A Therapist’s Take on Being an Identical Twin

twin picYou may not know this about me, but I have a twin sister. That’s us in the picture. When people hear this about me, often the very next question is “Are you identical?”

For whatever reason, my sister and I assumed we were identical twins until we were older teenagers. At the time, I didn’t think much about it the significance. But as an adult (and a therapist) I know that the differentiation we feel from others, particularly in our close family relationships, make a big difference on several fronts.  So the idea of potentially being “identical” to a sibling could present some interesting implications.

My parents did it right when it came to mindful parenting. They took the initiative to research and seek out the best ways to specifically parent twins. They recognized that our sense of individuality might be impacted, so they made conscious choices to support our individuality like not giving us similar or rhyming names. They picked schools that had more than one class per grade, so we weren’t together all the time at school. They made intentional time to spend with us individually.

Siblings of any sort are prone to struggle for a sense of autonomy from their fellow siblings. I can’t say for sure how different that developmental struggle might be for twins. (There’s a lot of interesting research out there though.)

The thing that does stand out from my own experience was a feeling that I needed to be in-sync with my sister on decisions. It was never instructed or explicitly said. I just assumed it. And a little assumption like that is all it can take to begin an out-of-balance habit of looking to others for affirmation or clearance to move forward on something. That small habit can hold you back from feeling certainty and freedom to make your own decisions. And that’s a recipe for stress and frustration. We can’t be held hostage to others’ agreement on every choice we make. It’s okay to take action for yourself at times, even if others don’t agree.

So I think the lesson is this: Our task as children and adults is to stay connected within ourselves for our primary affirmation and security. Excessive focus on others’ agreement is a bad habit. When we keep our eyes on our own paper, and live our lives under the guidance of our own truth, we have the freedom we need to be authentic and go after our joy.

 

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