I was listening to an NPR piece called “Wisdom From YA Authors on Leaving Home: Neal Shusterman” on Weekend Edition Saturday for August 27. Mr. Shusterman reminisced about his troubled adolescence adjusting to life in a new country. He related that overcoming depression and loneliness was instrumental in the future adaptations he had to make throughout the course of his life. His advice was “find your comfort zone and leave it.”
This radio piece resonated with me professionally and personally. In my clinical work with patients, I try to help my clients work through their anxiety and fears about taking risks and tolerating failures. With my adult children I will always be the maternal source for support and security when life’s inevitable challenges play out unfairly. When I give presentations to parents of twins, I always talk about the importance of creating resilience in twins by creating separate situations and experiences for the twins to manage without each other’s support.
Assessing when a twin’s comfort zone is too influenced by the attachment to the other twin can be difficult. A young woman in her thirties contacted me because she was upset about a lengthy, conflicted divorce that seemed to drain her emotional and physical strength. Her twin lived in a nearby state, so they were geographically able to get together without too much difficulty, and they talked to each other on a daily basis.
As we talked, it became clear that her marriage had been adversely affected by her connection to her sister. Her ex-husband resented her magnetic investment in her twin and attempted to thwart their connection whenever possible. The divorce has triggered her sadness and anxiety about being separated from her sister. Both grew up together in a small town and did everything together. Since their mother was estranged from the family, both women were put in the position of parenting one another. Understandably, this dependence on one another in the face of no maternal sustenance deepened their attachment to each other.
In order to work through some of the marital issues that she did not want to repeat, she attempted to gain more insight into her relationship with her sister. Intellectually she recognized that her intense need for and connection to her sister got in the way of finding other nurturing attachments. She had struggled to find a therapist who can be empathic and sympathetic about her twin connection. She told me that no one seems to understand her issues and that people dismiss her concerns as crazy and weird.
Twins who have parented one another throughout their lives without adequate guidance and support will have expectable struggles finding and trusting others to rely upon. Whenever we are required to leave our comfort zone, we need to know that we can fall gently and quietly. I picture myself falling back on a fluffy down comforter—burying myself in the soothing feathery splendor and then getting back on my feet to contemplate my next move. Good-enough parenting is having the courage and conviction to recognize that resilience and inner strength emerge out of facing challenges and handling defeats.
If you have a story about leaving your comfort zone, I’d love to read about it in the comments section.
The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Ulrike Mai.