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Advice for Therapists of Twins

    Working with twins can be difficult and confusing if the therapist does not understand the profound nature of twin primary attachment. Actually, it can be shocking for a nontwin therapist to try and take seriously the commotion that is created when twins fight and then make up. Working with adult twins will always be easier if you understand the importance of the following issues:
    How twin development is different than the development of a single child. And the ensuing effect on personality development because twins share their parents.
    The pattern of twinship that is shared will determine to some extent the degree of separation that adult twins can handle from a psychological perspective.
    A twin’s sense of self is qualitatively different than a single birth individual. In young twins some aspects of personality are shared, which makes young twins develop their own language and nonverbal communication. With shared aspects of personality, twin identity has to develop into an individual identity in adult twins.
    Twins have expectations to be deeply understood when they invest emotionally in another person. The therapist will need to set limits and expectations so that idealization and devaluation are minimal.
    “Immediate and close understanding” are expectations twins have for therapy. The therapist has to keep this issue at the front of his or her mind.
    Therapeutic goals should be established with the therapist so the patient does not become distracted by what their therapist thinks will work out.
    The therapist will be a container for the patient’s loneliness but not a twin replacement who is required to function in day-to-day life.
        
Conclusions
    Adulthood struggles go on and on. Twins will work through their conflicts with each other if they try to develop a mature twin attachment. Clearly, this is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes getting along for twins is impossible if traumatic events and abuse have dominated childhood experiences. A commitment to respecting yourself and your twin is a basis for establishing a strong bond in adulthood with your twin.

Posted on Sunday, October 16, 2016 at 04:07PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Common Issues of Adult Twins

    There are common developmental milestones that twins experience as adults no matter what type of attachment they share:
    Separation both emotional and physical is more difficult than adult twins have imagined. Overcoming these painful and confusion emotional experiences takes time, understanding of the problem, and experience tolerating being on your own. Twins and their family and friends have to be patient with this transition. Frustration and dogmatic direction is never helpful in the long run.
    All kinds of new relationships—romantic, career, and children—inspire, motivate, and confuse twins. Developing a new sensibility about nontwin relationships takes effort, time, and some hard knocks. Understanding the problem intellectually is not enough. Insight into what is appropriate to expect from others is a good start. Experiences with new people, no matter how trying, is critical.
    Understanding the different psychological boundaries you establish with friends is a long and bumpy journey. Learning that friends are not as able to understand you as your twin does is learned through experience. Being able to actually evaluate the good and bad about new relationships is a useful tool to have.
    Mind reading like you had with your twin is not found with other people. Bottom line: Nontwins won’t understand you like your twin does. And working hard to explain yourself is for the best in the long run. Developing close relationships to replace your twin intimacy will take time.
    Your twin may want your life or you may think that your twin wants your life. You will have to learn that you and your twin are separate people and not interchangeable with one another. As ridiculous as this sounds, twins often feel like they should be interchangeable. Sharing as adults is not possible and will only lead to unhappiness and anger.
    Adult twins will experience loneliness, which is inevitable and can lead to emotional confusion, depression, and being overwhelmed. Nontwins will not understand the depth of your loneliness, which will only gradually fade into the background as you make new friends and get engaged in life without your twin.
    Defining adult identity as an individual is a long and curving road. You will face competition and hardships along the way. Support from your twin will not always be available, which is most likely for the best. Find a therapist or a good friend who will understand your pain and happiness. This is when the search for a twin replacement begins.
    Defining adult twin identity is an important process, which means getting over wanting to feel like young twins who only have each other to care about. Mature twin identity is caring but also limited to the reality of the different lives that are shared from a distance. Being an adult twin means knowing you are a separate person.
    Searching for twin replacements is important and tricky. Twins can be overly hopeful that a new twin replacement has been identified. Often what seems like it will work out in terms of closeness and intimacy does not last. But it is better to try, and learn from your mistakes.
    Learning to respect your twin and not be critical of their decisions is extremely important. Twin estrangement is based on a lack of respect and understanding.

Posted on Sunday, October 16, 2016 at 03:13PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Please Do Your Homework: Don’t Leave It At School (Or Home)

Summertime has allowed your children a lot of freedom. The transition to school structure is hard for the kids and parents. As you are getting ready to send your children back to school, remind yourself to share “the house rules about school” with your kids. Maybe you will see this exercise as redundant, having gone over your expectations countless times. Go over them again. Children are high achievers when it comes to forgetting the rules.

