He stood there looking more serious than usual. ‘I have to take my shoe off”, he announced. I found this a tad bemusing as he always takes his shoes off when he arrives for his spiritual coaching session however he continued to gaze at me in a somewhat accusatory fashion. I developed a sense I must be missing something then he repeated himself. “I have to take my shoe off”!
The penny dropped – “you didn’t do it again?” I asked. Last time he had turned up he had inadvertently trod in dog shit while parking his bike. We had thought nothing of it at the time and concealed the offending shoe on the back deck during our session. It seemed an amazing synchronicity for this to have happened twice in a row. I have lived here for twenty-three years and never trod in dog poop outside my house.
As you may be aware I believe that each of us have access to a guiding force that resides within. The reclusive poet Emily Dickenson referred to it this way, “The sailor cannot see the north but knows the needle can.” This inner compass can speak to us in many ways. What I refer to as the languages of the Soul are not as readily understood as our native tongue. They include dreams, metaphor, symbols, signs and synchronicities amongst many.
Carl Jung created the term synchronicity (synchronizität in German) to describe a meaningful coincidence. I was eager to explore the possible metaphoric meaning of my client’s current experience.
After opening our session with our usual guided meditation I asked him to recount how it had occurred. “I remembered last time”, he told me, “so I knew it could happen again, that patch seems a particular favourite for untrained owners and their dogs so I was aware of the possibility and more careful than usual. But then I stepped back on to the sidewalk into a pile that I was not expecting.”
I reflected back to him what he had just said, “you knew it could happen, so became more aware and then to your surprise then you stepped in it anyway. Does this have any metaphorical connection to your current life”? By now he was rolling his eyes as the significance of his experience sank in. “It’s what happened to me during the past week – twice! I had calls about two ‘shitty’ jobs. I could see they were both things I should say no to but despite protesting somewhat by the end of the conversation I had accepted them.”
I began to remark on the amazing nature of this connection when he interrupted me to suggest, “you don’t have to look so gleeful about it!” I attempted an apology but shared with him my awe at the amazing way the inner compass had revealed itself. It felt so affirming of my belief system.
We have worked for a long time on his tendency to want to please and always say yes. He is aware of the root cause that he loves to be picked. It is a compensation for the gawky teenage nerd who was always last to get chosen for sporting teams. This desire to please in order to get accepted is a very common wound from the child’s need to manage an overwhelming world. Eminent Jungian Analyst and author James Hollis refers to himself as the founder of a “recovering nice person’s group”.
We had developed a strategy based around not reacting but taking time to respond by always asking if he could call back rather than replying immediately. This provides time for the adult response rather than the child reaction to the old complex. However as often happens we develop a misplaced sense of confidence. Then we step right back into “it” once again.
And I can’t help feel a sense of joyful awe when I witness the inner guide working through these concrete signs and synchronicities. As James Hollis wrote in his book Swamplands of the Soul, “All we can say for sure is that a mystery comes through us, seeking its own fullest incarnation and that whenever we serve the mystery within us; we experience a linkage to the mystery outside. When we stand in conscious relationship to the mystery we are more deeply alive.” Even when standing in a pile of dog shit!