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Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life

Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life

by Bernard Beitman


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We've all experienced or heard of surprising events and unexplainable coincidences—money that seems to come from nowhere, a spontaneous idea that turns into a life-changing solution, meeting our soulmate on a flight we weren't supposed to take, or families being reunited by "accident" after years of separation.

Often these coincidences are explained as being controlled by a higher power or pure chance. But for the first time since Carl Jung's work, comes bold new research that explains scientifically how we can identify, understand, and perhaps even control the frequency of coincidences in our everyday lives.

Bernard Beitman, a leading expert on Coincidence Studies, proposes a greater personal responsibility which depends partly upon newly discovered "grid cells" located in the brain, near the hippocampus. But neuroscience cannot complete the entire puzzle, and in this fascinating guide, Beitman provides the missing piece. From analyzing true stories of synchronicity from around the globe and throughout history, he shares key personality characteristics and situational factors that contribute to the occurrence of meaningful coincidences in our lives. Where other books on coincidences tend to be theoretical, inspirational, or story collections only, Beitman's book is the first to provide a scientific understanding and practical ways in which readers can use them in their own lives. He reveals:
  • How to activate your observing self so you don't miss synchronistic moments
  • How serendipity can offer insights into solving problems or making difficult decisions
  • Why stress activates meaningful coincidences
  • Which states of mind impede our ability to experience synchronicity
  • How to interpret the meaning of a coincidence
  • Why being attuned to coincidences is a learned skill—and how to hone your sensitivity.

  • Related collections and offers

    Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9780757318849
    Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
    Publication date: 03/07/2016
    Pages: 320
    Sales rank: 733,722
    Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

    About the Author

    Dr. Bernard Beitman is the first psychiatrist since Carl Jung to attempt to systematize the study of coincidences. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia and former Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He attended Yale Medical School and completed a psychiatric residency at Stanford. Dr. Beitman has received two national awards for his psychotherapy training program and is internationally known for his research into the relationship between chest pain and panic disorder. In addition, he has edited two issues of Psychiatric Annals that focus on coincidences. Dr. Beitman is the founder of Coincidence Studies. His work with coincidences was the subject of a feature story in Men's Health.

    Read an Excerpt


    At some point in our lives, all of us have experienced a fleeting moment when a weird coincidence made us smile and wonder. It could have been a song that came on the radio just as it went through your mind or a phone call from a long-lost friend the very day you thought of this person. Or, it could appear as it did for Saundra—in black and white letters. Saundra was enjoying Chinese food at her father's house and texted her sister to let her know that one of their favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz, was on television. Her sister texted back that she remembered watching the movie with their mother, who was now deceased. 'Mom would always fix popcorn . . .' she typed as she fondly remembered their treasured times together.

    While Saundra was reading her sister's text message, she grabbed a fortune cookie and opened it. Much to her delight, her fortune greeted her with the word popcorn.

    Something special had just happened to Saundra, and when she texted her sister to tell her, they both felt the presence and comfort of their mother.

    I've been deeply interested in coincidences like this most of my life—trying to make sense of them, to understand how best to use them, and how best to explain them to skeptics and believers alike.

    I had experienced coincidences many times before, but none was more startling than what happened at 11:00 PM on February 26, 1973, when I was thirty-one years old. Suddenly, I found myself bent over the kitchen sink in an old Victorian house on Hayes Street in the Fillmore District of San Francisco. I was choking on something caught in my throat. I couldn't cough it up. I hadn't eaten anything. I didn't know what was in my throat. I'd never choked for this long before. Finally, after fifteen minutes or so, I could swallow and breathe normally.

    The next day, my birthday, my brother called to tell me that our father had died in Wilmington, Delaware, at 2:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. He was three thousand miles and three time zones away; 2:00 AM in Wilmington was 11:00 PM in California. My father had bled into his throat and choked on his own blood at about the same time I was uncontrollably choking. He died on February 27, my birthday.

    Was this just a coincidence? No. The timing was too perfect. The experience was too visceral. I loved my father, but I had no idea that our connection could transcend time and space in this way. I began to wonder if other people had had similar experiences.

    A man riding a train back to his home in Zurich, Switzerland, was suddenly overtaken by a frightening vision of someone drowning. Upon arriving home, he discovered that his grandson had almost drowned in the lake by his house around the time of the terrifying vision.

