psychology

Can We Learn to Control Coincidence?

In Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life (HCI Books—March 2016–$15.95), Dr. Bernard Beitman acknowledges that some coincidences will be best explained by randomness, personal responsibility, and Divine Mystery, but most times by a combination of the three. 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. 

Connecting with Coincidence is filled with the interesting anecdotes of Dr. Bernard’s clients and associates. Simulpathity, or the act of feeling someone else’s stress while at a distance, governs the cause of most of these coincidental incidents. Family members, friends, and associates are not exclusive in experiencing simulpathity, strangers like one of Dr. Bernard’s research participants bears witness to this. The anonymous participant was going through a marital separation due to the abuse in her relationship. While on the way to meet up with her estranged husband, the participant found herself on the other end of a misdialed call with a woman who was in an abusive relationship as well, and terrified out of her mind. Because of this coincidental call, the woman left her husband indefinitely. Meaningful coincidences like that one happen all the time. But when we learn to recognize and understand them—and perhaps even help manifest them—they can improve our lives dramatically. 

As a leading expert in Coincidence Studies, Dr.Beitman proposes a greater personal responsibility which depends partly upon newly discovered “grid cells” located in the brain, near the hippocampus. Helen Marlo, Ph.D., Chair of Clinical Psychology Department, and editor of Jung Journal states that, “Dr. Beitman’s compelling, uncanny, and illuminating stories of coincidence penetrate mind and heart. This ground-breaking and powerful book challenges us to examine coincidences, and their relevance for meaningful human experience, with greater consciousness, and a heightened appreciation for their transformative potential.” Where other books on coincidences tend to be theoretical, inspirational, or story collections only, Dr.Beitman’s book is the first to provide a scientific understanding and practical way in which readers can use them in their own lives. 

Highlights from the book include:

Practical ways to use meaningful coincidences: 

~    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. 

Advice from the book: 

~    Know your capabilities and limitations 
~    Keep collecting information that appeals to you 
~    Hone your intuition by following some of your inner urgings to see what happens 
~    Positive expectations and curiosity yielded the best results for receiving unexpected money 
~    Remember to ask silently or out loud. 

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. Visit his blog at: www.coincider.com. 

Available wherever books are sold or to order directly from the publisher, contact: www.hcibooks.com or (800) 441-5569

Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life
Bernard D. Beitman, MD 
ISBN: 9780757318849 
$15.95 – March 7, 2016

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Tips for disease patients coping with depression

Sometimes, not knowing the truth about something of immediate importance can create some of the most intense stress, says former chronic pain sufferer Janet Komanchuk.

“The families of victims who’ve been missing for years or decades – identifying the body of their loved one, for example, can bring closure. For me, being diagnosed with fibromyalgia was also a relief – it meant that I had a name for my chronic pain,” says Komanchuk, whose pain was so intense over a period of several years that she had to retire as a schoolteacher.

“My diagnosis meant I wasn’t crazy, that the pain wasn’t ‘all in my head,’ as some had suggested. It meant that my flu-like symptoms, accompanied by intense waves of pain, finally had form and dimension. I understood I was just one of many suffering with chronic pain that at last had a name.”

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a complex, chronic condition of widespread muscular pain and fatigue. It often includes sleep disturbances, impaired memory and concentration, depression and other debilitating symptoms. The syndrome is one of the most common chronic pain disorders, affecting nearly one in every 60 Americans.

“When medical leave, morphine patches, codeine and myriad pharmaceuticals brought no relief, I tried a different approach in combination with medical treatment,” says Komanchuk, (www.jkomanchuk.com), who has since enjoyed more than 13 years of pain-free and prescription-free living after finding an alternative healing therapy that works for her. She now works as an educational writer and public relations assistant with Joy of Healing, the alternative healing modality that she says brought about her remission.

“Through the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with the psychological trauma of illness.”

Komanchuk shares tips to keep in mind for those suffering from an indeterminate condition.

• Trust in yourself. “At times, the pain was so intense that I was certain my flesh was tearing away from my bones,” says Komanchuk, who was just like the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, which costs nearly $600 billion annually in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to the Institute of Medicine. Despite her unmistakable pain, the critical doubt from others as to what she was experiencing was disheartening, at times causing her to doubt herself.

