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The Same Birth Date

Thursday, June 19, 1986

On June 19, 2015, I met with a new friend for coffee to discuss my upcoming talk on coincidences. He knew the audience well and could help guide me to better communicate with them.  He was also interested in knowing more about Coincidence Studies.

He started the conversation with “today is my son’s 29th birthday” and then described his continuing amazement at how quickly time passes. Startled, I waited until he finished to tell him that today was the 29th birthday of one of my sons.  Our sons were born on the same day!

Earlier that day, I had finally completed a four month negotiation to settle an ugly dispute with a business associate.  It was a great relief to have agreed on a final dollar number.

On my son’s birthday, I received two presents—an improbable birthday coincidence and finalizing an agreement to receive a substantial amount of money.

How did it happen that I received two such great presents on my son’s birthday?

Analysis

Base rates

Sons having same birth date. Millions of people were born on June 19, 1986. What are the odds of two people 5 years apart in age having a child with the same birth date?  Not birthday but birth date.  Not particularly unlikely given their closeness in age.

Meeting on their birthday. It was a convenient Friday for my friend and me to meet. We did not see each other regularly. This was only the second time we had met outside of social gatherings. Did I pick the day in part because it was my son’s birthday? The likelihood of our meeting on their birthday was about 1/365.

Discussing the birthday. What are the odds that one of us would bring up the birthday of his son? Pretty high because it was close to the surface for each of us.

So the key question is what are the odds of two people within 5 years of age having children with the same birth date meeting on their children’s birthday and discussing it?  Not so astronomical actually. Still pretty amazing.

Discussing Coincidences. I write and email about coincidences but rarely meet with the primary purpose of talking about them. Lately, I have avoided discussing the idea unless someone else does. So to meet to discuss coincidences was unlikely.

Reaching a settlement on my son’s birthday. The business problem had been going on for four months. Lots of verbal pushing and threatening. Earlier in the week I threatened my adversary for a third time. After avoiding any negotiation, he finally agreed to discuss a settlement figure with me. From past experience, I knew that Friday was the day he liked to have these discussions. The Friday of that week was June 19.  So I picked the week to do the third threat that had the Friday that was my son’s birthday. Yet I was not at all confident that he would be willing to negotiate with me.

My son was very much involved with my initiating the settlement conflict. He was my advisor at the beginning of the dispute. I had wanted him to do the deal for me because he is a better negotiator. 

Probability summary

There is a moderately low probability for each of us to have sons with the same birth date. Meeting on their birthday, decreases the coincidence probability. That we were together to discuss coincidences decreases the probability even more.

There was no guarantee that my adversary would negotiate that week. But if he were going to, then it would most likely be on the Friday of that week, June 19.  This element lowers the total coincidence probability even further.

Explanation:

Personal contributions
I had something to do with creating both coincidences. I picked June 19 to meet with my friend and selected the June 19th week to hopefully finalize the negotiation.

Transition
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss my first formal coincidence lecture.  Coincidences seem to be increase during transitions. 

Mystery
In addition to probability and my own decision making, I feel that something else I don’t know about, a mystery, made some contribution.  The probabilities seem too low to just attribute to chance and to me.

Effect
The coincidence increased my feeling of connection with my son. He had been so helpful with the difficult negotiation.  It also raised a question about my new friend because he had been involved with another meaningful coincidence of mine. Is he a coincidence magnet for me?

Jung’s Scarab as a Psychotherapeutic Technique

How Jung helped to create the world’s most famous synchronicity…

Psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung brought us the term “synchronicity,” which literally means “falling together in time.” Synchronicity describes the surprise that occurs when a thought in the mind is mirrored by an external event to which it has no apparent causal connection.

It is a type of meaningful coincidence, and Jung’s musings on it are an important historical step on the way to developing a science of coincidences.

View the full article Dr. Beitman’s Psychology Today blog »

Electrical Breakdown

Jack had been burning the candle on both ends—work, school, family, financial decisions. His mind was not the agile, clever, high speed machine he had come to rely on to process the several threads of information streaming through his life. His thoughts seemed to be plodding through muck and molasses.

A few simple ordinary life challenges faced him on a winter’s morning. They seemed insurmountable. He needed some kind of help.

He went to gym to get rolling into the day. 

After the workout, he started his car. He heard the ominous clicking that signals a dead battery. After 45 minutes, a tow truck arrived and successfully got the battery started. The technician thought that Jack must have left the lights on. Jack was pretty certain he had not left the lights on but who knows. Like Jack’s brain, there was no energy in the battery and both needed a jump start.

He went to his office and did a lot of paper shredding. The shredder suddenly died.  He must have overdone it. Just as he had overdone information processing.

He took the hints. “Time to relax your mind—meditate, get away from the computer screen, stop stressing your brain with information overload.”

The next day Jack took the car to his local mechanic to fully check-out the battery. “No problem” said the mechanic. “Seems like a young battery and powerful enough for a large truck.” 

