When I talk to women about extraordinary experiences, they look both startled and delighted. Startled because the topic of strange coincidences doesn’t come up often in public, unless discussing an episode of Long Island Medium or the new season of Supernatural; delighted because most women can name at least one odd, improbable twist of fate that’s happened to her. A dream about a long lost friend just days before bumping into that friend on the street; a powerful, anonymous voice that says ‘call mom’ moments after mother takes a fall and needs help. Sometimes these moments are small and affect the course of the day. Other times, these moments have the power to change the course of life. So why don’t we talk about them?
Extraordinary, or anomalous, experiences are not familiar psychological territory, like shyness or anxiety. Unlike The Art of Happiness, extraordinary moments don’t have a public conversation. A weird feeling about the future that then comes true doesn’t fit into power walk conversation, like diet and exercise regimens do. Yet extraordinary experiences, which are noticed by 1/3 of the population, change our sense of self and our connection to others.
I started the Extraordinary Project, www.suzanneclores.com , once I realized most of my life’s twists and turns came as a result of these anomalous extraordinary experiences. I knew others must have similar experiences, so set out to gather 100,000 stories. Like walking for Breast Cancer or holding Hands Across America for peace, the Extraordinary Project aims to change the conversation around extraordinary experiences—from weird and psychologically taboo—to another area of human communication that many women have a natural affinity for.
If you’re leery of believing in the magical or divine aspect of extraordinary experience, you’re not alone. Plenty of scientists are skeptical of the supernatural implications that a telepathic moment, for example, implies. They want to call it a hallucination, or a trick of the mind, or like statistician David J. Hand says in his new book, The Improbability Principal, a random chance occurrence. It actually doesn’t matter what you believe, the experience is still arresting, still affecting, still memorable, and still part of your human experience. We often don’t claim it as such because of these mixed emotions around explanations. But once we stop explaining what we think it means, we can focus on the more important issue: how it changes how we see the world and our place in it.