"What's the F***ing Point?" — ep 30 — randomness, synchronicity, & the law of attraction

If you're fascinated by topics like synchronicity, coincidences, manifesting, and the Law of Attraction, this episode is for you.

In this solo podcast episode, I'm trying out a new format and sharing with you one of my favorite blog posts I've written, via audio for those of y'all like me who aren't doing too much reading online these days. Click here to read the full text!

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.

randomness, synchronicity, & the law of attraction

randomness, synchronicity, & the law of attraction

Having an "examined life" means grappling with some pretty big questions: 

ow much of life is truly within our control, and how much is left to chance and luck? Are coincidences just random, or is there a deeper meaning? If even bad things “happen for a reason,” why does one child with cancer die while another has a miraculous recovery? Is it random, or is the former burdened with bad karma from a past life (or shitty luck, or parents who didn't pray as hard)?! Do people just say "things happen for a reason" because they need some kind of explanation or meaning for horrible/unfair things that happen?

Obviously, this can become a highly charged discussion, as these are topics that connect to our most fundamental beliefs about our place in the world — and often, to our deepest pains, and our religious and/or spiritual beliefs.

In writing this post, I hope to engage in meaningful discussion about these concepts and questions, whether you agree or disagree with some of the opinions I share. 

Coincidence, Synchronicity, and Destiny

I have always been fascinated by coincidences. I adore the movie I Heart Huckabees, and my favorite episode of This American Life is all about great coincidence stories. I’ve experienced some gasp-worthy coincidences in my short time already, and heard tales of others’ jaw-droppingly-crazy coincidences. But just because a coincidence happens doesn’t mean there’s anything more to it, right? Well, maybe… and maybe not.

In the 1920’s, Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to coin the term “synchronicity,” which he defined as “meaningful coincidences.” To illustrate this definition, let's look at an example from Jungian contributor Marie-Louise von Franz in the book, Man and His Symbols:

"If an aircraft crashes before my eyes as I am blowing my nose, this is a coincidence of events that has no meaning. It is simply a chance occurrence of a kind that happens all the time. But if I bought a blue frock and, by mistake, the shop delivered a black one on the day one of my near relatives died, this would be a meaningful coincidence. The two events are not causally related, but they are connected by the symbolic meaning that our society gives to the color black."

Some of the more metaphysically-minded folks go so far as to say that “there’s no such thing as coincidence,” or that "all coincidences are meaningful.” To me, it seems inherent in that idea that there is some “greater plan,” fate, destiny — that “everything happens for a reason" and the synchronistic events are lining up to keep the plan on-course… and then what of free will?

Personally? I believe that meaningful coincidences can happen, but I do not believe that everything happens for a reason.

I just cannot get on board with the idea that a child being abused “happened for a reason," even if that child is provided the opportunity to work through the trauma and become a functional adult who gives back to the world and perhaps to children who have had to overcome similar adversity.

Still, for some reason I am compelled to attribute meaning to coincidence.Perhaps it’s my fascination with the mystical, the desire to believe in a little old fashioned magic, or in parallel realities (a la Sliding Doors).

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the power of simple compliments

hafiz-light-of-your-own-being

I'm typing this from the window seat as I fly back home to Nashville from Boston, where I just attended and spoke at the fabulous MEDA annual eating disorders conference.

I am gradually feeling more confident about this whole speaking thing, and left feeling reenergized about eating disorder recovery —excited to dig deeper into some of the topics that were presented and share about them here.

I had pretty limited time to tour Boston for the first time, since it was a short trip and much of my time was well-occupied with the conference (not to mention that the hotel was in a 'burb about a 20-minute Uber ride from the city). Still, I had a lovely few hours exploring the city this morning.

In the Back Bay, I stumbled upon The Fairy Shop — anyone who knows me well would say "that's definitely a Val thing." The guy inside told me I looked like a real fairy, which is probably one of the best appearance-related compliments I could get ;) and he agreed with my father-in-law's assessment that I should be cast in the next LOTR film. Ha!

I have to share the poster I bought there — hilarious.

alice_dorothy

Anyway, one of my favorite moments was—believe it or not—in the TSA security line at Boston Logan airport this afternoon. When I got close to the people who scan your ID and boarding pass, I heard one of them (an early 20's TSA agent) give a genuine, enthusiastic compliment to a customer about his glasses. Glasses guy grinned widely as he thanked him. Then, the lady behind him was complimented on her beautiful sweater. I was up next, and he said, "You hair is looking lovely today. [Scanning my ID] And Valerie — great name. You should thank your parents." (Hey, thanks Mom & Dad.)

As I continued on into the next phase of security, he just kept going with each traveler. The girl behind me noticed too, and laughed, saying, "Most entertaining security guy ever!" I was laughing, smiling, and truthfully, fighting back tears as I listened him continue to compliment each person who came up to his station. I couldn't always hear exactly what the compliment was, but I knew it happened every time — I'd look back and see another person thanking him and smiling.

A cynical younger me might have brushed it off, thinking, "Whatever, he's just trying to pass the time, and he doesn't mean any of that stuff, he's just trying to be nice because that's his job. He especially doesn't mean it because he's complimenting everyone, so I'm sure a lot of them are BS."

I certainly still have a cynical (well, perhaps just more "realist") side... and even though so much of what I hear in my professional work is about the atrocities of humans hurting each other, as I get older I seem to gain more faith in (and love for) humanity, rather than less. 

As I heard that young man offer compliments to each of these strangers that he encountered, this is what was going through my mind:

"I wish you could know the power of the loving words you're sharing. I wish I could tell you how much those words touched me at the core — far deeper than the seemingly surface-level compliments, to an acknowledgment of our shared humanity. A humble recognition of the love that we can have for each other, even as complete strangers. You have no idea of the gift that you're giving with these simple words."

The funny thing about this statement is that I wrote it before I came across the Hafiz quote (that I ended up using as the image for this post) a few minutes ago, while window shopping for UU stuff on Etsy, and don't think I'd ever seen it before.

Freaking synchronicity.

I came across a post by writer Alexandra Franzen a few months back called "It all matters." (I highly recommend reading it.) In short, a male hairstylist was engaging and kind with a female customer who came in one evening with plans he had no idea about. She had planned to kill herself that night, and wanted to look nice at her funeral. But because of his kindness, something shifted enough in her to drive herself to the hospital that night instead. As Alexandra so eloquently wrote about this,

Your words, your actions, your art projects, your efforts, every small, tender, beautiful thing that you put forth into the world matters so much. So much more than you may realize. Every single day, as you go about your work, you have no idea whose life you could be impacting for the better — often, in ways you can’t even imagine.

I know compliments can get a bad rap — we shouldn't need external validation, blahblahblah. But I believe that, especially between strangers, a simple compliment is like a hug, a wink at our common humanity and our desire to connect despite the many forces pulling us in opposing directions in today's world. 

Perhaps I'll try to send this to Boston Logan TSA to see if they can get it to that young man. I want him—and everyone like him who offers kindness, simple compassionate words and gestures to strangers— to know how noticed and appreciated their efforts are.

Compliment someone you love. Compliment someone you've never met. Love is what binds us, forever and ever. 

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.