Serendipity & Synchronicity

Written by: the Editors of goop


Updated on: October 26, 2015


Reviewed by: Carder Stout, PhD

Illustration by Beth Hoeckel

Nothing happens by accident when your soul gets involved. It is the most intentional presence in your life whether you recognize its existence or not. Your soul is omniscient and ever present. It informs your decision making through the thoughts and images it provides. It is the essence that fuels your intuition. When you are certain of something it is your soul’s voice that resounds from the depths of psyche. When a mysterious coincidence occurs it is often the design of your soul’s whimsical nature. Yes, the soul has a sense of humor and often speaks to us through metaphors, symbols, riddles, and clues. These hints require our full investigation in order to uncover their meaning.

Synchronicity is a term that is frequently used to represent the process of experiences coming together and forming some sort of meaning. Synchronistic occurrences are formidable and propel us forward with a surge of ephemeral courage. Their bold numinosity fills us with a sense of awe and wonder and they leave the fray of untethered questions in our inquisitive minds. These are unexplained moments. We ask ourselves how certain events aligned in such perfect rhythmical order? We wonder how a circumstance tips in our favor right at the crucial moment we need it most. A person sways into our periphery and offers just the right words to push us from the gate of self-destruction. The 80’s song we were singing in the shower plays on our car radio that same morning. We stare in disbelief before singing it even louder. We wonder if there is someone behind the curtain. Synchronicities are incidents of spiritual significance that ask us to momentarily dampen our self-obsession and consider the possibility of the divine.

Synchronistic experiences leave us with a curious sense that we should pay attention. They happen when our inner worlds of thought and feeling connect with the outer world of people, places and things. If we think about something and then it appears there is a mystery involved that is both arcane and fascinating. Perhaps our soul is extending its collaborative spirit so that we may become aware of something that requires attention. Perhaps it is simply a coincidence. This depends wholly on what you are willing to believe. To claim certainty regarding such an esoteric concept would assert that we ourselves are wiser than the greatest minds of modern psychology. There are many conflicting theories that claim to define the nature of synchronicity. Scientists perform delicately balanced experiments in an attempt to capture its elusive meaning. Astrologers look to the stars for answers and create vast equations to define its erratic movements. Psychologists argue with physicians and claim jurisdiction over steins of darkened beer. Bible toting evangelists assert God’s will as the chanting mystics dance around the fire.

Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity in the early 1920’s. It was one of his most complex and misunderstood concepts, partially because it is an experience that forces people to question their notions of what is rational and scientific. Jung’s concept of a synchronistic world was a complex intertwining of linear causality forming a balance with the unseen energies of the universe, each complimenting the others in the realms of psyche and matter. In this conception, a playful relationship exists between what is seen and unseen. Jung hypothesized that synchronistic events were possibly the manifestations of a specific desire deriving from the humanistic need to heal and grow. He also believed that they were elements of a universal, archetypal pattern that helped connect people to the deeper truths of human existence. Jung stated that archetypes are born into consciousness as deliberate and intentional acts of the soul. It is my belief that synchronicities are also messages from this spiritual and authentic part of our being.

When I was 12 years old I got drunk for the first time. It was New Year’s Eve and my mother entrusted my brother and I to hold down the fort while she slipped into her sparkly shoes and headed to a masquerade ball. As soon as she left I began chugging cheap champagne in the second story bathroom of our house. I locked the door and began crooning Springsteen tunes before passing out on the floor. My heroic older brother climbed on an outdoor window ledge in an attempt to rescue me from myself. He fell two stories through a thorn bush and landed on a brick wall in our garden below. I awoke the next day with my first hangover and was informed that my brother lay in critical condition at Georgetown hospital. He had almost died on the operating table in the early morning hours with my mother by his side. I blamed myself of course. How could I have been so selfish? I was all alone in my guilt and wished that I had fallen instead of him. I walked outside into our garden and sat down on the jagged bricks where he had landed. The winter winds were blowing and a single leaf floated down toward me. I held out my hand and it landed gently in my palm. The leaf was in the perfect shape of a heart. At this moment, I knew that my brother was going to pull through.

I believe that synchronistic events are fashioned by the will of the soul. It is the soul’s aim to help us restore balance in our psyche. When we are overcome with psychological pain our soul steps in. When our strong emotions sweep us into the eye of the storm our soul reaches out in its unconventional ways. In these moments of despair, our soul may appear through the creation of a synchronistic moment. These occurrences are meant to help us pause and recognize that we are still alive. These are the hours when our faith is challenged and we need reassurance the most. Synchronicities are nudges from the deepest place of love that inhabits our psyche. They are torches in the darkest cave of the unconscious that allow us to glimpse that suffering will end. And it always does.

Synchronicity was instrumental in my own journey toward healing as well. In my late twenties I became severely addicted to drugs and alcohol. I sequestered myself to a small studio apartment in Venice, California where I frantically searched for my lost identity. I did not feel like I belonged in the world and was bereft of hope. I was in a deeply depressed state and felt like I could not go on. The voices in my head disallowed me to sleep so I paced frantically over the manmade canals of my neighborhood. And I seriously thought about jumping in. As I sat on the edge of the muddy banks a paperback book bobbed in the water beneath my feet. It was a poetry book by Pablo Neruda that someone had launched off a nearby bridge. I began to read the first poem and was immediately overwhelmed by its deliberate connection to my own life. The poem spoke about restoring hope through the recognition of small things. I peered to my left and saw a bluebird watching me. I raised my head and saw the sun rise over the palm trees. My sadness disappeared as I read the words. For the first time in many months I felt a calmness wash over me. That was the moment that I began a new way of life. It was the most important moment I have ever had. In that instant I believed that Neruda had written his poem just for me. I believed it with every fiber of my being. In that belief I found my voice again.

Dr. Carder Stout is a Los Angeles-based therapist with a private practice in Brentwood, where he treats clients for anxiety, depression, addiction, and trauma. As a specialist in relationships, he is adept at helping clients become more truthful with themselves and their partners. He received his PhD in Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in August of 2015.