At a recent milestone birthday, I asked my guests to bring me a written story about a meaningful coincidence as a gift. If they had such a story, they could put it in my synchronicity jar when they arrived. Apart from knowing I’d enjoy reading the stories, I thought this would offer a rare opportunity to get a more realistic indication of how many people experienced synchronicity, what type of coincidences stood out to them and perhaps, what kind of impact it might have had on them. I was also interested in what kinds of intriguing experiences my friends might have had that I had not previously heard, despite almost all of them knowing of my interest in synchronicity. In my experience, people are often careful to keep such stories to themselves, lest others think them a bit weird.
I thought of this as a rare and gratifying opportunity to do some informal real-world research. Of course it was much more fun personally because it involved my friends, and I looked forward to getting to know some of them that little bit more. I knew they would likely be more open in their revelations than they otherwise might have been. They would be inclined to indulge me — it was my birthday present after all!
I’m not suggesting that the results I describe below are representative of the general population, although I believe they would not deviate far from the norm. It could be said that I would tend to choose friends who are more interested in synchronicity. However, I doubt this was the case as there were relatively few friends over the years with whom I’d openly discussed my transpersonal beliefs at any length. Many of my friends are members of a broad social group with strong links to the medical profession, which hardly promotes an interest in mystical or spiritual themes.
Of the 100 guests who attended, 39 contributed a story for my synchronicity jar involving coincidences that were very striking to them. Given that several people described circumstances that they were also sharing on behalf of their partner, this suggests that just over 40% of my fellow partygoers could actively relate to the notion of synchronicity. There were also a few who attended who had previously told me of a synchronistic experience that they chose not to contribute to my jar for whatever reason, such as simply not having got around to writing a note.
That broadly seems to fit the common notion that around 40 to 50% of people experience paranormal phenomena, with synchronicity being a more common example.
There were several main overlapping themes in the stories. Most commonly, they related to a sense of connection with others (31) of which many could be described as a form of propinquity (18). Many also seemed to involve incidents that helped solve problems (17). Many people described incidents that were strongly affirming of a course of action they were taking at the time (13), often implying that their general sense of life direction had been bolstered (8).
Common examples included timely encounters with someone who was uncannily well equipped to help solve a problem (10), and/or who helped them get in touch with someone they wanted to see but was hard to find (6). Several others mentioned a remarkable incident that answered a specific question they had in mind (5).
Six people specifically mentioned examples of coincidences that helped them feel on a wavelength with their partner, such as by being about to say something to their spouse and having them say it first, or ringing their partner and getting an engaged signal because they had dialled first. Two people wrote of the uncanny circumstances in which they had met their partner, evoking the synchronistic matchmaker.
Five examples included number synchronicity, such as seeing 11:11 on a clock. Two examples included remarkable circumstances that saved a person’s life.
Five people directly referred to religious beliefs, describing circumstances in which they felt profoundly supported or guided by God. The Christian notion of a guardian angel seemed very relevant to these examples.
I thought all of the stories seemed relevant with around a third reflecting strong synchronicity, but this is of course a subjective judgment. The following examples will allow others to make their own judgment as to the degree of uncanniness.
N.B. This article is unfinished as I need to get permission from my friends to post their stories here.
I shall post the results of this “research project” here within the next two months. It is a supplement to the second edition of my book, “The Positive Psychology of Synchronicity: Enhance your mental health with the power of coincidence”, due out in August, 2019.