Of course, your rules should reflect your home life style whether rigid or open-ended or in-between. No matter what your special values are, you are the “Person in Charge” of establishing a structure for your children to follow. Parent-driven rules are not subject to revision like collaborative rules between parent and child, or child-centered rules.

My rules for my children were:

1.  Do your homework immediately after getting home (after a snack). Don’t lose your homework. Don’t forget to bring your homework to school the next day.
2.  Chores are done by dinner.
3.  No screens during the week.
4.  Bedtime is at __________.
5.  When extra help is needed from tutors, nannies, or grandparents, my children WILL listen and follow direction for their own well-being.

Work with your children to develop a reward and consequence chart. Make rewards small but important. Make consequences serious but not overwhelming. Engage your children in this process. Their suggestions will make this important aspect of their lives more personal and meaningful.

My rules that were made in collaboration with my children were:

1.  I suggested playdates with my children, then we talked it over.
2.  Sports and after-school activities require input from the entire family.
3.  Teacher-parent conferences should be discussed.
4.  Food and clothes choices were discussed.


Decisions for kids alone (child-centered rules):

1.  Book and toy selection.
2.  Art projects.
3.  Free play.
4.  Time with extended family and family friends.

Decision-making that is effective (in that it is followed through with respect) is priceless. Anger in the family and with the school will definitely be reduced.

Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 06:44PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Twin Disappointments and Misunderstandings

Estrangement is built on disappointments and misunderstandings. Estrangement is complicated, and as deep-seated as the primary attachment that twins share at birth and throughout their childhoods. It is not that twins really hate their twin per se. More likely, twins who cannot be together are afraid of each other and the anger and disappointment that they share. My sister and I are estranged because I am afraid of her anger and disappointment with me. Other twins are just plain angry at one another and are happy to not be together at all. Anger is based of disappointment, not necessarily hatred. Estrangement always contains lost love and lost attachment.
    Twin loss is vey similar to estrangement but more final. There is no hope when your twin dies that you will be able to feel their closeness and warmth. Estranged twins hope that perhaps someday they will be able to be together, even if it seems so unlikely. Both estrangement and loss create a deep loneliness in twins that is hard to overcome.

Posted on Monday, July 4, 2016 at 02:25PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Reduce Competition: Expect Your Twin Children to Develop Differently

It is normal and expectable to have twins look and act differently. Actually, differences will evolve naturally. The latest genetic research shows how differently twins can develop even when they are identical. And parents relate differently to each child, which creates emotional differences. Twins develop their own relationship, which also makes them unique and interested in different experiences. Why do we assume that twins are similar, or should be similar? Or do we?
    One twin smiles a lot and is more intent on getting his way. His brother is more serious and keeps to himself more. Your children are definitely NOT experiencing the world in the same way, even though they may spend a lot of time together. Being different is normal—healthy—and good for the ability for twins to get along later in life. When parents encourage differences to naturally evolve, competition between twins is less intense. Sharing comes more easily.

Posted on Monday, July 4, 2016 at 02:23PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Don’t Brag and Share Your Gifted Child’s IQ Scores

Last night I heard about parents who were bragging about their children’s IQ scores with other parents. “Who is the best person to do the testing? How much testing is necessary?” I was horrified at this behavior. The gifted child is not a commodity to be tested and compared with other gifted children. Giftedness is not a brand of child. Levels of giftedness help educators make decisions about school placement. All decisions about your gifted child should be based on your child’s needs, not your need to be a “big shot.” Although it is tempting to “brag” about how smart your child is to other people, it is a serious parent trap. It pressures your child and contributes to their perfectionism, which you may or may not be aware of. Perfectionism exists in your child’s mind and can keep him or her from being herself or himself.

Bragging creates unspoken pressures and expectations. You need to contain your pride to small groups of people—grandparents, your therapist, and your support group. Have your small circle of friends promise they will not talk with acquaintances at the market or mall about your child. Bragging can create a false sense of self that your child has to live up to. Living up to your expectations takes away from what your child wants for himself or herself. This is a serious problem that you want to avoid at all costs. Your options, when you become your child’s agent, are limited to psychotherapy for narcissistic behavior, burnout, or self-destructive behavior. Let your child find his or her own way.

Know your child, not the score. Do not share with other mothers and fathers. It breeds competition and disappointment. A successful gifted parent knows why their child is having problems adjusting and tries to help.

Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 07:57PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Putting the Brakes on Perfectionism: A Lifelong Challenge for Parents

Giving up the expectation that you can find the perfect school, friends, tutor, teachers, and yes, parenting style that will help your child thrive is critical. You will be more realistic when good enough is enough and new solutions to ongoing problems will be easier to deal with.

It is hard to stop your perfectionism. Maybe if you know that you are modeling and intensifying perfectionism in your child child, you will be able to put the brakes on your idealism.

Posted on Friday, May 20, 2016 at 05:40PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Boundary Issues: The Struggle of Adult Twins

Cementing the separation experiences and unique identities that have been establishing in baby steps and giant leaps in childhood, the teenage years, and early adulthood is the stressful difficult developmental chore of adulthood. In order to truly separate from one another, adult twins consciously and unconsciously seek out twin replacements. The emotionally driven need for identity is stronger than any intellectual understanding of separation at this time of life. The intensity of motivation for different life experiences and significant others is very different from what siblings experience when they go their own ways. The primary attachment that twins share is being rebuilt and restored to a more up to date bond. The “remodeling” of the twin bond is necessary but a long range problem.

    The quality of the attachment that is shared shapes how much independence is actually achieved. Interdependent identity twins well be less intent on replacing their twin, although they will try to make new personal experiences for themselves. Talking about new friendships with your enmeshed twin is difficult. Often, over-identified twins avoid these conversations for fear of displeasing their sister or brother. Over the years, the anger and resentment they share is expressed and processed. Split identity twins will seek out twin replacements feverishly without being aware that they are driven to find a new compliment to themselves. Discussion about the new partner that is coming into or between the twin relationship will be analyzed with a great deal of certitude by both twins. Usually, split identity twins come to accept but not embrace their twin’s partner. Individual identity twins seek out new relationships that are intimate and intense naturally. While competition is a cornerstone of their relationship, they check in with each other about the quality of the relationship they are beginning to seek out and to make a commitment to.

    Adult twins are eager to find new partners to build their lives with. Unfortunately, they do not have as much emotional experience with nontwins—singletons—as they need to separate without traumatic consequences. Lack of lived experiences leaves twins at a disadvantage because they have too many expectations for deep understandings that are verbal and nonverbal. Still to this day I often imagine that the other person can read my mind or finish my sentence. To further complicate new relationships there is a juxtaposition of high hopes and a need to take care of the new significant other. In general, when twins leave the gate that physically separates them from their twin they are at a serious disadvantage. Desperation can grow out of their eagerness for love and companionship. Even adult twins who have had some experiences with other partners are blindsided by the lack of input from their twin and the hard to take reality that nontwins are very different kinds of partners. New partners might love them but not understand them as quickly or deeply as their twin. Sad but too true, in new relationships twins can be lost and wild at the same time. Confusion on the part of the new love object is bound to appear and be extremely disruptive to the future of a relationship. In other words, new boyfriends or girlfriends can feel totally overwhelmed by the expectations of a new twin partner.

    In adulthood when new relationships don’t work out for whatever reason, twins turn to each other for advice, comfort, and solace. Finding the next nontwin relationship can be hard because of the serious disappointment in the previous nontwin relationship. Interdependent identity twins often just give up looking for new partners and rely on one another with a great deal of devotion. Whether these twins live next door to one another or a city away, the physical presence of the other is critical. Commonly, when children and husbands do make it into the circle of trust that twins share, they have to take the backseat to the twinship. Maintaining a primary closeness between interdependent identity twins is not unusual in adulthood.

    Split identity twins are better seekers of new relationships because of the underlying or unspoken shame, anger, and resentment that they have for one another. Still, opposite twins turn to each other when adult nontwin relationships fail to develop into strong commitments. Using their twin as a restorative agent to overcome disappointment, they seek out other friendships that turn into partnerships. Usually, conflicted twins find deep relationships after several unsuccessful relationships. In addition and as important, opposite identity twins find twin replacements in their children and other close friends. Often they become driven about the quality of their relationships and their careers. Perfectionistic because of deep narcissistic injuries they received, there is a great deal of difficulty accepting what life brings to them. Accepting their accomplishments is confusing as they are programmed to only be half of a whole. Fears of expansiveness are interlaced with a quest to be the “best” they can be.

