Separating Synchronicity from Psychosis
27 January, 2023
Author: Chris Mackey, TCP Board Member and Clinical Psychologist (Geelong, Australia)
- Suddenly having lots of weird coincidences does not mean you’re losing your mind.
- This blog spells out questions that help separate synchronicity from psychosis
Many people initially wonder whether they are going mad when they first experience a huge increase in amazing coincidences. This is certainly one of the main themes in messages of people who have contacted me as a psychologist who has written about synchronicity. Some also described how their friends or family believed they were psychotic at such times, despite them feeling quite sane.
It’s certainly understandable if someone feels overwhelmed if they suddenly start to experience a huge increase of weird coincidences. This is also the case if they have other transpersonal or mystical experiences such as hearing the voice of a deceased relative or suddenly developing psychic or other paranormal abilities such as clairvoyant visions. This is sometimes referred to as a spiritual emergency. It can be hard to make to make any sense of such experiences, especially if you haven’t ever discussed such experiences with others and don’t have any mental framework for thinking about them.
This raises the question of how you can tell the difference between non-ordinary states of consciousness, which might be referred to as transpersonal or mystical or psycho-spiritual phenomena, and psychosis. It can even be difficult for mental health professionals to tell the difference. Some people might even be experiencing a combination of both.
It’s an important question, as there are risks in someone being misjudged as psychotic, especially if they are pushed toward psychiatric hospitalisation and treated according to a rigid medical model focusing on medication. They might not only feel unnecessarily invalidated, but their mental health may deteriorate. On the other hand, there are clear risks in failing to recognize if someone actually is mentally ill.
There are a number of questions that informed health professionals might ask to help separate legitimate but non-ordinary states of consciousness from psychosis. Firstly, does the person suffer from a mental health problem consistent with a recognized psychiatric classification, such as a psychotic condition? Do their reactions involve mystical or transpersonal experience, even if in the context of a crisis? Is a positive outcome likely? Is there a likelihood of harm to the person or others?
We can also ask whether the person is acting in ways consistent with their longer held personal beliefs or philosophy. Can they describe a rationale for the ways they are acting on synchronicity? If they have acted in a way to use synchronicity as a guide, is there any evidence of their resulting actions having positive outcomes as opposed to negative outcomes? Is the person otherwise showing signs of stability, such as currently being able to manage with everyday life demands? Have they shown sound judgment or decision making in other areas of everyday life?
I wrote about some relevant personal experience about this issue in Chapters 13 to 15 of my book, The Positive Psychology of Synchronicity. One of my main motives for writing the book was to make it less likely that sane people who experienced synchronicity would be wrongly judged to be psychotic.
For further information on this issue, see the following blogs:
and podcast episode at