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The Twin in the Transference

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Second Revised EditionThe universal phantasy of having a twin originates in our earliest relational experiences. This book is about twins and twinning processes. The existence of an actual twin, alive or dead, may be experienced as an embodiment of the phantasy of having a twin, with developmental consequences. Twinning processes in twins lead to the creation of an internal twin relationship that is enduring. The twin relationship may be at the narcissistic end of the spectrum leading to an enmeshed twinship, or it may be a more mature object relationship. All twin relationships will be manifest in the transference relationship with the analyst. The twin transference has been largely neglected in the psychoanalytic literature, to the detriment of our understanding of dynamic processes in twin patients. In this book, case material is used to explore the nature of the twin transference relationship and the necessity of analysing the twin transference, as well as maternal and paternal transference relationships.

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Chapter One: Twinning: The Creation of a Phantasy Twin

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Twins have to negotiate the same processes of emotional development as do singletons, but they also have to deal with the fact of being a twin. The presence of a twin both reflects and complicates common developmental phantasies of having a twin. In this chapter, I will briefly describe the processes of emotional development with reference to those aspects that have particular relevance for twins and for the creation of a phantasy twin. My focus will be mainly on Kleinian and post-Kleinian conceptualizations of development.

Loneliness and longing

It is not uncommon to hear someone wondering if they have lost a twin before birth, convinced that this would explain a persistent feeling of sadness, an unsatisfied longing, a sense of incompleteness. While this may have been true for some (the ‘vanishing twin’ syndrome, Ainsworth, 2001; Lewis and Bryan, 1988), for many it is more likely to be based on a longing for a phantasy twin. This longing for a twin has its origin in the infant's earliest experience in relation to its mother. The close preverbal contact between the unconscious of the mother and that of the infant provides the most complete experience of being understood. However, this contact is inconstant and the inevitable and irretrievable loss of, and an unsatisfied longing for, an understanding without words leads to a sense of internal loneliness. Klein (1963) suggests that this ubiquitous internal loneliness is the ‘yearning for an unattainable perfect internal state’ (p. 300). A phantasy twin provides the illusion of attaining this perfect state.

 

Chapter Two: Twins in Myths and Legends

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The twins of myths and legends illuminate our understanding of the processes of twinning. I will explore several mythical or legendary stories to illustrate some important dynamic processes of twinning including splitting and the creation of a double, love and hate, and rivalry.

Myths of creation, of splitting and doubles

In the Platonic discourse on the nature of love, Aristophanes proposed that the original nature of man was not as we now know it. A being of double nature, with two heads, four arms and four legs was split to create two halves that became a man and a woman. The motivation for this split was that these double beings were terribly strong and so full of themselves that they tried to attack the gods. Zeus decided to humble their pride and mend their manners by cutting them in two. In this way their strength would be diminished and their numbers increased. As these beings made offerings to the gods, splitting them in two would make them more profitable to the gods, doubling their value. Zeus thus halved them, healed their wounds and humiliated them, creating two halves that each desired the other half. On coming together, the two halves embraced and were so eager to grow into one again, that they would have died of hunger rather than separate. If one half died, the other half sought another mate to whom to cling. Zeus rescued them from this difficulty by adjusting their genitalia so that they could breed by sowing their seed in one another in an embrace, rather than on the ground like grasshoppers. Our desire for one another was thus founded in a wish to regain our original nature, making one of two. Each one, when separated, is but a half and is always looking for the other half, like lost twin souls:

 

Chapter Three: Cleaving together: Developmental Processes in Twins

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It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evil, as Two Twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world.

(Areopagitica, Milton, 1644: 13)

To cleave:

1. to split, chop, break or come apart, especially along a line of cleavage.

2. to stick fast, adhere.