“Trust in yourself, for you know what you’re feeling,” she says. “Don’t fall victim to the judgment and criticism of others who doubt your illness and the limitations it places on you or your activities.”

• Don’t quit! Despite the immense scope of chronic pain, very little is spent on research to find better ways to manage pain. Komanchuk was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of her life in a nursing home.

“Yes, the pain was excruciating, debilitating and fatiguing, yet I still felt as though my life had the potential for vitality,” she says. “The idea of going to a nursing home – reasonable for some – felt like a kind of death to me.”

Convinced that there was hope for her in overcoming fibromyalgia, she persisted in her search for wellness answers.

• Seriously consider alternatives. She was able to achieve what she thought was impossible – not just temporary relief, but permanent, lasting mind-body-spirit wellness. She had been to orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychologists, underwent MRIs and took all manner of medications for her unbearable pain. In a narrow sense, it would seem as though she exhausted her options – until she looked beyond traditional Western medicine. Alternative treatment guided her to recognize the layers of stress throughout her life that she believes were a primary driver of her chronic pain.

“Every day, I am filled with gratitude for the fact that I am free of the torment from fibromyalgia that had plagued me throughout my life,” she says. “I just wish I could give others a piece of the relief that I’ve found. All I can say is keep your eyes open, keep the hope alive and don’t give up!”

About Janet Komanchuk

Janet Komanchuk, www.jkomanchuk.com, is a retired schoolteacher who has experienced the miraculous remission of chronic, debilitating fibromyalgia, which was the result of many overlapping stressors and unresolved issues throughout her life. While weathering extreme fatigue and pain, she’d tried everything from traditional Western medicine to alcohol consumption and various holistic treatments. It wasn’t until she experienced the healing work of medium and healer Andrew Overlee, and his wife, Tamara, a dedicated spiritual counselor and author, that she was able to regain her life. She is now pain-free without any use of prescription medication. She is an educational writer and public relations assistant with Joy of Healing, Inc., in Valrico, Fla.

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Interview With Dr. Bruce M. Hood, Supernatural Scientist

with Diane Saarinen

Dr. Bruce M. Hood, author of Supersense: Why We Believe In the Unbelievable (HarperOne, $25.99), recently chatted with us at New Age Journal to discuss superstition, sacred values and why society needs to believe in the supernatural. Despite being a skeptic, Dr. Hood also admitted he’s open to having psychic readings and apparently has experienced synchronicity. Read on…

New Age Journal: You have said you are a skeptic. Have you always been a skeptic or did you have experiences that shaped this?

Dr. Bruce M. Hood: No, I’ve not always been a skeptic. In fact, one of the reasons I got into all this was because I was interested in the possibility of the paranormal. I remember growing up and watching people like Uri Geller on television. I was convinced that this must be real. Absolutely fascinated with the possibility of these abilities. Unfortunately, when I got to University and took science degrees, I discovered that actually the evidence for these abilities is very weak or very limited.

But having done that, I got interested in the mind and consciousness and got interested in psychology. So, yes – I’ve not always been a skeptic. I’d love this to be real! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these people who wants to just kind of dismiss it all. I’d like to believe it’s possible. But, unfortunately, there’s not that much evidence to support it. So! I have to put my scientific hat on and remain skeptical for the moment.

NAJ: Okay, the next question comes from a Twitterer. (Note: Dr. Hood is active on the social networking site Twitter.com as @supersense.) She wants to know: Have you ever had a psychic or tarot reading that was spot on?

BMH: No, I haven’t. You know, I should do those – shouldn’t I? I mean, I should go and at least have a go. I mean, there’s all this written about cold reading. I’ve heard all these alternative explanations as to why some people are so good at doing readings. My problem would probably be that I’d go in with such a skeptical view that it would probably be difficult. But I’m open to it!

NAJ: It’s said that 75 percent of all Americans believe in some form of telepathy, déjà vu, ghosts or past lives. So are we irrational and loosely anchored to reality for thinking these things?

