Contrary to stereotypical depictions, not everyone reveres twins. In fact, because many twin pairs receive a lot of attention and are regarded as special, often others express their envy or distaste by being mean and disrespectful. Instances such as these are not new to me. Parents have shared similar concerns when they have contacted me for advice about both male and female twin pairs.
Some twins who find themselves in these situations understandably stand together to defend against threats. An identical twin man in his twenties, whom I will call Dan, has suffered significant trauma along with a history of violent behavior owing to such circumstances. Sadly, his behaviors have effectively exacerbated an explosively unhealthy codependence with his twin brother. Indeed, he finds it quite difficult to break away from an “us against them” mentality to trust that he can feel safe on his own.
Dan and I have tackled several complicated issues in his treatment thus far. However, for the purposes of this post, I want to highlight one of the salient issues that has reoccurred frequently in our work together—feelings of intense shame that have organized and dominated his emotional life for so many years. Dan’s family life was precarious and ultimately fell apart after his mother died when he was an adolescent. Bullying from peers as well as distant relatives continued throughout middle and high school. He felt alone and neglected. These feelings intensified and gradually led to some violent acts and criminal behaviors. Dan reflects that his need to cover up intense feelings of abandonment resulted in his acting out with bravado, a sense of grandiosity, and aggression as a means of warding off helplessness and self-loathing. In fact, one can say that he himself became a bully in an attempt to manage his crushing mental anguish.
Twins can be bullied by others out of envy, perceived special treatment, or excessive attention. If you discover this dynamic happening to your twins, I urge you to find separate activities for each of them to help outsiders “split up” these twinning perspectives and impressions.