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Coincidentally, or not, there’s much more to it.



“What a coincidence.”

That’s one of those phrases – exclaimed or simply stated – that's more than familiar in

our daily language.


I recently read a fascinating piece in The Wall Street Journal by regular columnist

Elizabeth Bernstein that made me a lot more fluent in coincidence-speak.


“Surprising concurrent events help us make decisions, soothe grief, and tighten

connections,” Bernstein quotes psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Beitman, whose new

book on the topic is called “Meaningful Coincidences: How and Why Synchronicity

and Serendipity Happen.”


Beitman, Bernstein reports, has identified four types of meaningful coincidences:


Serendipity – a happy accident, like finding a valued missing item while

looking for something else

Synchronicity – long before The Police made a hit here, this traces to

psychiatrist Carl Jung and to events that seem meaningfully related but

having no apparent causal connection

 Seriality – what happens when you or I see the same number symbol

repeatedly

 “Simulpathity” – a Beitman term used to describe the experience of feeling

a loved one’s pain or distress from a distance


I admit, I have never pondered how or why coincidences may come about – or

possibly have altered my life. That probably speaks to a serious lack of curiosity.

As a journalist, I should want to get to the bottom of coincidences – by any “s”

name.


My problem is, I don’t typically recognize coincidences. Turns out, that can be

fixed. Thus coaches clinical psychologist Lisa Miller of the Spirituality Mind Body

Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University: Be open to them. Write them

down. Talk about them with others.


Coincidences “can make the world feel like it makes good sense,” posits David B.

Yaden of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Center for Psychedelic &

Consciousness Research. Coincidence or not, something good certainly should

come from a Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research.


Maybe we need more coincidences. In my mind, there are many days the world has never

made less sense. Yaden’s research and writing finds a correlation between

coincidences and an increase in positive emotions, better personal relationships,

and a greater sense of meaning in life.


So I’m more convinced now about the power of coincidences. I’m gonna be

looking harder for that “unexpected concurrence of events,” starting with those

numbers on my Powerball ticket – they might just be the coincidence I’ve been

waiting for.


But it’s reassuring that psychologists caution we don’t have to find meaning in

everything. Columnist Bernstein put it this way: Sometimes a cigar is really just a

cigar.


I’ll smoke to that.

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