more difficult. (from CW 14 in The Essential Jung, p. 293)
Jung goes on to say that the term “Synchronicity,” which he defined as “a meaningful coincidence,” is a principle which “suggests that there is an inter-connection or unity of causally unrelated events, and thus postulates a unitary aspect of being” (p. 293).
Could such unitary aspects of being be the “One” or the “God” in the title of the book that I was meant to ponder?