    The man in this story was psychiatrist Carl Jung, who invented the word synchronicity for a wide spectrum of weird coincidences. He personally experienced many strange events, but his writings focused more on theoretical speculation. Known as the preeminent theoretician of coincidence, he developed the synchronicity theory using complex ideas from quantum physics and ancient philosophies, along with his own concepts of the collective unconscious and archetypes. He also clearly documented that meaningful coincidences have been recognized throughout human history in many different cultures. I've explored much the same forest as Jung but followed a different path.

    I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, the headquarters of the DuPont Company, where chemistry was king. During some school assemblies, we watched movies depicting the history of this onetime gunpowder company, which started on the banks of the Brandywine River that runs through Wilmington. I liked chemistry and majored in chemistry at Swarthmore College. If I'd continued on in this major, I would've been faced with a choice of becoming either a chemist or a chemical engineer. The chemist comes up with new ideas and molecules. The chemical engineer figures out how to use them. I chose the practical path, but not in that discipline. I became a psychiatrist, a profession in which chemicals are often used to help people.

    As one whose profession revolves around the life of the mind, I also began to notice the weird coincidences in my life, as well as those in the lives of my patients. My fascination with the subject eventually led me to conduct research on coincidence at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the results of which appeared in two issues of the journal Psychiatric Annals, for which I was the editor.1 Now the engineer in me is using the results of that research to put coincidence to practical use. I see myself as an engineer for Jung's theoretical ideas.

    As demonstrated by my research at the University of Missouri-Columbia, at least a third of the general population frequently notices weird coincidences. Friends, colleagues, patients, acquaintances, and strangers standing in line at a coffee shop—many people seem to be talking about, if not experiencing, coincidences these days. 'What a coincidence!' 'What are the chances of that happening?' 'Let me tell you about this coincidence.' In our modern technological culture, there are even smartphone apps to help you track your coincidences.

    But what do people mean by 'coincidence'?

    For some people, coincidences represent random chance at work. To these rationalists, the universe runs like a clock, and the laws of probability describe how the Grand Machine runs. They are 'just' or 'mere' or 'only' coincidences. Others believe that meaningful coincidences are the work of a personal God who is guiding and nurturing them. In between God and probability lies a broad spectrum of theories. The emerging field of coincidence studies, a field I'm helping to develop, proposes closer connections between mind and environment than are currently accepted in psychiatry and psychology.

    Our perceptions of coincidence emerge from swirls of information in our minds juxtaposed with swirls of events in our surroundings. Like two dials being spun by separate hands, the active mind and a pattern of events briefly coincide, causing the mind to note an odd correspondence. The match is often surprising because it seems improbable. But coincidence is more than the unlikely juxtaposition of similar events—the two events must also be meaningfully connected, and the meaning is personal and intricately linked to the person involved.

    Many books offer compilations of amazing coincidence stories, and there is no shortage of books advocating specific theories. This book is different. I've tried to pull apart the coincidence reports from many different sources to see how and why they could've happened the way they did. In the process of examining these stories, I've come to discover the essential features that make coincidences happen, including the personality characteristics and situational factors that serve to increase their frequency. These characteristics and factors have proven to be so consistent that I realized we actually do—and can—make our own coincidences.

    Part 1 shows how meaningful coincidences occur in all aspects of life: relationships, health, money, and spirit. It introduces several possible uses and explanations. Part 2 outlines concrete suggestions about how to use coincidences, particularly 'instrumental' coincidences. These coincidences provide practical assistance in daily life in two different ways. The first kind delivers just what is needed—a person, information, or money. The second kind provides a comment about a question or a decision. Part 2 also describes how to increase the frequency of coincidences. Part 3 introduces the psychosphere, our mental atmosphere. Just as we exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere, we exchange subtle forms of energy and information with the psychosphere. These subtle exchanges of energy-information may form the basis for many otherwise unexplainable coincidences, including my simultaneous choking while my father was dying.

    1 Psychiatric Annals, Vol. 39, Issue 5, May 2009, and Psychiatric Annals, Vol. 41, Issue 12, December 2011.

    ©2016 Bernard D. Beitman. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

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