Movie Twins and “Real Life” Twins

photo credit: JMS2 via photopin cc

photo credit: JMS2 via photopin cc

I have been thinking about the connection between guilt and anger in twin relationships. A young woman I work with feels tremendous compassion and love for her twin sister. She also has unbearable feelings of guilt about her sister’s difficulties that, in her mind, make it impossible for her to feel separate and fulfilled.

My patient worries that her sister’s tendencies toward depression and self-loathing will deepen if she moves away from her sister—either emotionally or physically.

Reflecting on the twin connection portrayed in the movie The Skeleton Twins, I thought about the differences between twin relationships and other sibling relationships. Milo and Maggie, the twin characters in the movie, have not seen one another in ten years. They reconnect via suicidal ideations and depression. The audience gets a glimpse into their troubled childhood and experiences their clumsy attempts to reconnect. Viewers share their angst and emptiness as well as their mutual appreciation of frivolity and humor. They are working toward building an adult connection with one another—an intimacy based on their shared childhood experiences and traumatized lives.

The difference between these film characters and my patient is my patient’s inability to express or articulate the emotional compromises she has had to make to sustain the twin connection. Her tremendous guilt feelings help to protect her against feeling or recognizing the inevitable resentments that arise between twins as they get older and want to pursue their lives as individuals. She has no means of resolving real conflict in her twin relationship other than the expectable day-to-day annoyances that arise from sharing space with a same-age sibling. Actual differences have not been addressed, experienced, or allowed.

Hopefully my patient will gradually ease into a more liberating frame of mind as she gives herself permission to get in touch with her ambivalence and separation fears.

Have you experienced guilt or anger in your relationship with your twin? Have you found ways to overcome those feelings? I welcome your comments and insights.

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  1. Jody

    I have experienced anger in my relationship with my identical twin, yes. For a little background, I’ll explain:

    I am 23 years old. My twin sister and I have, for the vast majority of our lives, been ‘inseparable.’ She is hands down my best friend and most important person in my life. We went to the same college (had our own groups of friends and opted not to live together, so it was a nice growing period for us).

    After we graduated, my sister moved to Europe. Excited and happy for her, I couldn’t help feel abandoned and left out of this huge new chapter in her life. I was mad. Not at her directly. But at the situation. And I’ve also felt feelings of jealousy – jealous of her and her partner living in Europe, and jealous of what I am missing out on. And then, I feel guilty about the jealousy.

    It’s an interesting situation indeed. Time has been what’s allowed me to overcome my feelings of anger/jealousy/guilt. I am slowly becoming “more at peace” about the situation and am getting used to our new situation. It’s still hard to be separated by an ocean from the one person I’ve always known to be “by my side.” Though she may not be by my side in a physical sense anymore, our bond remains inseparable.

    • Dear Jody,
      You are succeeding at doing the most difficult work right now – facing and managing expectable feelings of guilt and jealously.
      So many twins never imagine or anticipate that these emotions organically accompany issues of separation and maturation.
      Although this period of time in your life has been painful, you will realize that this physical and psychic separation from your sister will enable you to feel freer and happier to find other meaningful relationships in your life while simultaneously appreciating your twin bond.
      Thanks so much for writing and sharing your thoughts and experiences.

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