Jack then purchased a new shredder.  He took the new shredder, still in its box, to the mail room where the dead shredder stood. He impulsively plugged the old one into the wall socket and, to his great surprise, the shredder lights came on. 

The dead battery recovered.  The shredder recovered. So could Jack. Exhilarated, he continued his mind-resting and within a few days regained normal brain activity.

Base rate analysis

  • Jack’s exhausted brain.  This was not the first time. Probably happened at least twice a year
  • Dead battery.  Once in 3 years.
  • Dead Paper Shredder. First time with this shredder which was about 2 years old.
  • All three at the same time—on the same day? Very low probability.

Interpretation

  • You can recover too, Jack. Take care of yourself.

Explanation

Three electrical devices very important to Jack—his brain, car battery and shredder—each stopped working around the same time. This confluence of events reflects the close relationship between human brain and electrical machine.  Three possible explanations:

  1. Jack had absent mindedly left the lights on. But when he started the car again, the headlights did not come on. He had not turned them off when he discovered the dead battery.  He overdid the paper shredding. Maybe all the machine needed was a rest to cool down although, after he had stopped on the day the shredder died, he waited a few hours to see if the machine would start up again. It did not.
  2. Jack’s brain slow-down directly influenced the functioning of the two machines—this would be a parapsychology cause involving psychokinesis (mental effects on physical objects).
  3. Jung would explain it as an acausal connecting principle—synchronicity.  In this use of the term synchronicity, he meant a cause outside the realm of current scientific principles. That could have been psychokinesis or, as Jung also believed, activation of archetypes in the collective unconscious.

Obama‘s Clock

At 10:10 AM on June 25, 2010 in the Oval Office President Obama heard the news that the Supreme Court had supported the continuation of the Affordable Care Act. He and his staff celebrated. At 10:30 AM photographs by the official staff photographer showed that the clock in the office had stopped at 10:10 AM.

An old song, “My Grandfather’s Clock” suggests that some of us may be closely connected to inanimate objects.

Written in 1876 told the story of one person’s connection to a physical object:

“My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp’d short — never to go again —
When the old man died.”

The song was based upon a clock and two brothers who owned the George Hotel in Piercebridge, England. The old up right clock in the lobby always kept perfect time until one of the brothers died. Gradually, the clock slowed, falling increasingly behind. Clockmakers could not reverse the slowing. Shortly after the second brother died, the clock stopped, never to go again. A song writer came to the Hotel around 1875, heard the story and personalized it for the song.

The living spirit of the brothers seemed to keep the clock going. When the second one died, that sustaining spirit abandoned the clock.

A friend told a similar story:  “A relative of mine had a   gold pocket watch for much of his life. In the 1940s he committed suicide. The day he died the watch stopped. It could not be fixed. The family still has the watch.” 

In 2014, the BBC reported another story.  For many decades, Dr. John Farmer had lovingly looked after the clock of the St. James’ Church in Yorkshire, England. At the moment he died at age 92, the church clock stopped working. Once or twice per week, he had climbed through semi-darkness to wind the clock. Three years before his death, the church had mechanized the clock. 

Clocks seem to be responsive to certain kinds of intense energy changes. 

Base rate analysis

What are the base rates for the Oval Office clock stopping at any time? Not known. But obviously it can happen. How often does President Obama celebrate a victory this enthusiastically? Since the Affordable Care Act may be his most cherished accomplishment, and he had reason to think that it could be gutted, this could have been his most enthusiastic celebration.

The Timely Editor

It was early May, 2015.  The July 1 deadline for getting my book to the publisher was approaching fast. Connecting with Coincidence needed other minds to evaluate it. 

On May 9, I received an invitation from a coincidence colleague to join her on LinkedIn. She knew coincidence studies very well. And now she was now marketing herself as a writing and editing consultant!  We had not communicated in more than four months. Just what I needed showed up right when I needed it.

I tossed the idea around for a while and decided not to engage her. There were enough people ready to help.

Just because a needed something shows up at the right time, we need not feel compelled to take the coincidence up on its offer.

The Psychosphere

Angie emailed me on May 8, 2015:
“I am struck by the uptick in media-related coincidences as suggested by your Weird Coincidence Survey results. (See Blog Post Weird Coincidence Survey Results.)  I wonder if the increasing prevalence of electronic communication has some unique quality as it relates to our connectedness.  Is there a sub-current of communication that works via electronic waves, for example?  It is true that for me, most coincidences I notice are directly related to media.  My precognitive dreams seem to tie in most frequently with topics that appear on TV, radio, or social media (but also my private music collection and even in books) within minutes, hours or a day.  Do mass communications act, somehow, as multipliers of the energy field on which these impulses travel and connect…and where is God…or our concept of God…in all of that?”

Dr. B: The increasing connectivity among our minds through the multiplying media, is further establishing an infrastructure for communication through what I call the psychosphere, our mental atmosphere. Some coincidences may be evidence that we are increasingly connecting to others and with the media through psychosphere.

