Friday, August 05, 2011

Can a parent replace a lost twin?

As we continue to explore parenting and womb twin survivors, we uncover a kind of  co-dependency between parent and child. This can be very painful and damaging for both parties and can take a womb twin survivor into therapy, faced with complex relationship difficulties that will persist as long as the issue of being a womb twin survivor remains unaddressed.  I'll try to clarify a few of these difficulties today: the question is, can a parent replace a lost twin?
The  womb twin hypothesis states that
Womb twin survivors spend their lives reenacting the life and death of their womb twin.  Nothing appears to be more important than that, even life itself. 

As part of that reenactment there is an attempt to compensate for the loss by finding a substitute twin. My research has shown that there is an attempt to replace the lost twin by forming a quasi twin relationship with another person, animal or object.  In order to feel like twinning,  the relationship has to be close, even intimate,  reliable and emotionally intense. Crucially, there has to be a high level of empathy and intuitive understanding for this relation to fulfil its function as a way to repair the pain of loss of a close intimate who is always there,  and who understands without any explanations being necessary.  As one womb twin survivor says: "I badly need someone who 'gets' me. "

For a twin substitute to be effective there has to be some similarity, a connection or a meeting of minds. A parent, particularly one who is the same gender as one's lost twin, is an excellent substitute, particularly in those early months of what has been called "maternal preoccupation." 

It stands to reason  that  a womb twin survivor will latch onto one of their parents and develop a strong attachment, a dependency even.   A mother of a one year old daughter told me: "She wont even let me go to the toilet, she has to have me in sight all the time..."

This need for constant contact is accompanied by great anxiety if the contact is broken. I remember years ago when I ran a play group, one child who wept piteously for the whole two hour session and had to be cuddled the whole time, until his father ( his principle carer) decided that it was not worth going on with it because his son was so distressed.

This has been described as "anxious attachment"  but it completely reasonable for a young child to feel, if they are  using one parent as a substitute twin - the loss of their twin was  permanent, leaving them abandoned and alone - if the substitute twin also leaves, then the poor child is thrust into their Black Hole.  But the substitute twin, whoever that turns out to be, always comes back after an interval. In time the child may learn to trust that someone who disappears has not gone forever, like their vanished twin.

It can help to enable the child to understand their anxiety  - that the parent is not a twin but a stronger and much more reliable presence than that.  Barring accidents or terminal illness, they will always be there.

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