No Room for Healthy Competition

My work with twins has highlighted how they often have difficulty handling conflict and competition. Rather than agreeing to disagree or listening to their twin’s perspective, they are driven to win instead of compromise. I believe this lack of emotional maturity results from the fact that they are still struggling to come to terms with their individual identity and therefore are still fighting to beat their rival rather than respectfully accepting their differences. Isn’t it ironic that twins, who are perceived as soulmates and best friends forever, often have difficulty with the most basic concepts of intimacy?

The following paragraph is written by a male identical twin in his forties and reflects his struggles with this issue:

I think growing up, the ongoing competition between my brother and me set us on a path that made it impossible to deal with our differences. I think that all/any “differences” between us were viewed in terms of winning and losing; good and bad. It was as if a “difference” between us must, by definition, be “better” or “worse.” And because we were so insecure, the idea of one of us being “different” than the other (better/worse; smarter/dumber; more athletic/less athletic; etc.) was untenable. In our minds, the knowledge that one of us was “better” or “worse” at something created a hierarchy—which seemed to make each of us feel either guilty (for being “better”) or inadequate (for not being as “good”). So, I think we tried to ignore or minimize any apparent differences in order to avoid dissonance and those feelings of guilt and inadequacy. And it’s so ingrained that I seem to be unable to dig out of the emotional morass.

Image courtesy of Chris Lott (CC BY 2.0)

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