Mom, the Wizard of Oz and Popcorn

Saundra wrote:

I texted my sister to tell her that the Wizard of Oz was on television.  She responded to me by saying she remembered that when we were younger, my mother would fix popcorn and sit with us to watch the movie.  I told her that I remembered that as well.

My sister was at my dad’s house and had ordered Chinese food for dinner.

While we were having the conversation via text, she opened her fortune cookie and that is when she discovered the word “popcorn”.  She then posted it on Facebook and made the comment about our experience and said “we miss you” referring to my mother.

Analysis

The random fortune cookie message crossed Saundra’s sister’s mind while Saundra was watching the Wizard of Oz. Saundra and her sister were surprised and grateful. Something special had just happened.

How do we begin to understand this coincidence? Let’s start with base rate.

Base rate refers to the frequency of a certain event. Base rate questions for this coincidence include:

How often did Saundra’s sister open fortune cookies? How many fortune cookie messages have “popcorn” on them?  How often did Saundra and her sister watch other movies and eat popcorn with their mother? How often do Saundra and her sister text each other? (Without texting, the coincidence would not have been recognized because Saundra texted her sister about the Wizard of Oz being on.)

The more often each of these events took place, the more probable the coincidence.

But base rates only set up the likelihood of coincidences. They do not fully explain them.

The two meanings of this coincidence (effect and explanation):

The effect on Saundra and her sister was a feeling of connection with their mother.

Their explanation seemed to be that their mother had something to do with creating the coincidence.

How you explain this coincidence may depend on your favorite theory.  The explanation would have to include why the two sisters were texting at that time.

Can a coincidence happen and nobody notices?

This story shows us that a coincidence can happen without anyone noticing. Saundra was watching the Wizard of Oz and her sister was staring at the popcorn message. If they had not been texting, neither would have noticed the coincidence. Their texting put the key elements of the coincidence together: Mom, the Wizard of Oz and Popcorn

A Letter to Dr. B

On March 25, 2015 Angie of HAPPY Reading wrote:

Hi Dr. B

I was just thinking of you on Monday when I went to visit a possible site for a camp I’m holding this summer.  On the way there, I saw a church marquee with the same last name as the person I was en route to meet (not a too typical last name).  After we got to the camp and looked around, his first choice for a building was the same one where I’d done work a few years ago (he didn’t know this).  He mentioned not only one of my old teachers from my home town, but also the tiny, little-known town where my grandmother grew up.  When we walked into the second building for my consideration, a passage from Desiderata…that poem my husband used to propose marriage to me…was written on a white board.  And when we walked out of the building, there was a van…newly-parked…bearing the insignia of my home town.

I know this litany is not the exact stuff you want for your book…but for me, it’s just more of those constant confirmations that the world is more connected than we might understand.

Take care,
Angie


Dear Angie

Without your mind there would be no connections.

You were walking around in a sea of symbols.  Your mind held the connections to some of those symbols.

Coincidences seem to increase when we step outside our usual routine. Also when we are searching or questioning as you were.

Dr. B

Weird Coincidence Survey Results

By the end of March, 2015 more than 1500 people had visited the site and 200 (13%) had taken the Weird Coincidence Survey. 

57% were women and 43% were men.

Fifty percent of those surveyed were between the ages of 46-65. The following diagram illustrates the age distribution.

AGES of People Who Took WCS

WCS-ages-Apr2015

42% ranked themselves high in spirituality—either a 6 or 7 out of 7. Fewer than 20% ranked themselves low on spirituality—1, 2, or 3 as shown in the following diagram.

SPIRITUALITY Self-ratings

WCS-spirituality-Apr2015The people who completed the WCS decided to do it. They had time and interest so they are not necessarily representative of everyone who visited the site or the general population.

The next two images summarize the frequencies at which this group rated common coincidences. They were asked to “rate the following statements based on your experience”:

Never=1 | Seldom=2 | Occasionally=3 | Often=4 | Very Frequently=5

Coincidence FREQUENCIES

WCS-frequencies-Apr2015

WCS-frequencies2-Apr2015

The most frequent coincidence was:

I think of an idea and hear or see it on the radio, TV or internet.

The next most frequent were tied:

I think of calling someone, only to have that person unexpectedly call me.

I think of a question only to have it answered by external media (i.e. radio, TV, people) before I can ask it.

I advance in my work/career/education through being in the right place at the right time.

Aesthetics of Coincidence

After the initial surprise evoked by most coincidences, the person usually considers one of two meanings—explanation or use. Sometimes there is no good explanation and no obvious use.  Yet with some coincidences, there is a simple beauty in the synchronizing of the two events.

We are fascinated by synchronization in its many, many forms—a pair of elegant dancers, migrating birds, harmonizing singers.  When two or more apparently independent events create a coincidence, we can also be fascinated. We don’t know how it works, but there it is. We don’t know how to use it, but we think about it. Without clear answers there still may come a feeling of amazement and peace.

A 24 year old woman, upon experiencing an amazing coincidence without apparent cause and no apparent use, described how it made her feel:  “It was like when your mom pulls the sheet all over you, and it settles on you, and you feel you are in the right place.”