Twinship is not a Pathology! Understanding the Fundamental Structures of the Self

  • Abstract:

    This paper engages a common view that pervades theoretical interpretations of twins—the notion that twinship is a result of each twin being a failed self which results in a singular entity or a we-self. Put differently, there is a widespread view that the self-other distinction is absent or lost in twinship. I demonstrate this by examining twin studies mainly from the psychoanalytic tradition. From this, we see that this assumption is so widespread that twins are considered to lack individuality due to the alleged pathologically interdependent nature of their twinship. Hence many hold that twins form a unit identity which enables them to operate as one person. Yet, twin’s first-person accounts do not corroborate this view. Rather, they see their twinship as a joint enterprise which includes a sense of self and other. Yet, rather than acknowledging this, the literature reduces twinship to a form of psychopathology. I argue that this is a consequence of the assumption that twinship can be fundamentally understood as a result of each twin being a failed self which results in a we-self. In order to dismiss this claim, I turn to the notion of the minimal self, which situates the self in the mineness of one’s pre-reflective first-person experience. As a result, it will become evident that there is a self-other distinction in twin relations and their highly entwined but separate identities could not arise without this being so. I end by recommending, that these researchers broaden their understanding of selfhood by recognising the fundamental and basic experiential structures of the self. In turn, this will allow them to work from the position that twinship, rather than been the consequence of two failed selves, manifests due to the reciprocal engagement of two minimal selves or subjects of experience.