    Individual identity twins are often very disappointed by new partners or marriages. They naturally turn to each other for support, insight and deep understanding. Because they love each other deeply they have a more understandable amount of difficulty depending on their twin as they search for a new partner. In other words, they will listen to their twin’s opinion and not just take it or react against their advice. Twin replacements are usually found with partners, children, and work responsibility. An over-investment with work or finding the perfect partner can also become a life obsession. Raging anger and estrangement are not common with twins who have developed enough individuality.

    For all twins, twin replacement takes on different struggles and conflicts. The side effect of a search for intimacy is deep loneliness. Fitting into a new world of closeness with others and sharing your twin is totally tricky. Often one twin will feel left out or lag behind. Compassion for your twin’s struggles is important. Learning how to “not go down with the ship” that your twin may be drowning in is a horrendous and complicated journey that requires insight into how you function in relationship to your twin. Being yourself when you think you should be taking care of your twin is hard to do and can only be accomplished with baby steps.

    Real differences in lifestyle will spark competition. One twin is richer, more successful at work, or healthier in comparison to their brother or sister. Resolutions of differences are hard to predict but they are always based on understanding how twins are different from one another. Changing the childhood twin identity into an adult twin identity that is mature and pragmatic takes a lot of devotion and work. In most instances one of the twins is more outgoing and stable than the less stable and more negative twin. The stronger twin usually initiates the maturing of the relationship and the use of psychotherapy.

Posted on Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 04:32PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Defining estrangement

Estrangement is a subjective emotional experience that makes twins afraid to be together. Estrangement also causes deep shame because twins are supposed to get along. These dark feelings seem to be deep seated and often have a traumatic element to them.  Estrangement—serious avoidance of each other—between twins can be permanent depending on what triggered the event to occur. For example, if one twin sleeps with the brother’s or sister’s partner this will lead to a longstanding problem reuniting. If the anger between twins is not acted out but just fought about, twins will take long breaks and come back together over serious life-threatening situations.

I have worked with twins who are deeply estranged from one another after many years of heartfelt fighting, which turns in some cases to enormous fear or hatred of their sister or brother. Tension cannot be resolved. There is no compromise that is acceptable to both. There is no available negotiator or therapist that can deal with this deep and entrenched bond that has been fractured. In my experience psychotherapy cannot effectively reunite twins. Often twins seek out individual therapy as adults to feel better about themselves as individuals. Insight into your estrangement from your twin is a very healing possibility if the therapist understands the idiosyncrasies of twin development.

Posted on Friday, April 22, 2016 at 03:33PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment

Can twins overcome their issues with loneliness?

Getting over your feelings related to missing your twin is a long uphill journey. Sadness, depression, anxiety and anger are related to missing your attachment to your twin. Everyone close to you will most likely suffer when you feel like you need your twin, or if you and your twin are at odds or at war, depending on the issue in question. Absolutely, loneliness is scary for twins whether or not they want to admit that they are afraid. Here are some examples of how twins deal with loneliness.

“Next door neighbor twins” never successfully separate to avoid being lonely. These are the twins that live together or next door to each other. They have too much closeness and cannot bear life without one another. All of their closeness creates a deficit in language skills that are needed to relate to the non-twin world. Always wanting closeness, “next door neighbor twins” can be disappointed with other people who really can’t understand them like their twin does. Being afraid of their inadequacies with others is very common.

“Fighting twins” fight all of the time but they still need each other for comfort and feedback about life. Angry at one another, these twins can go their own ways and survive without their brother or sister. Fighting twins try to find others to recreate their twinship. They can miss the twin creation that they have erected to replace their twin. Eventually, fighting twins are forced to try to find ways to cope with their loneliness.

“Fearful twins” are afraid of of hurting each other because they have played opposite roles as children and taken care of one another. Eventually these types of fear-based twin relationships have to be understood so that adult relationships can be developed. Self-understanding is only accomplished because of deep feelings of loss and loneliness.

“Silent twins” don’t actually talk to each other but they need to know that the other is there for them at a distance. They are confused about their relationship and have difficulty forming intimate relationships with others.

“Self-hating twins” never want to see one another because they have been pitted against each other so badly that any contact creates pain. These types of twins still suffer from loneliness and have difficulty asserting themselves with other people.

Twin loneliness is painful. You can make your sad and empty feeling more tolerable by finding people who make you feel alive.

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 06:52PM by Registered CommenterBarbara Klein, Ph.D., Ed.D. | CommentsPost a Comment