A huge topic in our twins transformation journey is the perception of identity in our relationship. As we also didn’t know for a long time who we were without each other and only saw and lived as a twin unit, it was not possible to perceive our own identity and individuality. In the following we describe what we actually mean by identity and what forms exist from our point of view in a twin situation.
Identity – Experiencing the unity of self
The definition of a person’s identity from psychoanalysis according to Sigmund Freud is seen as unique and unmistakable, both in one’s own perception and in the social environment. For the individual, the identity represents the experience of the unity of the self. Above all, the focus is on the I-reference and thus a “feeling for oneself” in order to differentiate oneself from other people. For example, when children perceive themselves for the first time and also speak in the “I” or “Me” form, this is the first expression of acting on their own inner urges and the feelings that come from the self.
Identity is therefore an expression of elementary needs. What is then added to identity formation over time are social expectations or norms. It’s even more exciting with identical twins: baby twins only understand from around the age of three that the person opposite is not themselves. Already in the mother’s womb they feel the other twin, feel the body of the other, such as arms, legs or mouth. After birth and during the first few years, they explore each other, sucking each other’s thumbs or pressing each other’s feet. They feel and sense the other twin and cannot distinguish whether it is themselves or the other. This only creates a limited distinction. And because it’s so cute to see two babies who look alike next to each other, you dress them up straight away.
Twin identity unit instead of two individuals
Of course it was the same for us. We dressed the same, always ate the same things, and played with the same toys. One of us cried, the other cried along without really knowing why or from what feelings. “My twin is not well, so I have to feel that way too. So I cry too.” For a long time there was no reference to the first person in our language. Everything was pronounced in the we form. “We like it that way” or “We don’t like it”, “We’d rather read the book” or “We will wear that sweater”.
As a result, we practically grew into an identity unit. There was no I, always a We! This pattern existed through kindergarten and school. We came together and we went together. With only a few exceptions, we always sat next to each other, were in the same sports club, got the same birthday presents and shared a room until we were 15 years old. We heard the same music in the room and went to sleep at the same time when one of us turned off the light. This could only create a sense of togetherness because there was no space in which everyone could explore their own needs and values. Family members and the environment only saw us as a unit. Although the family was able to tell us apart, in the end we were not the individuals Jessyca and Jennyfer, but always “The Twins”.
The repression of the true self in identical twins
Corresponding beliefs shape the unity of identity as twins from an early age and fuel constant comparison. This expresses in sentences like: “Well, your sister or brother got a better grade than you” or “your sister or brother is nicer than you”. It doesn’t matter what the constant comparison to the twin is: whether the twin is braver, more decent, neater or quieter. It leads to the fact that the twins eventually only focus on the other. True to the motto: This is the only way I can get the love, appreciation or recognition of my parents. That’s the only way it can (or even worse: I can) be right. What actually happens is that both twins suppress their actual needs and true beings (which are very different from birth and much earlier) since infancy. They are not given the opportunity to live their true nature.
Three twin identities
But it doesn’t usually have to stay that way. From our point of view and on the meta-level, there are three ways in which identities develop from what has just been described. On the one hand there is the positively developed identity, the negatively developed identity and the repressed identity.
The positively developed identity is expressed when the inner call for differentiation from the twin arises quite early, usually in the early years of school. This shows for example if one or both twins express that they no longer want to attend the same school class or one twin no longer wants the same hairstyle as the other. If these and other signs appear, one can and must listen so that individual needs can be answered and an independent identity can be developed. This is the only way to strengthen one’s own basic trust in the “correctness” of one’s own self, which in turn smoothes the process of detachment from the twin. The end result is two individuals who shape and live their lives independently, both as individuals while being and staying connected as twins.
