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Carl Jung: synchronistic experiences interpreted by schizophrenics as delusions.

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Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume 2, 1951-1961

To L. Kling

Dear Colleague, 14 January 1958

Your question concerning synchronicity and ideas of reference is very interesting indeed.

I have often found that synchronistic experiences were interpreted by schizophrenics as delusions.

Since archetypal situations are not uncommon in schizophrenia, we must also suppose that corresponding synchronistic phenomena will occur which follow exactly the same course as with so-called normal persons.

The difference lies simply and solely in the interpretation.

The schizophrenic’s interpretation is morbidly narrow because it is mostly restricted to the intentions of other people and to his own ego-importance.

The normal interpretation, so far as this is possible at all, is based on the philosophic premise of the sympathy of all things, or something of that kind.

Your patient is obviously someone who would need either to pay his tribute to Nature or to make some correspondingly meaningful sacrifice.

What this might be is provisionally indicated by the dreams.

We certainly shouldn’t think we know what good advice to offer or what,

if anything, ought to be done.

On the contrary we must endeavour to find out what the unconscious Thinks and adjust our attitude accordingly.

If synchronicities occur in these cases it is because an archetypal situation is present, for whenever archetypes are constellated we find manifestations of the primordial unity.

Thus the synchronistic effect should be understood not as a psychotic but as a normal phenomenon.

Ideas of reference arise as a concomitant symptom of the patient’s wrong understanding, and consequent repression, of his psychic situation.

Then what should normally have been an expression of the sympathy of all things turns into a pseudo-rationalistic attempt to explain the missing sympathy, so in place of the uniting Eros he feels a divisive fear or a hatred which is its opposite.

The pathological factor is that the original participation in all things is perverted into a negation on rational or other plausible grounds which seem obvious enough to the average intelligence.

Not only is no account taken of the significance of this sympathy, but the religious attitude is also lacking which sees in it a divine will that has to be served accordingly.

Thus the erotic relationship, no matter how unconventional it may be, would have to be understood as an opus divinum, and the perhaps necessary sacrifice of this relationship as a thysia, a “ritual slaughter.”

Naturally these things can hardly be instilled into unintelligent

An adequate capacity to understand is essential, for without a considerable degree of subtler intelligence they will only be misunderstood.

Unfortunately one must abandon from the start any attempt to make such things clear to one’s scientifically minded colleagues.

A scientific education does not by any means go hand in hand with higher intelligence.

The therapeutic possibilities are consequently limited and the whole operation remains a difficult and delicate affair.

You would do best to adapt to the level of the patient’s understanding.

How much you can expect of him is shown by the dreams.

In such cases I always carefully feel my way along by the dreams and assiduously avoid having better ideas about them.

The only important thing is that he should understand and not I.

In the hope that I have clarified the situation,

I remain,

with collegial regards,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 409-410.