(Concise Oxford Dictionary)

The intra- and inter-psychic twinning processes described in Chapters 1 and 2 play a prominent and distinctive role in the development of actual twins. While pathological development in twins is not necessarily attributable to the twinship per se (Shorr, 1965), the relationship between twins does have a profound and enduring effect on the development of a sense of self in each twin. The presence of a twin, whether MZ or DZ, same or opposite sex, offers the opportunity for twinning phantasies to become concretized and this may become a permanent feature in the personalities of the twins. Both the intense closeness of twins and the sometimes vehement insistence on their separateness indicates the difficulties that they may face in establishing individuality.

 

Chapter Four: Mothers and Twins: ‘A Walking Crowd’

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Parental relationships with twin babies are complex and the parents' attitudes and experiences will shape their relationship with their twins and the development of each child in a number of ways. On the one hand, the parents may be reluctant to interfere in the closeness of their twins. Often the twins turn so automatically towards each other that the parents feel it is too intrusive to intervene. Sometimes twins resist any interference in their relationship and it may require quite some determination on the part of the parents to do so. Where parents do not intervene in the twin relationship, the twins may be encouraged to form a unit separate from parental interference. On the other hand, the parents may use splitting mechanisms to deal with the complexity of the relationships with and between the twins. This would encourage the attribution of different traits or aspects of the self to one or the other twin, creating a split between the twins that is based on an exaggerated division of qualities rather than true difference. The simultaneous presence of two same-age infants, and perhaps considerable similarity between the twins, involves the parents in a difficult balance: that of maintaining an individual and separate relationship with each twin that also takes account of the experience of the other twin at the same time. This requires the parents to manage not only the two infants, but also their own tendencies to cope by either amalgamating or splitting the twins.

 

Chapter Five: The Twin in the Transference: A Developing Understanding

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In this chapter, I will follow the development of the twin transference from three angles. I present case studies that demonstrate not only the presence of the transference twin, but also the ways in which the twin transference is expressed in and affects the analysis. My understanding of the development of the twin transference is grounded in my own work with patients who are twins, illustrated by case material from my own work. I also hope to elucidate the move through analytic work from the more regressive manifestations of the twin transference to the more progressive ones that serve the development of the individual.

The analysis of the transference relationship between patient and analyst that is central to understanding the patient's formative experiences, has focused almost exclusively on the internal parental objects, in both dyadic and triadic mode (see Chapter 3). Given that the parental relationships with the infant form the framework for development, a detailed analysis of the child-parent relationship is essential to understanding the core of the patient's psychic identity. However, with a patient who is a twin, the omission of an analysis of the twin relationship leaves important areas of the psyche unexplored, and aspects of the transference relationship with the analyst will remain fixed or unresolved. As a result, the analytic twin pair will remain entangled.

 

Chapter Six: From Narcissistic Twin Bond to an Individual Sense of Self

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I will discuss some aspects of my work with Mr P to demonstrate the changing nature of the transference twin, and the insight this offers into the effects that being a twin had on Mr P's development. There are many aspects of this work that I will not address in this account, but will focus instead on what is relevant to this particular subject.

Mr P, an MZ twin, was in his fifties when he was referred to me. Following the ending of a romantic relationship, he had suffered what appeared to be a psychotic episode during which he had become anxious and disorientated, and was in a rather grandiose and hallucinatory state of mind. At the start of treatment, his acute state had passed and he recognized that he needed psychotherapeutic help.

Although he had been married for many years, Mr P's relationship with his wife was problematic. Throughout the marriage Mr P had had a series of affairs. His wife was aware of these extra-marital relationships and although she was greatly distressed about them, Mr P and his wife nevertheless remained inseparable. For both partners, the marriage was like a troubled twinship where neither could enjoy being either alone or together, and from which neither could escape. Mr P had ended his latest affair because he felt he could no longer tolerate being torn between his mistress and his family. Later, his mistress had become involved with another man whom she subsequently married. In losing her, Mr P felt he had lost a vital part of himself and he feared he would disintegrate. It seemed that he had formed an eroticized twin relationship with his mistress. He thus had a cold, unrewarding twinship with his wife and an eroticized twinship with his mistress. Losing the latter felt like a devastating loss of self - a taster of transference issues to come.

