Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Coincidence and Synchronicity

Wikipedia describes a coincidence as a collection of two or more events or conditions, closely related by time, space, form, or other associations which appear unlikely to bear a relationship as either cause to effect or effects of a shared cause, within the observer's or observers' understanding of what cause can produce what effects.

So at what point should I stop and reflect upon a coincidence-cluster that has been bewildering me for months. It’s almost like the universe is conspiring to reverberate a word, a name, a label almost as quickly as I’m about to write that same word down.

Over and over again I’d be sitting back and writing a note, pondering over a choice of a word and almost magically that same word would be blurted out. It’d be someone on the TV, radio, or even a person across the room.

Now it just so happens that for years I have received supervision from a psychologist who had received much of his training in Jungian psychoanalysis. As well as me reflecting on these peculiar word coincidences I have been collaborating with a young practitioner in preparation for a forthcoming conference, where we’ve had to brush up on Schon’s work on a reflective practice as well as Glaser and Strauss’ Grounded Theory and emergence principles.

As we know Jung described Synchronicity as the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner.

Importantly, Instead it maintains that, just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by meaning.

Scientific reconsideration of Jung's difficult ideas has become more possible with the advent of recent developments in understanding the self-organizing features of complex adaptive systems.  In particular, the question of acausality in "meaningful" coincidences, especially those observed in the clinical setting, can be reassessed in terms of the concept of emergence, which explores holistic phenomena supervening from interactions among component agents.

In her article, Mayer (2002) suggests that Freudian and Jungian views of reality are well-poised at this juncture to enter into "a wider scientific and cultural conversation. Where some of the most lively and critically important questions about people and their relationship with the world are currently being asked". In her view, this dialogue centers on the way that an extensive range of phenomena—both physical and psychological—are being reconceptualized as "separate and separable versus connected and inseparable." She goes on to suggest that "Freudians have developed a view of the mind which . . . elaborates implications of its separateness and its unequivocally boundaried character," where as Jungians have "elaborated implications of the mind's connectedness: the nature of its quintessentially unboundaried character."

Mayer singles out the understanding of the transference, which, perhaps more than anything else, dramatically manifests the individual boundaried mind in action, as the clinical tool par excellence of psychoanalysis. In contrast, she locates the genius of the Jungian school in its attention to "the collective mind and what we might call the profoundly connected mind".

2002, Journal of Analytical Psychology, 47:91-99. Freud and Jung: The boundaried mind and the radically connected mind · Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, Ph.D

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