A true-life tale of synchronicity

What does it mean when a python suddenly shows up in a New York psychologist’s office?

Denise Phillips | July/Aug 2007 issue
Do you believe in coincidences? Have you ever wondered about the mysteries of your personal consciousness in relation to the universe? Have you ever had an experience that defies the laws of cause and effect—that in essence defies logic?
As a psychotherapist in private practise working to investigate and heal people’s emotional patterns, I believe, as did psychiatrist Carl Jung, that synchronicity (meaningful, not random, coincidence) offers the promise that if we change our inner selves, the patterns of our outer lives will change. The concept of synchronicity opens a window, allowing us to hypothesize that people and events are sometimes here because we have drawn them to us, and that what happens in our lives seemingly by chance or coincidence is not necessarily an accident.
Here’s a story from my own experience of synchronicity. I had a client seeking therapy for recurring panic attacks precipitated by unpleasant encounters with one of his professors at medical school. During our initial session, he mentioned that he also was deathly afraid of snakes and was hypervigilant about them. I said, “We live in New York—how often do you encounter snakes?”
He replied, “You’d be surprised—they tend to follow me wherever I go.”
“Really,” I responded, with a hint of incredulity.
His response was “I wish you would believe me.”
During the 15th session, the client reported feelings of intense passivity and fear when dealing with his professor. As I was about to discuss how the professor reminded him of a significant adult in his childhood, I observed—incredibly—a huge snake on my bookcase. My client was facing away from the bookcase and had not seen the snake.
I wondered at first if I was hallucinating. Then for a moment, I thought my client had tricked me with his tales of fear about snakes and somehow planted the snake as an elaborate practical joke. But it quickly became clear to me that the snake (which I later learned was a python) was real, and there would have been no possible way for my client to have snuck it into my office unobserved. Immediately I also recognized that I needed to get my client out of the office as soon as possible, fearing that his reaction to the python might cause a severe emotional or even physical crisis.
I asked him to leave the office immediately. He looked at me in disbelief, and I realized that rudely ending the session just at the point that he was delving into his anxieties about the professor must be horrifying to him. But I saw that the snake was beginning to move, and I could only think about how to get my client out of there. He hesitated, still very deeply involved in his emotions, so I told him that I felt sick, overcome with a sudden wave of nausea, and would have to stop right then. I told him I would call him later in the day to make up the time in the evening with an uninterrupted full session. Relieved to hear he’d be able to work thought his inner turmoil before the next day when he would have to deal with the professor again, he got up to leave.
Luckily, he walked straight through the door, not looking back. I slammed the door behind him and then, flustered, made an error in judgment by telling him there was a big snake in my office. He yelled back through the door, “I told you that snakes follow me wherever I go. Do you believe me now?”
“Yes” I shouted back. “I believe you now completely.”
He later told me that at that time he vowed never to set foot in my office again.
So how was I to deal with a big python in my office? Fortunately, it had fallen into what seemed to be an afternoon nap. First, I called the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which has a special unit that supposedly helps in situation like this, but no one from the ASPCA could come until early evening. Frustrated, I finally dialed 911, and several hours later three police officers arrived—two with guns drawn. I emphatically told them that I did not want them to shoot the snake in my office.
Luckily, the third officer, quite at peace with the situation, had some knowledge of snakes, and knew immediately that this large serpent was a python. He requested a box, which I quickly located, and then, with confidence and grace, he picked up the snake without alarming it and placed it in the box. The python did not protest, probably due to the absence of fear in the officer. In unison, we all applauded and the officer assured me that the ASPCA would find the python an appropriate home.
Only later did I find out how this snake had made its way into my office. A neighbour had illegal pythons in a tank in her apartment. This snake escaped and found its way to my office at the exact moment my client who was haunted by snakes arrived for his afternoon therapy session.
When my client called to finish our session, I told him about sitting with the python for three hours and how the calm police officer had rescued the snake (and me). The happy postscript is that the client later mentioned that the story had stayed with him, and was having a deep effect. He said it somehow gave him courage, that the absurdity of the event was inspiring him not to feed such fears to his mind. Perhaps, as Jung would explain, he was beginning to change the reality of what he attracts in the world.
When it was all over, I myself wondered what the deeper meaning was in this experience. Perhaps the serpent made its way to my bookshelf to help my client gain control over his deepest fears. Perhaps it shows that the power of our thoughts, both negative and positive, has a vibrational force field that gives rise to synchronistic events. Synchronicities come from forces that we inexplicably attract—wild coincidences not confined to the usual logic we think governs our lives. Perhaps some kind of bridge exists between the inner and outer worlds—between our private thoughts and external reality. Facing our fears can help heal us, and the universe conspires to help by repeatedly presenting patterns until we work through them.
Thinking all this over, I was reminded of an old Cherokee Indian tale in which a man tells his grandson, “There are two wolves fighting within me. One of them is angry and hateful; the other is generous and compassionate.” When the boy asks, “Which one will win, Grandpa?” the old man answers, “The one I feed.”
Denise Phillips, whose doctoral degree is in clinical psychology, has a private practise in New York City.
 

