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The Importance of Forming Your Own Identity As A Twin

by Dr. Joan A. Friedman


Many twins unsuspectingly have limited access to their inner life because of the expectable emotional disruption triggered by growing up alongside a same-age sibling. Until there is a developmental change or environmental shift, many twins are oblivious about having missed out on the opportunity or freedom to acknowledge their “gut” feelings. Many twin pairs maintain their compatibility by accommodating to the needs of the other. So, if one twin has grown up recognizing that an emotional equilibrium is best managed by allowing his twin to be in control, it is plausible to deduce that the compromising twin feels stymied in connecting with his inner self.

If one twin commandeers the twinship, the other might struggle to have faith in himself as well as in his sense of reality. Feeling self-assured about trusting one’s instincts helps to build self-confidence and assertiveness. It facilitates a capacity to believe in himself and in his ability to follow through with his convictions. At the same time, it allows for resilience that can help cushion inevitable failures and rejection. Sadly, an overly compliant twin who exists on high alert to keep his twin content will not experience these feelings. It may be that this secondary position contributes to his feeling devalued and unimportant.

A creative young man in his mid-twenties, whom I will call Barney, has come to recognize recently that his twin brother demanded both nonverbally and verbally that he conform to his twin’s expectations and demands. Barney was not resentful about this arrangement because his twin bond was integral to his sense of self. He had not realized how much his compliance contributed to his enormous self-doubts, oversensitivity, and lack of self-esteem. Now that he can appreciate the consequences of this situation, he is working hard to discover his intrinsic voice and trust his instincts. He feels liberated from the constraints and limitations that he has placed upon himself. He delights in experimenting with his newfound talents to expand his creativity and essence.

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