By Eve Brownstone, LCPC

When people ask me, “what’s like to be a twin?”, I usually say it’s like being born with a best friend. As an identical twin and years of working with twins, I’ve learned a few things. Twins may attach and bond first with their twin before their parents. We are born in a relationship. Our twinship sets the bar for future relationships. We will look at how this plays out. 

  • 1 in 90 births are fraternal twins and 1 in 250 births are identical twins
  • At 14 weeks in utero, twins start interacting with each other.

In graduate school, I wrote my Master’s thesis on being a twin and co-facilitated a twin support group for four years in the Boston area. During this time, I learned from a parent of twins, that some believe that twins share the same soul. 

For the record **Twins have their own souls.:-))

Some common challenges for twins:

However, identity can be blurred. It is important for twins to have their own sense of self and not be enmeshed with their twin. Twins tend to look outside of themselves, for other people to tell them who they are. Twins need to be encouraged to look within themselves and trust themselves more.  

If twins are enmeshed with each other and when one dies or moves away, it can be a more traumatic event. Elvis Presley lost his twin at birth and was deeply impacted throughout his life. Aaron Presley is buried at Graceland. Twins bond first with their twins and also experience separation-individuation from their twins, not just their parents. There is a support group for twins who have lost their twins to death called Twinless Twins International

Also, an enmeshed twin relationship may lead to patterns of adult codependent relationships, in which the Other is always put before herself. The pattern of looking outside themselves for answers, blurred boundaries, and tendency to put themselves second may lead to others stepping over their boundaries and may lead to abuse. Twins may feel disempowered and feel they don’t have the keys to their own lives and self-empowerment. I want to help twins feel they have the keys to their own lives.

Some of the joys of being a twin:  

Twins get a head start on learning how to share, compromise and communicate. Healing comes when a twin learns that they can choose to share or compromise. Sharing can be an automatic response.

Twins can communicate more deeply. We may not like to chitchat. We like to get to the heart of a subject (one of my best friends is also an identical twin.) We speak a similar language.

Twins are highly empathic. We have been known to read each other’s minds or finish each other’s sentences. Twins may make excellent therapists. My twin is also a therapist. Also, twins need to learn that not everybody can read their minds. 

What to keep in mind when working with twins:

It is important for all human beings to feel they have choices. Choice is key for twins. Establishment of clear boundaries, good communication, self-expression, self-empowerment, and self-love assist in boosting the sense of Choice and Selfhood for twins. It’s important for therapists and counselors to create safe space for twins to answer the question “Who am I?” beyond being a twin.

Connect with Symmetry Counseling for family therapy in Chicago.

Some Resources

Human Magnet Syndrome, Ross Rosenberg

Love is a Choice, Robert Hemfelt

Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior, Nancy L. Segal 

Born In Relationship, Eve Brownstone

Eve Brownstone, LCPC is an identical twin and licensed psychotherapist with Symmetry Counseling. Eve works with twins and nontwins and has some openings.