 

Chapter Seven: Enactment of the Transference Twin: Individual Development and Regression

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In researching the literature on the psychoanalytic treatment of twins, I have been struck by the number of published cases in which the analyst has enacted a twin transference relationship with a patient, rather than deal with it through interpretation. In addition, some analysts have justified the enactment, claiming that it is the transformational factor in the analysis.

Ordinarily, a patient phantasizes about projecting an experience or object relationship into the analyst. The analyst is nudged into living this experience in the transference relationship with the patient and is then able to recognize and interpret it. The patient has brought alive the transference relationship in the analyst's mind by pushing the analyst intra-psychically to ‘actualise’ (Sandler, 1976: 45) the transference relationship. Sandler (1993) defines ‘actualisation’ as ‘a process in which the object is pushed, by a variety of subtle unconscious manoeuvres, both verbal and non-verbal, into playing a particular role for the patient’ (p. 1105). However, in an enactment, the analyst becomes the transference object and enacts the assigned role instead of analysing and interpreting. As I will discuss in the next chapter, enactment is a product of both the patient's projective identification and the analyst's own counter-transference reaction.

 

Chapter Eight: Enactment in Transition and the Fragmentation of the Self

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The pressures that precede a transference/counter-transference enactment are complex and may be experienced as compelling. I believe that particular aspects of the twin relationship that are reflected in the transference create an atmosphere that predisposes the analytic pair to enactment. I will begin this chapter with a theoretical discussion tracing these ideas. This discussion links the last chapter on enactment and my own clinical material that follows later in this chapter.

First, I offer my hypothesis, followed by an exploration of the underlying dynamics:

In the analysis of a twin there is a central dynamic that pressurizes the analyst towards a breach of the analytic setting by an enactment. This dynamic is the fundamentally unbearable quality of the paranoid anxieties and the fear of fragmentation. These qualities arise as the patient emerges from a bound narcissistic state with the analyst-twin into a state of individual differentiation and a sense of being separate.

In outline, the process is as follows: the patient creates a transference twin that contains elements of the earliest experiences of the twin relationship, as well as the earliest twinning relationship with the breast. The transference twin is projected into the analyst, who then lives out the projected relationship transferentially. In this way a primitive inter-twin relationship is established between the patient and the analyst in the transference. The analytic twinning is based on extensive projective identification and the primitive nature of this communication puts considerable pressure on the analyst to do something other than analyse (Joseph, 1978). However, information provided by communication from sources other than verbal associations, dreams, etc., particularly the analyst's counter-transference reactions, provides invaluable information about very early experiences that would not otherwise be known (Joseph, 1985, 1987). The early, unresolved twin relationship with the breast and with the actual twin would be communicated in the analysis via nonverbal means, echoing both the understanding without words with the twin breast and much of the communication between the twins themselves.

 

Chapter Nine: Psychoanalytic Fallout: The Threat of Separateness

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The twin left out of treatment

I described in the last chapter the way in which the struggle for separateness within an enmeshed twinship may be experienced as a life and death issue. While the development of an individual identity within a twin relationship may be life-enhancing for the liberated twin, it may have serious consequences for the twin not in treatment. In certain circumstances development towards separateness in one twin may even be seriously damaging for the other twin, as I will describe below. This raises complex ethical issues that do not have any simple solutions.

The twin not in analysis may find it extremely threatening to see the changes in the twin patient as a result of the analysis. The extent of the entanglement of the twins and their relative levels of development will affect the degree of disturbance caused within the twinship by the processes of separation. The more narcissistic the twin relationship, the more challenging to the excluded twin will be the psychic movement out of the imprisoning twinship by the twin in analysis. In this situation, development in one twin seems to threaten the remaining twin with a sense of annihilation of the self. This echoes the experience of the twin in analysis emerging from the narcissistic twin envelope (see Chapter 8). But while the twin in analysis has the necessary help at hand, the excluded twin may not be so fortunate.