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A true-life tale of synchronicity

What does it mean when a python suddenly shows up in a New York psychologist’s office?

Denise Phillips | July/Aug 2007 issue
Do you believe in coincidences? Have you ever wondered about the mysteries of your personal consciousness in relation to the universe? Have you ever had an experience that defies the laws of cause and effect—that in essence defies logic?
As a psychotherapist in private practise working to investigate and heal people’s emotional patterns, I believe, as did psychiatrist Carl Jung, that synchronicity (meaningful, not random, coincidence) offers the promise that if we change our inner selves, the patterns of our outer lives will change. The concept of synchronicity opens a window, allowing us to hypothesize that people and events are sometimes here because we have drawn them to us, and that what happens in our lives seemingly by chance or coincidence is not necessarily an accident.
Here’s a story from my own experience of synchronicity. I had a client seeking therapy for recurring panic attacks precipitated by unpleasant encounters with one of his professors at medical school. During our initial session, he mentioned that he also was deathly afraid of snakes and was hypervigilant about them. I said, “We live in New York—how often do you encounter snakes?”
He replied, “You’d be surprised—they tend to follow me wherever I go.”
“Really,” I responded, with a hint of incredulity.
His response was “I wish you would believe me.”
During the 15th session, the client reported feelings of intense passivity and fear when dealing with his professor. As I was about to discuss how the professor reminded him of a significant adult in his childhood, I observed—incredibly—a huge snake on my bookcase. My client was facing away from the bookcase and had not seen the snake.
I wondered at first if I was hallucinating. Then for a moment, I thought my client had tricked me with his tales of fear about snakes and somehow planted the snake as an elaborate practical joke. But it quickly became clear to me that the snake (which I later learned was a python) was real, and there would have been no possible way for my client to have snuck it into my office unobserved. Immediately I also recognized that I needed to get my client out of the office as soon as possible, fearing that his reaction to the python might cause a severe emotional or even physical crisis.
I asked him to leave the office immediately. He looked at me in disbelief, and I realized that rudely ending the session just at the point that he was delving into his anxieties about the professor must be horrifying to him. But I saw that the snake was beginning to move, and I could only think about how to get my client out of there. He hesitated, still very deeply involved in his emotions, so I told him that I felt sick, overcome with a sudden wave of nausea, and would have to stop right then. I told him I would call him later in the day to make up the time in the evening with an uninterrupted full session. Relieved to hear he’d be able to work thought his inner turmoil before the next day when he would have to deal with the professor again, he got up to leave.
Luckily, he walked straight through the door, not looking back. I slammed the door behind him and then, flustered, made an error in judgment by telling him there was a big snake in my office. He yelled back through the door, “I told you that snakes follow me wherever I go. Do you believe me now?”
“Yes” I shouted back. “I believe you now completely.”
He later told me that at that time he vowed never to set foot in my office again.
So how was I to deal with a big python in my office? Fortunately, it had fallen into what seemed to be an afternoon nap. First, I called the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which has a special unit that supposedly helps in situation like this, but no one from the ASPCA could come until early evening. Frustrated, I finally dialed 911, and several hours later three police officers arrived—two with guns drawn. I emphatically told them that I did not want them to shoot the snake in my office.
Luckily, the third officer, quite at peace with the situation, had some knowledge of snakes, and knew immediately that this large serpent was a python. He requested a box, which I quickly located, and then, with confidence and grace, he picked up the snake without alarming it and placed it in the box. The python did not protest, probably due to the absence of fear in the officer. In unison, we all applauded and the officer assured me that the ASPCA would find the python an appropriate home.
Only later did I find out how this snake had made its way into my office. A neighbour had illegal pythons in a tank in her apartment. This snake escaped and found its way to my office at the exact moment my client who was haunted by snakes arrived for his afternoon therapy session.
When my client called to finish our session, I told him about sitting with the python for three hours and how the calm police officer had rescued the snake (and me). The happy postscript is that the client later mentioned that the story had stayed with him, and was having a deep effect. He said it somehow gave him courage, that the absurdity of the event was inspiring him not to feed such fears to his mind. Perhaps, as Jung would explain, he was beginning to change the reality of what he attracts in the world.
When it was all over, I myself wondered what the deeper meaning was in this experience. Perhaps the serpent made its way to my bookshelf to help my client gain control over his deepest fears. Perhaps it shows that the power of our thoughts, both negative and positive, has a vibrational force field that gives rise to synchronistic events. Synchronicities come from forces that we inexplicably attract—wild coincidences not confined to the usual logic we think governs our lives. Perhaps some kind of bridge exists between the inner and outer worlds—between our private thoughts and external reality. Facing our fears can help heal us, and the universe conspires to help by repeatedly presenting patterns until we work through them.
Thinking all this over, I was reminded of an old Cherokee Indian tale in which a man tells his grandson, “There are two wolves fighting within me. One of them is angry and hateful; the other is generous and compassionate.” When the boy asks, “Which one will win, Grandpa?” the old man answers, “The one I feed.”
Denise Phillips, whose doctoral degree is in clinical psychology, has a private practise in New York City.
 

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