"With one breath, with one flow
you will know
-"Synchronicity"- The Police
Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung (1875-1961) shared a story about a patient who once had a dream about an expensive piece of jewelry which she referred to as a golden scarab. Clinically, he was trying to help her get more connected to her heart, which her rational, logical, defensive mind protected her from, with good reason I am sure of. He struggled with her for quite some time and asked for a little help from the universe which he got on the day she talked about her dream. As he listened to what she was describing, he heard a light tapping on his window. He turned around and saw that it was a golden scarab beetle - which were widely revered in ancient Egypt. He pointed this out to his patient who quickly made the connection between her inner world being mirrored by the outerworld. This synchronistic moment reportedly worked and the therapy began to help her.
“John” was a client I had been working on and off with for several years. Normally on time for session, he arrived twenty minutes late, seemingly aggravated. ‘Sorry” he said as he plopped himself on my couch, “I’ve been stuck in traffic for over an hour”. “John” had been feeling frustrated with many things in his life, one of which was an out of state job that he desperately wanted and had been in the works for over a year now. It seemed that each time the company got close to making him an offer, they would tell him that they didn’t have to go ahead yet, but encouraged him to hang in there with them. Trying to ignore his immediate experience of frustration, he dove into reporting on all the recent developments or lack thereof in his life.
“Being stuck in traffic really sucks” I said, to which he paused, nodded his head and looked at me. “Can you feel the frustration in your body? “ I asked.
“Yes, but I really just want to forget about it”, he responded.
“Of course you do” I said, “but why not take a moment to just acknowledge it and see what happens?”.
He agreed. He closed his eyes and focussed on the tension in his neck and shoulders. As he followed his breath, his frustration turned to anger and then softened to a profound sadness. He acknowledged how helpless he felt regarding his current life circumstances and wished things could change. We spent the rest of the session holding that as he grieved his sense of helplessness. By the end of the appointment, there was an alchemical shift in the room. Though the therapy in and of itself couldn’t do much to change the external issues in his outer life, his inner life dramatically shifted when he discovered self compassion.
We joked as he left that evening hoping the traffic jam would be cleared up by now so that he could have an easy ride home. “It will be what it will be” he said, smiling as he walked out the door.
Two weeks later, John arrived early for his appointment. I opened my office door to see him seated in the waiting room grinning from ear to ear. “Guess what happened?” he asked as he entered my office?
“You tell me” I responded as I waited to hear his news.
“They made me an offer last week. I will be moving out of town and starting my new job in two months”.
He had his golden scarab moment and his inner traffic jam cleared.
Whether or not one buys into Jung’s theory of synchronicity doesn’t matter. Taking the time to sit compassionately with all of one’s parts and unburdening the pain inside does.
Because it help us to better manage the inevitable traffic jams we all experience and then find new routes to travel on in our lives.