 

Chapter Ten: The Psyche-soma

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The main focus of this book has been the effect of a twin relationship on the individual development of each twin and the manner in which this manifests in the transference. I believe that the enduring nature of the internal twin relationship is rooted in its psychobiological basis. In this chapter, I will explore the links between attachment behaviour in an infant-mother couple and the development of structures in the infant brain that are relevant to current and later affectional bonds and relationships. Within this context, I will also consider the position of conjoined twins.

Beginnings

The twin transference relationship that has been explored in this book originates in the earliest developmental experiences of the individual. As discussed in Section 2, the transference twin would be a powerful dynamic in analytic work with a twin, whether or not it is recognized. It is to the detriment of psychoanalytic work that twin (and other sibling) relationships have been neglected in both practice and analytic understanding. As a result of this neglect, one of the primary relationships that twins experience is not represented in the psychoanalytic theories about the structuring of the internal world of a twin.

 

Chapter Eleven: Intimate Relations

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In this chapter, I will explore the nature of incestuous phantasies and activity in twins; the ways in which the twin relationship may affect marital relationships; and the transgenerational effect of twinning that becomes evident in parent-child relationships.

Twin infants may use each other for gratification and the resultant libidinal attachment formed between them may be long lasting. It is not uncommon for the libidinal elements of the close twinship to lead to an incestuous relationship between the twins. The phantasies underlying the incestuous activity in children would shape the nature of the sexual encounter, and this will include phantasies relating to the libidinal twinship as well as to the parental objects and their sexual relationship. The nature of the incestuous phantasies in childhood sexuality will affect the development of the children. Childhood sexuality would be linked with oedipal passions and may also be an attempt to emulate the parental sexual intercourse or the child's misconception of it (Klein, 1932). Twins, like singletons with their siblings, may use their incestuous activity to ward off oedipal fears, or to delay the resolution of the oedipal conflict (Coles, 2002; Engel, 1975). For twins, however, there is an additional powerful component of their incestuous activity: some twins entertain the phantasy that they are two parts of one whole. This phantasy may be enacted in the incestuous relationship between them as they endeavour to re-unite with their ‘other half’ in their yearning to be one, like the Platonic beings (see Chapter 2).

 

Chapter Twelve: Till Death us do Part

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The death of a twin

The death of one twin would be a considerable loss not only to the parents, but especially to the surviving twin, whatever the age of the twins or the nature of the twin relationship. When one twin has died at or near birth, the surviving twin has a particularly difficult developmental task. Although a twin relationship creates additional developmental obstacles for an infant, the death of the other twin would not have freed the surviving twin from a possibly difficult twinship. It would instead have added an additional developmental burden in that the dead twin may carry powerful projections linked with life and death, survival and revenge in the phantasies of the survivor. These phantasies would be omnipotently controlled by the surviving twin and could not be tested against the external reality of a present twin. In analytic work, the dead-twin phantasies would become active in the transference.

The infant has been together with its twin from the beginning and the twins interact from early on in the pregnancy (Piontelli 1989, 2002). It is unclear when the foetus becomes conscious of the other twin. However, the pattern of relating between twins has been observed by Piontelli to persist after birth, and as discussed in Chapter 10, the experience would be laid down in the neural substrate along with the affectional bond to the mother. Where both twins survive the birth, the infants face separation from both mother and twin. Where one of the twins dies, the surviving newborn baby will experience not just separation from, but an absence of, the other twin, as well as a grieving mother and father. Both the survivor guilt of the live twin and its confusion of identity with the dead twin would be likely to affect the personality development of the infant (Lewis and Bryan, 1988).

 

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