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Poland, W.S. (2000). On Discovering Otherness of Mind. Psychoanal Q., 69(1):151-152.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(1):151-152

On Discovering Otherness of Mind

Warren S. Poland

One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons!

A natural perspective, that is, and is not!

—Orsino, on first seeing together the twins, Viola and Sebastian.

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night [V. i. 214-215]

Bright at three and a half, she struggled insistently to make sense of the confusing, ever-expanding world around her. Brought by her mother to a new pediatrician for an examination, she stayed alert and took all in with her eyes. But her eyes widened further when the doctor's identical twin brother, with whom the doctor shared his office, entered the room.

Astonished, the little girl turned to her mother and demanded an explanation. “How can one person be two people?” she wanted to know. The mother answered as well as she could, starting with a reminder of fraternal twins who were in the little girl's preschool class, and going on to give as simple an explanation of identical twins as would seem both comprehensible and sufficient to her daughter's mind.

When at last the little girl's curious wonder felt satisfied, she looked again at the twin doctors, leaned over and, nodding toward the doctors, whispered into her mother's ear, “Do they know?”

This fleeting moment, like a single frame from a progressing film, captures an instant in mentalization—that point when awareness of the existence of others has not yet caught up with the fuller recognition that other people have independent and knowing minds of their own.

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