In my essay “On the Nature of the Psyche” I considered synchronicity as a psychically conditioned relativity of space and time.
(…) In relation to the psyche, space and time are, so to speak, elastic, and can apparently be reduced to almost vanishing point, as though they were dependent on psychic condition and did not exist in themselves, but were only postulated by the conscious mind.
This is a quote by psychologist Carl Jung — arguably one of the most brilliant minds of the past century.
The term synchronicity itself was coined by Jung to describe “meaningful coincidences”.
That is, the connection of two or more events that cannot be explained by a cause-effect principle, nor by pure chance.
Say you have a vivid dream in which you meet a friend — an old friend you have not seen for years — in the city center of Paris.
Then, the following day, a miracle happens: not only do you meet that old friend, completely by chance, but they are also wearing a t-shirt with the Eiffel Tower on it.
This could easily be referred to as an example of synchronicity because:
- A causal relationship between the dream and the event of the following day cannot exist, and…
- The two events are still undoubtedly connected to each other, and it is hard to believe the encounter was a pure coincidence
Synchronicity: three categories
Essentially, when Jung talks about the concept of synchronicity he refers to a mental state (or “psychic state”) in which subject and object, present and future, and/or space become relative.
For example, precognition (e.g. meeting an old friend in Paris in a dream) can be seen as the psyche traveling through time or, more simply, eliminating the element of time altogether.
The coincidence of thinking about a rare type of insect and then, seconds later, witnessing that same insect fly toward you and land on your shoulder, can be seen as the psyche going beyond the duality of subject and object.
And so on. Obviously, in all the examples mentioned so far, and in this article in general, we assume that the subject cannot predict or anticipate the “miraculous” external events in any way.
Either way, Jung proposed that there can be three main types of synchronicity — that synchronicity can be grouped under three categories (the following is a quote by Jung himself):
- “The coincidence of a psychic state in the observer with a simultaneous, objective external event that corresponds to the psychic state or content”
- “The coincidence of a psychic state with a corresponding, more or less simultaneous event taking place outside the observer’s field of perception, i.e. at a distance, and only verifiable afterwards”
- “The coincidence of a psychic state with a corresponding, not yet existent future event that is distant in time and likewise can only be verified afterward”
Four examples of synchronicity
- Symbols. Such as seeing objects (pictures, animals, toys, drawings, colors) in the external world that very accurately reflect a simultaneous state of the inner world, e.g. butterflies and the state of personal growth and transformation, or the color red and anger
- Precognition. Such as precognitive dreams containing images/details that correspond to the truth and that are so accurate that cannot possibly be mere coincidences, or hunches that prove to be right consistently, as if the subject could literally “foresee” events
- Mirroring. Such as two emotionally connected or like-minded people performing the same activity simultaneously, far away from each other, unknowingly, e.g. sitting so that they face each other, or in the exact same position, despite being in two different rooms
- Repetition. Such as seeing certain numbers, images, or patterns over and over again within a short period of time, especially after the thought of such numbers or images or patterns, so that the explanation of chance is increasingly less likely
Psst! I have already written an article about five examples of synchronicity explained in detail, feel free to check it out here.
What is “negative” synchronicity, then?
The concept of synchronicity itself is complex and vague enough and, as with any other type of deeply fascinating, seemingly unexplainable psychological theories, is still regarded as nonsense by many.
This means that the concept of a “negative synchronicity” is even more vague and can be interpreted in many different ways.
Now, for the purpose of this post, we’re going to define negative synchronicity as the type of synchronicity that causes, or that is connected with, a negative state of mind or negative events.
Examples may include the constant repetition of negative events or messages, or dreams and hunches about “bad news” that turn out to be accurate.
Or, encounters or symbols that seem to pop up out of nowhere and that cause fear, anxiety, or other negative emotions.
Naturally, only some of these negative instances of synchronicity are actually negative. Some turn out to be blessings in disguise; some are negative only because of our own negative interpretation of them.
Now, here are four possible explanations as to why you may be experiencing these negative synchronicities (if you can think of other possible causes or explanations, please share your thoughts by leaving a reply at the end)…
Negative synchronicity: four possible explanations
1. Negative mindset
What you experience in the outer world tends to be a reflection of your inner world — your attitude, your thoughts, your feelings. We don’t need synchronicity to explain this — it happens all the time.
Most importantly, though, we can say that what you expect tends to happen. This is why some negative events in our life are called “self-fulfilling prophecies”; they are nothing but psychological processes.
With that in mind, the first possible explanation for negative synchronicity is your own inner world. A negative state of mind can only make you focus on the negative, and make it bigger.
This goes beyond psychology, but I find the concept fascinating and not at all unlikely. The idea is that all the main events in your life are predetermined — that is, they already exist, they have already been set.
To picture this in your mind, you can imagine time as a flow that is infinite yet static, still, and yourself as the subject that simply travels through it. You don’t create time — time is already there, it already exists. You simply witness it.
If this is true, then negative synchronicity (“bad luck”) could be nothing but predetermined obstacles that shape the path you are traveling on, thus pushing you toward negative or seemingly negative events that are already set. Totally scary or fascinating depending on how you look at it.
3. Like attracts like
Law of attraction, law of resonance, whatever you want to call it. Ever experienced phases of bad luck (e.g. a series of negative events, all of a sudden, one following the other, with unbelievable timing)?
It could be referred to as a case of negative synchronicity, and a possible explanation is that those negative events simply attract each other as magnets.
Though hard to believe statistically and/or rationally, it may be possible that some negative encounters or events do increase the chances of attracting similar events in the near future, thus making the future not absolutely random.
4. Facing your fears
Lastly, negative synchronicity could occur as a result of your own fears and the strong instinct or desire to either face them (“fight”) or run away from them (“flight”).
In either case, these fears exist in your mind; they influence your thoughts and feelings until you make the decision to either confront them or run away from them (both can be sensible solutions).
But as long as they exist in you, the outer world — some would say God, or the universe — will throw them at you, and you may interpret that as a negative synchronicity, though it may simply be challenges or prompts to take action.
Negative synchronicity: what to do
First of all, keep calm. Control your own mind rather than being controlled by it.
Then, observe your inner world as well as the outer world; pay attention to them, be aware of them. Notice how they are connected.
And never forget that, no matter how much we hate to be wrong, you may indeed be wrong when labeling experiences as instances of “negative synchronicity”.
Most importantly, make sure your interpretation of these coincidences is constructive.
Ask yourself why you experience negative synchronicity — is it a sign you need to take action, to forget the past, to embrace new challenges, to find your true self?
Is it one of those blessings in disguise, where nothing seems to work only because the best is yet to come, and it has nothing to do with your original plan?
Only you know. Tell a stranger about an actual synchronicity you have experienced, and they will almost certainly think you’re nuts. But you know it’s real.
Because really, synchronicity is all about the inner world. Because although there is a connection with the objective world, it is made through the psyche.
Your dreams, hunches, intuitions, and those weird unexplainable feelings…