BMH: Well, I think that the mechanism that lead us to interpret the world, the way that I call a “mind design” makes you see patterns. And it allows you to detect the coincidences and the occurrences in the world. But in doing so, it sometimes leads to misconceptions. So you think things are significant when they really are not. When you get to the end of the book, you’ll discover that I’ve actually made a very strong case that we need to have the belief in belief – the possibility that there is this hidden dimension to reality because for a society, and for people in a group, to kind of have a sense of communal cohesion, we have to buy into this idea that there are some things that transcend the mundane and are profound. These are the things that have to be supernatural.

Because, otherwise, if they’re not – then anyone can kind of dismiss them as irrational or can own, can buy, can trade them. There are some things in the world that are sacred values that everyone in the group agrees are just something special and that’s how the group coheres. And anyone who doesn’t buy into that is not a group member. So, “if you don’t believe in my religion or you don’t believe in my rituals, then you’re not part of my group.” So we need them to form our social groups.

NAJ: That lines up interestingly with the next question which is: What about the Jungian concept of synchronicity? Do you believe in meaningful coincidences?

BMH: Well, probably not. And I’m not that familiar with Jungian – I mean, I’ve heard of Jungian synchronicity. And certainly, we all experience it all the time. Just at this meeting – I’ve been running into people, and it’s almost… You talk about someone and then you turn around and they are standing right next to you! It’s as if everything seems to be falling into an incredible pattern where things just seem beyond coincidence.

And that’s the amazing thing! That we interpret these things as being really poignant. But, of course, we forget a lot of the things which are not patterns. Just to get back to the previous question – I also think that we do need people who have this capacity to see structure and patterns in the world. Because I think it relates to creativity. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the creative types are those more inclined towards belief in the supernatural. Whereas the rational, kind of plodding thinkers, they are the scientists but they are kind of methodical and they don’t make the leaps of logic that you need to get progress.

So for humans to kind of get clever and smart, we need to combine the two ways of thinking – the creative, seeing the possibility of structures but combining that with methodological approach to kind of improving them. So I think that we need both types in our society.

NAJ: There was a point in your book where you said, regarding belief in ghosts: “If you believe the ancestors are watching us, you’re more likely to conform to society’s rules and regulations.” Could you elaborate on that?

BMH: Well, this is based on experimental work. So if you get people into a room and you get them to take a part in an experiment. If you tell them that someone had died in the room previously and there was a rumor that it was haunted, people are less likely to cheat on computer tests. So this is an idea that a colleague of mine has been developing, this notions in the ancestors watching and looking down upon you, can give you that sense of guilt.

And certainly just something simple – I think maybe later on in the book there’s a bit that I show that if you place a pair of eyes on the wall, you know – just pin up a picture of some eyes, next to the – I don’t know if you have it in this country, but when we buy coffee in the communal office we have to put a contribution into the box to pay for the coffee. Well, they showed that if you just simply post eyes on the wall, people pay three times the amount of your contribution for their coffee than when there’s no eyes. So in other words, the thought that you are being watched is a very powerful motivator to conform and so it’s not that much difficult to say that the notion of ancestors watching out for you can make you much more amenable.

NAJ: You did say that for something to be experienced as sacred, it has to become supernatural. It has to be more than mundane. So can you just talk a little bit more on that?

BMH: In various parts of the book, I talked about this idea of being essences or a hidden dimension to reality – something in addition to the physical. And I think that the point about that is if something is just simply materialistic, then the way that we conceive of things could be material is that they are replaceable. So in a ring – if you just replace every molecule of the ring so it effectively becomes a different ring, then you don’t really care. It’s just another ring.

But if that ring is a sacred ring – it’s your wedding ring or a ring of a saint, then you can’t just simply replace the material components of the ring. There’s something in addition to it which makes it profound so that would require something supernatural.

Dr. Bruce M. Hood is currently chair of developmental psychology and director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol. He was previously a professor in the department of psychology, Harvard University and a visiting scientist at MIT. To learn more about Dr. Hood and Supersense, visit his blog at http://brucemhood.wordpress.com/

Diane Saarinen is a writer and tarot reader who believes she is a Finnish-American force of nature. Visit her Web site at http://thrivingandscribing.com.

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