I am always saddened when I hear yet another personal story from a caretaker twin who ended up feeling abandoned and betrayed. Whether this resulted from a move, a marriage, a conflict, or a death, the consequent fallout induces tremendously unpleasant feelings and emotional instability. I spoke the other day with a thirty-five-year old male fraternal twin whose brother is getting married in a few weeks. He reached out to me because he could not make sense of the unnerving and contradictory emotions he was experiencing in reaction to this upcoming event.
Initially, “Jay” was ecstatic that his brother, “Brian,” found the love of his life. Jay was well aware that Brian had longed to be in a close relationship for a while. As a result, Jay was jubilant when his brother met Emily. However, as Brian’s relationship grew more serious, Jay began to feel other emotions that conflicted with his initial pleasure. He became aware that he was experiencing venomous feelings and thoughts; in fact, his fantasies were sometimes filled with powerful visualizations of revenge and violence. Jay was perplexed because he championed Brian in many ways throughout their years together. They worked together, lived together, and were virtually inseparable for most of their lives. Consequently, Jay could not make sense of his confusion and despair.
Jay shared that he felt replaced. Brian’s bride will move into the apartment that the brothers currently share; Jay has to find another place to live. Jay also told me he felt taken advantage of. He helped Brian through many emotional difficulties without being thanked or appreciated. He mentioned that he felt abandoned and angry. He has vindictive fantasies about not showing up at the wedding or a catastrophic event spoiling the festivities. However, his most profound reaction is guilt. How could he conjure up these dark ruminations about the person he loves more than anyone else in the world?
Indeed, for many twins whose connection is severed or disrupted, the conscious acknowledgment of these ambivalent feelings can be shocking. These emotions seem to come out of nowhere, and the twin fears no one can help him understand their source or their validity. Although Jay felt reassured that his reactions and feelings made sense after our session together, he still has much work to do. He needs to acknowledge how his role in the twinship interfered with his personal development and consider how he can build a separate and satisfying life for himself in the future.