A thousand years ago when I was elected student body secretary in high school . . . and my twin sister was not. . . how was I to know that she felt awful?  Last week over coffee we recalled this experience and so many others that are difficult for twin teens.   I had no idea that my sister felt so guilty about getting into a prestigious and highly academic high school program that I did not qualify for.  As a result, she told me that she chose to only participate for one semester rather than two.

Even though these events occurred more than forty years ago, they remain salient emotional markers in our adult relationship.  My sister and I are grateful beyond words that we had each other during our growing years.  We both recognize and acknowledge that it was our twinship that protected us from unhealthy family dynamics.  Most siblings, including twins, form a distinct relationship with each parent.  I tried to take care of our mother emotionally.  My sister, on the other hand, experienced such profound maternal disappointment that she stopped feeling any connection to her at all.  Both of us reacted in different ways to a situation rife with maternal neglect and cruelty.

As we have raised our own children, we have a renewed appreciation about how our unique connection to one another actually saved us.  I have interviewed hundreds of twins and am often told that the twin relationship served as the anchor and safety net in family situations where the parents were emotionally damaged.

While my sister and I are similar in may ways, we have distinct preferences and personality traits.  I love to shop and spend money; she buys her clothes online and is careful about “saving for a rainy day”. Nonetheless, our shared experiences create an unbreakable bond that allows for individual differences and perspectives.  Our need to create an even balance is no longer an issue, as it was in high school.  So, we can tip the scale in many directions without either one of us feeling fearful about falling off - such are the advantages of wisdom, mindsight, and hindsight as we grow older and wiser.



Parenting Seminar

“Using Emotional Intelligence to Raise Compassionate and Resilient Children”

Sunday, June 12

12:30–5:30 p.m.


$50 General

$40 Skirball Members

$30 Full-Time Students


In this seminar, participants learn to help their children become emotionally intelligent and find ways to express their feelings authentically and appropriately.

Through a keynote presentation and multiple workshops, participants will learn how to use Mindsight with their children to help them discover their feelings as a source of strength.

Techniques for cultivating resilience and well-being will be explored. The seminar will also enable parents and caregivers to strengthen bonds with children, leading to stronger families and communities.

Designed for parents, expectant parents, mental health care practitioners, and teachers, the program includes the keynote lecture and two ninety-minute workshops, Session A and Session B.

Dr. Joan A. Friedman will be offering a worshop during Session B, from 4:00pm till 5:30pm.

Raising Emotionally Healthy Twins

Facilitator: Joan Friedman, PhD, author of Emotionally Healthy Twins

Drawing on her experience as a twin, the mother of twins, and a psychotherapist specializing in twins, Dr. Friedman outlines seven key concepts for helping twins develop into self-realized, resilient individuals. Her current research about adult twin development will enhance parental awareness about twins’ ongoing emotional growth.

Everything You Want to Know About TWINS!!!
This event is a wonderful opportunity to learn about twins from an emotional, sociological and biological perspective.
If you still have unanswered questions, feel free to visit me at my book signing after the panel discussion.
Where: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Lenart Auditorium
When: Tuesday, May 18 @ 7:00 pm
RSVP: darwin@socgen.ucla.edu or (310) 267-5471
Admission: Free (parking is $10)

Working with twins of all ages and their families for many years, I have encountered a phenomenon that needs to be addressed and confronted.  Parents seem clueless and surprised to find out how much twins begin to resent or be annoyed by their twinship as they get older. Many parents seem to be in utter denial about these circumstances.  They do not stop to consider that the twinship might be a source of stress . . . (read full article)

Recently I received an email from a despondent adolescent who was depressed and angry over the fact that no one seriously believed that being an identical twin might in any way account for his dissatisfaction with his life or himself.

He expressed that he felt odd, misunderstood, and sad because he believed that he had never had any opportunity to develop, create, or shape his own unique self. He said that his angst over these issues was dismissed as foolishness and self pity by his mother and his therapist. The teenager’s attempts to differentiate from his brother by doing separate activities were thwarted by his twin brother who ended up copying and mimicking his actions. There was no parental intervention to stop this interference or sabotage.

This boy feels adrift and isolated with his frustration and sadness because he is trapped in the “idealized” world of being a twin. Certainly, those people who have fantasized about being a twin or having a twin might readily dismiss this twin dilemma and understand the boy’s state of mind as reflecting expectable adolescent struggles. However, this is far from the emotional reality of many adolescent twins.

Imagine how troublesome it must feel to want to be your unique self and yet feel terribly unsure and conflicted about your own identity. Throw in the additional variable that the price of being your true self might come at the expense of the most significant attachment that you have. How does a conflicted adolescent cope with his or her longings for separateness and self-definition if it means the loss or alteration of the most important attachment figure? So often the twin who dares to separate is perceived as bad or wrong, and this projection creates enormous guilt and struggles for the teenage twin attempting to wrest himself into some sort of individuated person.

Do not underestimate the impact of a twin relationship on your adolescent twins.

While identical twins often have a harder time given that they have been treated as an indistinguishable unit for most of their lives, fraternal twins also have difficult obstacles to overcome. Fraternal twins frequently differ significantly in terms of their sociability, academic successes, and athletic prowess. While some sets of twins find a workable balance, many struggle needlessly because their parents do not acknowledge that the twinship can create difficulties.

One mother I worked with was exceedingly reluctant about considering the option of putting her fraternal teenage girls into different high schools. While it seemed perfectly obvious to me by virtue of the mom’s reporting that each girl was suffering tremendously by being compared and interdependent, she appeared reluctant and uncertain to provide each twin with what she needed because of the sanctity of the twinship. Reluctantly, she adhered to my advice on blind faith since she could not bring herself to acknowledge that the twinship had become a toxic attachment.

The girls are doing beautifully in their separate schools and she is forever grateful for my advice and counsel.  Again, this is another instant which substantiates my belief that parents of twins have to make important decisions for their children - the twinship cannot be such a powerful entity that decides how lives should be lived.