A Third Wheel

Siblings of twins often do not get the psychological attention they deserve. My readers frequently ask me to write a book dedicated to this topic! I’d like to share some thoughts about a young woman in her late twenties whom I will call Veronica. Veronica’s mom, Mrs. T., contacted me eight years ago about her identical twin daughters when they began displaying bouts of anger with each other that she had never witnessed before. We spoke on the telephone a few times and discussed how these eruptions between the girls were most likely due to the desire to individuate.

Fast forward to the present time. A few months ago, Mrs. T. contacted me again—this time about Veronica, who is three years older than her twin sisters. The mom explained that Veronica was distraught about a recent breakup with a long-term boyfriend. She asked if I could help Veronica work through her feelings of paralysis and sadness. After several sessions with Veronica, I am gaining insight into her struggles and learning how her position in the family complicates her misery and confusion.

Veronica told me that she often feels left out by her mother and sisters, who share more things in common and resemble one another physically. Though all three of Mrs. T.’s daughters currently live independently, Veronica presents as childlike, needy, and affectless. She struggles to answer questions such as “How do you feel about X?” While she can distinguish between what she likes and dislikes, her preferences lack contextual meaning. Her explanations are concrete, without nuance or texture. She says that she has no idea what people mean when they tell her she has to love herself before she can love another person. She relies wholeheartedly on connections outside of herself. So, when her long-distance boyfriend broke up with her unexpectedly, she needed significant support to stave off a deep depression.

I find it fascinating that Veronica seeks a twinlike connection to feel alive and sustained. She looks for constant validation and attention; without it, she feels left out and diminished. I imagine this emotional state replicates how she felt growing up around her twin sisters. The twins were academically and athletically gifted and garnered significant attention in the family and the community at large.

Sometimes Veronica makes me feel how she must have throughout her childhood. Certain experiences I had with her made me feel unimportant, devalued, inconsequential, and second rate—emotions she must have experienced in her family. I hope that our therapeutic engagement will last long enough for me to interpret these transferred feelings and facilitate self-awareness in Veronica. I am cautiously optimistic that I will succeed. Time will tell.

Image courtesy of Pxfuel

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