Double Trouble and Twin Power

Born together. Holding hands as one. The closeness that twins share is irreplaceable. Their deep attachment as twins is as primary and as crucial as the mother-child bond. Watching twins as they grow portrays their closeness and the comfort they receive from one another. The anger at one another that is seen in their early fists fights and the comfort that they get from receiving the attention they are demanding can be unbelievable and beautiful.

            From infancy onward twin closeness is an unspoken and untold story seen mainly through action and interactions. As twins develop language they communicate with each other in ways that are unknown to the observer. Twin language is very common in young twins. Gradually they learn to communicate with non-twins, such as their parents. But they have by now developed a way of getting what they want without telling outsiders. Double trouble begins. By way of example, my twin sister and I decided to try the red furniture polish under the sink at our home when we but three years old. Perhaps we thought that it was fruit punch and we were determined to try it. Fortunately after one gulp we were caught and sent to the hospital in an ambulance with our terrified mother. We lived to tell the story, which illustrates the tenacity of double trouble (and the necessity for baby proofing with twins).

            How do twins learn to use their power as twins—persistence—to get what they want? Playing together and figuring out how to get what they want together is normal behavior for young twins. A sense of attachment, whether verbal or unspoken, and the shared desire to achieve their goals is their motivation. For example, young twins love to sleep in the same bed even if they have been fighting with each other all day and throughout the evening. Parents know that trying to separate them at night can be a thankless effort with no reward. Once twins make up the rules for one another, other authority figures are behind the eight ball. Until adolescence twins can have difficulty following the home and school rules if twin rules are more effective and fun.

            Another example of twin power that creates double trouble comes from a set of 4 ½ year old identical twins. Nicknamed by their father as “Hug and Slug” these boys were very connected to one another’s moods. One day the younger twin by three minutes was getting in trouble at preschool for being disruptive. His older brother came to the rescue and told Hug to run away with him. When they were captured, the preschool director asked them to leave her preschool. At the next preschool double trouble fueled by twin power happened again. This time Slug was in trouble for not listening, so Hug told him to run away with him and they did. Again they were asked to leave this preschool. After five months at home with mom or dad or the babysitter, these boys managed to stay in school and they are very happy in kindergarten where there are five sets of twins. I ask myself, Did they get tired of playing with each other and need different friends? Or did they mature?        

            Learning to respect authority figures and understanding right and wrong clearly seems to contain or limit double trouble. Although twin power seems to be under control and double trouble diminishes, the strength of the twin rule-making or rule-breaking loop endures, hiding from the view of non-twins.

             Funny twin stories like switching identities to trick people or to cover for one another are well known. Identical twins are at an advantage when they need to show up for their twin sister or brother’s history or math exam. My sister took my Hebrew school exam and I helped her get a good grade in French. I could go on about how we had fun tricking others. As twins age twin power can turn into twin care and concern and even deeply helpful and healing actions or reactions. Unfortunately, because twins have so much closeness and deep expectations for one another, twin power can lead to disappointment, anger and then slowly to estrangement.

            Closeness and caring lead to interdependence and unspoken demands, which are rooted in twin power. While this is a shocking example I will use it to get my point across. Twin A is in love with the president of the High School class and so is twin B. They fight and A goes to the prom with Mr. President and starts a brief romantic relationship that ends when college starts. But this competition is not over with. Twin B meets up with Mr. President at college and has an affair with him. She asks her sister for forgiveness and she gets forgiveness. Sounds weird. But a boundaryless type of deep sharing and understanding really happens in many different ways. Non-twins will think a lack of boundaries is not okay but twins see the subtleties.

            I must conclude that double trouble is about entwined ego boundaries, which leads to the side effect of not appreciating the difference between right and wrong. In adulthood double trouble is a reflection of the existence of twin power. A perfect example is giving your twin too much of your own “stuff” or crumbling over how they disappointment you. Certainly this happens on a day to day basis in young adulthood. And, as twins age, over-sharing or over-involvement recedes into the background. Twin power is a form of primary attachment and creates unique, far out and convoluted solutions to problems.


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