I recently explained to my four-year-old grandson why my car had stalled a few times. He is fascinated with cars and trucks. I told him that the tow truck technician said that another mechanism in my car was probably draining power from the battery, which otherwise appeared to be in good condition. This is an excellent metaphor for how one twin monopolizes the energy in a twinship and leaves the other feeling powerless and defeated.
I have worked many years with an identical twin whom I will call Irene. She deliberately stayed in the background all her life “to help her sister shine.” However, Irene’s deeper and darker sentiments surfaced when her twin, Meredith, announced that she had a boyfriend. Meredith had no knowledge of Irene’s emotional mission. Meredith was angry that her sister was upset about her new relationship. She had expected Irene to be joyful and supportive. Unfortunately, the news created a tremendous rift.
Presently, the girls are very close. Irene understands how different she is from her twin. She has come to appreciate how taking a back seat to Meredith eviscerated her sense of self and diminished her capacity to feel “good enough” in her social and professional roles. The irony in this story is that Irene’s professional life has taken a new direction. She is a behind-the-scenes production coordinator, managing teams of people and making sure the work runs smoothly. She feels motivated, passionate, and successful. Her “singleton battery” has been activated, and she relishes the strength and control she is exercising for her own self-esteem and happiness.
Irene relates that she is proving herself in ways she has never been tested. Instead of focusing relentlessly on her external looks, she can internalize feelings of accomplishment and pride that diminish negative expectations and intolerable self-loathing. In the recent past, she mentioned that she did not understand what people mean when they say you need to love yourself first before you can feel loved by another. At last, this aphorism is making sense to her.