Are the coincidences in life just randomly occurring phenomena, or could there be an order or rule behind them?
The father of studies on coincidental events, Dr. Bernard Beitman, once shared that it is the ‘weird’ coincidences he encountered in his life that ignited the curiosity of a scientist in him.
Dr. Beitman’s sudden choking
One day, Dr. Bernard Beitman suddenly found himself choking on something caught in his throat without apparent cause. A few hours later, he was informed that his father, who was more than 3,000 kilometers away, was also choking on his deathbed at about the same time.
How could this be explained?
“Our thoughts and feelings have much more influence on each other than we think,” he said. Through his study of coincidences, he has reached an unexpected conclusion, “we’re all in this thing together.”
The story of Snapper the puppy
Another personal coincidence that greatly inspired Dr. Beitman happened when he was a young man. His puppy, Snapper, went missing for several hours. He went to the police station to ask if anyone had seen his dog, unfortunately, this was unsuccessful, so young Beitman burst into tears. The tearful young man was so distraught that he set off driving the wrong way home. Surprisingly, after riding for a little while, he saw Snapper running towards him as if the dog had been waiting for his master there the whole time. “I’m almost sure he said to me, ‘Where have you been?’” Dr. Beitman shared with a laugh. “Snapper seemed ‘long past expecting me’.”
“When you get lost, coincidences are more likely to happen,” Beitman proposed. He even speculated that there is a kind of built-in tool in living organisms, similar to the GPS navigation system, that can help us find what we need unconsciously.
A man on the frontier of coincidence studies
Greatly inspired by such personal experiences, he has been developing an interdisciplinary study of coincidences.
Some think that coincidences can be explained through probability, while others believe that they are explainable only through a religious standpoint, but Dr. Beitman has an entirely different perspective on the origin of coincidences: he prefers studying them as a science with a subjective element.
“I think one of the most important things I’ve learned from this is how people’s pre-formed concepts dictate their responses,” he said.
The first important question to answer: What are coincidences?
Based on the concept of synchronicity outlined by psychologist Carl Jung and after refining a few terms commonly related to coincidences, Dr. Bernard Beitman introduced a number of new definitions and divided coincidences into the following categories:
- Synchronicity – Psychological/interpersonal coincidences
Synchronicity literally means “moving together in time.” In some writings, Bernard Beitman described this kind of phenomenon as “the surprise that occurs when a thought in the mind is mirrored by an external event to which it has no apparent causal connection.” For example, you suddenly think of your fourth-grade teacher, whom you haven’t seen in 20 years, then later that day, you come across them in the supermarket.
- Serendipity – Action coincidences
Basically, serendipity means finding what you need exactly when you need it. In other words, “the right thing turns up at just the right moment.” In many everyday situations, serendipity can be helpful, for example, a job promotion may result from being in the right place at the right time. In such cases, the pattern commonly seen is that a specific desire (I need a job in advertising) meets with a specific event (at the gym I bumped into the head of a local ad agency who needs someone with my skills).
- Seriality – A series of similar events
Dr. Beitman explains that “The phenomenon of seriality differs from serendipity and synchronicity because that it is a series of events in the objective world that the mind takes note of and remembers. Unlike synchronicity, there is no special subjective element. The series could theoretically be verified by anyone.”
Few have experienced strings of similar events, for example, on a bus, you are reading a novel with a character named ‘John’ and later you see the man next to you, whose name is also John on his name tag. Later that day, this man by chance is sent to your house to fix your kitchen by his company.
- Simulpathity – Feeling the pain of others at a distance
Simulpathity is a new term coined by Dr. Beitman. He explained it as “a specific subclass of synchronicity: the simultaneous experience by one person of another person’s distress. The experience occurs generally without conscious awareness and usually at a distance.”
The largest number of reports concern those who share a strong emotional bond such as twins, parents and their children. It essentially differs from empathy because in this case, one person is unaware consciously that the other is experiencing the same distress at the same time.
The story of Dr. Beitman and his father both choking above is a very good example of a case of simulpathity.
- Instrumental or useful coincidences
There are two types of instrumental coincidences: one refers to coincidences that incite a psychological change, the other relates to serendipity (when a person could unconsciously find what he or she needs like the miraculous finding of a lost dog)
The first type may bring about a positive psychological change. In this case, Bernard Beitman cited the example of a woman who was about to reunite with her abusive husband.
He used to be brutal and accustomed to committing domestic violence.
Before leaving to pick him up at the airport one day, she received a wrong number phone call. On the other end of the line was a young woman who had dialed her number by mistake but began telling her about her abusive boyfriend regardlessly. The woman later told Dr. Bernard Beitman, “The fear in the stranger’s voice made me understand that staying with my husband was a mistake. When I met him at the airport, I told him my thinking had changed and he could not live with me anymore.”
In understanding Coincidence we find meaning
Understanding the nature of strange coincidental events can bring meaningful benefits to personal growth. Coincidences may help you find your soulmate, a job opportunity, a lost puppy, or help you to make the right decision.
Studies of coincidence take into account the factors of probability, psychology, and belief, but it is difficult to determine the reason for coincidence. However, Dr. Beitman found that actively searching for intuition can increase the probability of encountering coincidence. To help readers have a better understanding of coincidences, he humorously cited a Spanish proverb, “The dog that trots about finds the bone.”