Evolving from We to Me
In my writing and presentations, I frequently mention the difficulty twins have with becoming self-ish—that is, learning how to discern their individual feelings, needs, and desires. Understandably, this is a difficult task because they grew up in a twin bubble. The stability of the twin bond requires mutual accommodation to survive conflict and differences. This equilibrium endures in a largely unconscious manner. As a result, multiples who are invested in discovering their individuality struggle to disentangle themselves from the twin mindset.
Nontwins can also suffer the consequences of psychological intrusiveness. For example, if a singleton is raised by a narcissistic parent who demands constant attunement to her needs and feelings, the child will likely experience difficulty determining what he wants and needs as a separate individual. In this case, the problem is pathological accommodation of one’s parent rather than one’s twin. Nonetheless, the outcome is similar—the child has little or no access to his internal life because his main focus is his parent’s emotional well-being and stability.
Accepting change can be an arduous process for patients entangled in this neurotic net. If they grew up responding first and foremost to someone else’s needs rather than their own, learning to believe in their capacity to make independent decisions and goals can be daunting. Therefore, the therapeutic process must be gingerly navigated so that the patient develops faith in his ability to think for himself. I believe that many irreparable twin rifts occur because the typical development of an autonomous, separate self is impeded by the accommodation strategies that are common in twinships. Therapeutic intervention can alleviate the residual misunderstandings and stunted communication patterns that inhibit the twin bond from maturing into a compatible and affectionate adult relationship.
Image courtesy of Peter Massas (CC BY-SA 2.0)