The negative identity formation is a heavy contrast to that: Here it can happen that other emotions arise, such as anger, sadness, jealousy or rejection of the other twin, because, for example, due to the similar personality, such strong competition has developed that one twin would like to be everything – just not like his or her other twin. They more or less tolerate each other and respect each other in adulthood. But the further away they live from each other or the less contact they have with each other, the better they get along. As soon as they are in the same room or spend time together, tension arises because at an early age they could not live their own truth and were always in comparison. Any behavior of the other triggers points in the other person, which ultimately and inevitably leads to conflicts. It can also happen that twins don’t want anything to do with each other anymore because it just feels like a burden. This is especially the case when the feeling has arisen that one twin always takes something away from the other or one twin feels that all energy is drained by the other. They believe that they can only develop their own identity if they are physically and mentally separated from their twin as much as possible. An identity is formed, but in a negative sense: it is still shaped by what the other twin does, in order to do exactly the opposite, supposedly out of their own free will. And from our point of view, this is the worst form of the twin relationship because emotions such as anger and sadness continue to exist in the subconscious. These are repressed and suppressed. And just thinking about the twin leads to an inner conflict.
The third type of identity formation, the suppressed or delayed identity formation is, from our experience, when, for example, twins’ social and family relationships with designated reference persons are unstable. For example, if there have been a lot of relocations or breakups, it can result in the situation that the only constant factor is the twin relationship. This usually becomes even more intense, because the twins find a reliable anchor in themselves: they can always rely on each other, they always give each other support, comfort and attention. What happens, however, is that the twin becomes the only reference person and cutting that umbilical cord is hardly possible. Instead, the co-dependence and the fear of losing the twin through whatever circumstances grows. A symptom of this is, for example, if the twin should always be nearby or at least reachable. Or the twins always have to be on “the same level”: Whether it’s in sports or professional achievements, looks or who earns how much money. As soon as those fields get unstable, jealousy and envy arise. There is a feeling of no longer being the reliable unit. Forming your own opinion is ultimately dependent on the other twin. This situation also influences a partnership with another person. This is often not possible because of the feeling that nobody else fits in or because nobody understands the close bond between the twins. This in turn can lead to only starting a romantic partnership with another person if they are also a twin, in order to calm these fears. The clearest form is when both twins can only be with other twins. Here, too, an identity development takes place, but only in a suppressed sense. The good thing is that this can develop into a positive one with a delay. If there is the will to look at and resolve the fear issues and limiting beliefs that have developed over the years, the chances are good.
The way to your own identity as a twin
Luckily we never got into the situation of hating each other. We realized that we were in a repressed identity development and in order to free ourselves from this we had to look at issues such as fear, jealousy or competitiveness. The question “Who am I and what does my own identity actually looks like?” became louder and louder. So the question of identity has caught up with us more and more over the years, because we have increasingly questioned whether what each of us did was really our own choice or just that of the twin. Because of the beliefs that we carried with us into adulthood, each of us became more and more separate. Both of us were only head-controlled, far separated from mind and body. The heart or intuition, which clearly expresses the real needs, could no longer be heard. For so long we’ve been in a kind of dull yet functioning twin entity, each separate yet together. We were both so unhappy in this unity of identity that neither of us really wanted. On the one hand it gave us support and security and on the other hand it restricted us immensely. Thank God the will for inner clarity was great, so that we managed to sit down and talk to each other. Ultimately, this led to everyone going her own way. Although “normal” for many people, it was the greatest challenge for us twins: making decisions on our own in small steps, not always getting the blessing of the twin first, finding out what everyone prefers for themselves and only for themselves and not calling each other five times a day on the phone. Those were the first steps towards our own identity.
Who am I and who do I want to be?
The journey to oneself was initially quite turbulent and at the same time we knew that it would be liberating for both of us. What helped us were different methods, such as writing. It helped and still helps to write every day about how you are doing and what your wishes and plans look like. The more we wrote, the clearer the picture of who each of us wanted to be. Whether it was our autobiography or the biography about being twins: we immersed ourselves in all areas of our lives and began to remember! Both of us remembered again who we are and how each of us envisions her unique identity! The most important thing was that everyone of us took responsibility for themselves. This was the only way to recognize the unique and unmistakable identity! And today we live according to the motto: Live & let live. We appreciate our respective uniqueness and learn so much from each other.
Those who ask themselves these or similar questions about their own identity as an identical twin and would like to be accompanied by us, please reach out and send us a message!
Jenny & Jessy