Carl Jung on Parenting: There Are No Coincidences
Carl Jung had a theory. Didn’t he always? As more of a mystic than a scientist, he lassoed the universe and pulled it gently into the confines of our minds.
Except he didn’t believe they were confines as such. They were cracked windows, leaky faucets, doors ajar to let the ideas flow in and out of reality. He, like Freud and many others, believed in the malleability of the mind. Mind over matter in most cases. He would have loved “Inception” and “Professor X”.
Jung coined the theory of synchronicity
. You know the term even if you’ve never actually thought much about it. Synchronicity is all about coincidence, about things happening at similar times or in a particular pattern so that the things take on meaning. Nothing is happenstance in Jung’s world. Everything and everyone is connected.
We (people, that hubcap, the universe) are all snuggling under the same blanket, except we’re the blanket, too. We can tug on threads and wrap ourselves closer to particular people and things with our minds. Does your brain hurt yet? Mine did, too, until I renamed his theory. “Synchronicity” became “serendipity” and began to make sense.
Here’s an example: I love a guy who drives a Jeep Cherokee. I always have. Something about them screams down-to-earth but fun – like the owner probably owns and appreciates both a laptop and Chacos.
A dozen or so years ago, I met a man through a mutual friend. We hit it off. We talked Wilco and grad school and all things Steve Carell. We met for coffee. And when we slowly walked to our cars, still buzzing with connectivity, I saw it: his 1995 blue Jeep Cherokee.
Almost 10 years of marriage and three kids later, I still think about that moment. Was it just a coincidence that the future father of my children drove this car? Or was my mind sending strong radio frequencies, shouting, “Jeep! Jeep! Jeep!” into the ether and causing him to notice the “for sale” ad in the paper? Did he pick this car for just this reason?
Jung would say yes. He would say it was synchronicity. I would call it serendipity. Either way, it was a win.
There’s a counter argument. If I’m looking for Jeep Cherokees, then, of course, I’m going to notice each and every one and feel drawn to the type of person who buys them. If I’m trying to get pregnant, suddenly there are pregnant women aplenty, in the office, at the coffee shop, waddling out of the grocery store.
“Confirmation bias” is the counterargument for synchronicity. We tend to notice anything that validates our beliefs and ignore the rest. If my future husband had driven a mom van, I wouldn’t have taken it as a sign against marrying him (I don’t think). But the fact that he chose a Jeep confirmed my already strong bias towards him.
As a mother, I wonder what it might look like to live at least with the theory of serendipitous synchronicity in mind. I mean, for kids, isn’t this already the M.O.? They learn a new letter of the alphabet, and suddenly it’s everywhere. They dream about unicorns because they saw one on television, or they saw one on television because they dreamed it and made it happen.
Whatever way you want to write it, kids already feel connected to the world – maybe more than we do. They have a powerful belief in their own superpowers to make things happen in their favor.
This is why, without fail, they continue to fight the good fight against bedtime. It’s why, when they spot that penny in the parking lot, they truly believe it was put there for them. There’s an order and a magic they can decipher because logic hasn’t yet solidified in their world. To them, the weirdness makes sense. Anything is possible.
What if grownups lived this way a little more? What if you chose to believe that your coffee cup, which reads “more power to you”, actually means more power to you? Suddenly, the world feels populated with meaning. What if the fact that you were bullied in school caused you to spot it on the soccer field and put a stop to it? Now you’ve tied a string to a memory and traced it to the present to create good.
What if you could reach back and give your history meaning like that and reach forward and do the same with the present? To live like the world is one big scavenger hunt? Whether or not Jung’s theory of synchronicity is true, whether the world is intimately connected with you or not, to live like it is could create a sense of optimistic purpose. It would make you curious, like your kids, and hopeful.
And one thing rings true beyond the theoretical: hope cultivates hope.