I am always moved to tears when I witness adult twins who can empathize so intensely with each other. They can be in the middle of a contentious interaction when one of them suddenly becomes teary-eyed and upset. Instantaneously, the conflict recedes and empathic resonance sets in. No words are spoken; a nonverbal behavioral change records the vulnerability and redirects the emotionality. Perhaps this intrinsic fine-tuning is the adult version of childhood twin behavior—fighting like cats and dogs over everything and quickly reconciling without a true resolution. It is as if some twin pairs have a built-in mechanism that operates like an overflow button—the argument is over, so a balance is reset until the next eruption.
I believe that this dyadic interplay explains why some twin pairs have such difficulty separating and growing into their individuality. Often, it seems as if some unanticipated external or internal dynamic has to occur so that the relationship temporarily breaks apart, creating space for developmental changes.
A twenty-one-year-old woman told me that she has no issues at all with her twin sister. They experience no palpable conflict or tension. When I inquired about any competitive feelings, she responded that her twin’s success is her success and her twin’s pain is her pain. Although she recognizes that she and her sister are shy in social situations, she has also been told that they can be intimidating because there are two of them. Perhaps if either twin leaves home, begins to date, or enters therapy, they will feel more motivated to understand the effects of their twinship upon their maturation. Time will tell.
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