My twin patient and I were saying goodbye to one another at the end of our session. Casually she mentioned that she was looking forward to having lunch at a particular restaurant down the street from my office. Having slipped out of my clinical demeanor, I disdainfully and incredulously inquired, “Do you really like that restaurant?” My stunned patient stared at me with a look of consternation and fear. Instinctively I realized what she was experiencing in the face of my unsolicited hard-nosed opinion. I remember feeling the exact same way when I found out that my therapist and I had a distinctly different taste in books.
This reaction requires an explanation. While most of us appreciate and enjoy a shared mutuality with our significant other, twins experience this shared identicality in a wholly different manner. The inner monologue might sound something like this:
Oh my, what is wrong with her? How can she not like the food at that restaurant? I love the food, and if she doesn’t, what does that say about our connection and closeness? Can we actually be close if we have such different feelings and opinions? Can she understand me or help me?
One has to understand why twins especially react so profoundly when finding out that someone they like and respect might have a difference of opinion. Since twins are accustomed to feeling so similar to their twin, the matching and mirroring takes on a significant meaning in terms of trust, closeness, and alikeness. Twins often are uncomfortable finding out about differences; as a result, their capacity to handle ambivalence and gray areas is not highly developed.
You will often hear mothers of twins marvel at their children’s ability to reconcile two seconds after a fight has erupted. Usually no verbal processing is involved in the repair, although the rupture may have been physically and verbally abusive.
My feeling is that the conflict and difference of opinion is so intolerable and disruptive that both twins conspire to forget about it and move on to enjoy each other again. That hint of difference can make twins feel like a strong wedge has been driven between them. Twins can feel unnerved when disagreements have too much potential to threaten them with separateness that they have not asked for. The shared feelings, tastes, and opinions all embody and reflect their strong attachment to one another.
If you have any stories about twins’ discomfort with differing opinions, I would love to hear them. Please share your experiences in the comments section.
The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Fathromi Ramdlon.