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von Broembsen, F. (1988). The Twinship: A Paradigm towards Separation and Integration. Am. J. Psychoanal., 48(4):355-365.

(1988). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 48(4):355-365

The Twinship: A Paradigm towards Separation and Integration

F. von Broembsen, Ph.D., Psy.D

A transitional, dyadic, type of quasi-object relationship at times occurs spontaneously in the course of development. The significance of this phenomenon is acknowledged in the many variants of the twins myth. These myths exist in many cultures, from the Greek Dioscuri (Hamilton, 1969), and the split soul in Plato's Symposium, to the twin war gods of the Navaho Indians (Campbell, 1968). In some representations the twins are of opposite sex, and seem to represent the “masculine” and the “feminine” principles, the yin and yang in the symbolic diagram of the Chinese Tao—a representation which has become a lynch pin in the Jungian concept of human consciousness.

Rank's doppelganger highlights a different aspect, something akin to the shadow, to the dark me (Rank, 1958). In one form or another, the fascination with a double, with an alter-ego, has surfaced in art, in literature, in philosophy, and in religion throughout the ages. Despite this ubiquity, however, its significance has been grasped only in a fragmented, piecemeal fashion. The yin and yang insist on the gender dichotomy. The Greek twins, Castor and Pollux, emphasize fraternal devotion. The literary doppelganger, such as Hesse's Demian, or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or the portrait of Dorian Gray, threatens us with the evil within, with the intrinsic instability of the self.

The twinship phenomena identified in the course of treatment of individuals with personality disorders suggest that this kind of relationship functions as a transitional phenomenon (Winnicott, 1958). It provides an interpersonal experience, as it were, half way between reality and fantasy (Grolnick, 1978), an additional opportunity to sort out and integrate the complexities of the life-long process of separation and integration.

One variant of the twins myth is particularly useful in clarifying the complex issues involved, the story of Isis and Osiris (Neumann, 1970; Campbell, 1979). This version originated around 3000 B.C. in dynastic Egypt.

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