What a Coincidence…Or Is It?

What a Coincidence…Or Is It?

How often do you hear someone ask (or perhaps you have posed the same question), “Isn’t that a coincidence?” or “What a coincidence that we met! What were the chances?” The phenomenon of coincidences has fascinated people for millennia. Some say they are hogwash, others assign deep mystical meaning to them, while others are somewhere in between. Among the research about the topic is the idea that coincidences are believed to have a deep connection with self-awareness and spirituality.

What is a coincidence?

Coincidence has been defined in a multitude of ways. Among them is one by the mathematicians Frederick Mosteller and Persi Diaconis, who explained it in a 1989 paper as “a surprising concurrence of events, perceived as meaningfully related, with no apparent causal connection.” 

Why do coincidences happen?

Why do surprising or extraordinary events happen? There are several schools of thought. One is that a common factor could be present. If you run into a friend from your hometown of Chicago, Illinois, while you’re visiting Italy, for example, it may be that you both have harbored a secret desire to vacation there. In the psychology realm, there’s the idea that we have an unconscious ability for heightened perception to something we may have recently heard or experienced, so we notice when something relating to it occurs. For example, you meet someone named Eleanor, and moments later you hear “Eleanor Rigby” on the radio. Coincidence? 

Here’s a scientific look. Let’s say there are 30 people in a room. The probability is that at least two people in the room share the same birthday. This has been proven scientifically (mathematically). If you were talking with each person and asked their birthday, you would discover that at least one person shared that day with you. Would that feel like a coincidence? Likely.

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However, what if you didn’t know someone else shared your birthday because you never asked anyone in the room. The fact would still remain. Is it still a coincidence if it is not revealed? 

Another explanation for coincidences is called the law of truly large numbers. This means that anything is possible and will eventually occur if you wait long enough. If you own a red Volkswagon, eventually you will see another one driving down the road if you wait long enough. One other explanation that is popular concerning coincidence involves synchronicity. 

Coincidence vs synchronicity

Many people use coincidence and synchronicity interchangeably, but they are not the same. As Mark Hyman, MD, explains, synchronicity is “a meaningful coincidence—an event on the outside that speaks to something on the inside—as opposed to just a random occurrence.” The term synchronicity, which was originally coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, therefore, is like coincidence squared or super-sized: it has a much deeper, often life-altering, even spiritual meaning, to the individual who experiences it. When we explore our own awareness at a deep level, we realize that everything in the world is connected, and synchronicity reveals that truth to us.

In fact, from the scientific realm comes this explanation by physicist Stephen J. Davis:

“In physics, we are taught that every single particle in the universe has a gravitational effect upon every other particle, no matter how far the particles are separated. This unified effect supports the theories that all events are related, in some way, to each other. Thus it can be said that synchronicity is merely a very personal and subjective observation of this inter-connected universe of which we are but a small part.” 

Thus, synchronicity is not separate from us or our world; it is related and a part of the whole.

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Coincidence and spirituality

The deep connectedness associated with coincidences and especially with synchronicity introduces the concept of spirituality. According to Bernard D. Beitman, MD, certain personality traits seem to more likely to experience coincidences. Among them are individuals who describe themselves as spiritual or religious and/or people who routinely seek meaning in their lives and who are more self-aware and in tune with their environment. 

Therefore, synchronicities are events that often have spiritual undertones and prompt us to become even more aware of our interconnectedness with people, places, and things. When that occurs, we tend to behave in ways that demonstrate and advance that connectedness. We might take actions that help us generate those feelings and express the spirituality we have tapped into, such as doing volunteer work, practicing meditation, or exploring our feelings through writing or art. 

How to make sense of coincidences and synchronicity

If you want to try to make sense of the unexplained events or conditions that occur in your life, write them down. Every time something occurs, whether it’s in a dream or it’s a feeling, coincidence, or inspiration, jot it down in a journal, on your computer, or on your phone. Basically, you force yourself to pay attention to the things in your life. As you accumulate your notes, you may begin to see clues to how things make sense. 

The secret is to allow yourself to think outside the box. Tap into your intuition. Let your mind go; perhaps you can meditate on what you have written down. 

When you begin to appreciate coincidences and synchronicity in your life, you will experience the magic they possess and the realm of infinite possibilities. This is a state of synchro destiny, according to Deepak Chopra, MD, who has written many books, including The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire. When you reach this state of being, “it becomes possible to achieve the spontaneous fulfillment of our every desire.” 

That’s because coincidences are not accidents, says Chopra, but indications from the universe that can help us find our way to our true destiny. The secret is to always pay attention and to ask questions of yourself. 

  • What is the universe telling me?
  • Am I following my life’s desire?
  • What spiritual lessons can I learn from these experiences?
  • How are these experiences affecting my work and relationships?

Bottom line 

Coincidences and synchronicity are all around us; we just need to pay attention. Dr. Carder Stout explains that Jung’s concept of synchronicity was that it involved “unseen energies of the universe, each complimenting the others in realms of psyche and matter.” Jung suggested that synchronistic events might be “manifestations of a specific desire deriving from the humanistic need to heal and grow.” Are you willing to pay attention to coincidences and synchronicity? Do you want to heal and grow?

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Beitman BD. Why do you experience lots of coincidences (or not)? Psychology Today 2018 Feb 26  
Berry B. The birthday problem. Medium 2017 May 30
Chopra D. Coincidences: Clues from the universe by Deepak Chopra. 
Diaconis P, Mosteller F. Methods for studying coincidences. Journal of the American Statistical Association 1989 Dec; 84(408)
Hyman M. Coincidence or synchronicity?
Spiegelhalter D. Coincidences what are the chances of them happening? BBC Radio 2012 Apr 25
Stout C. Serendipity and synchronicity. Goop
Synchronicity and the hidden meaning of coincidences. Intuition Journal 
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Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently, she lives in Tucson, Arizona.