Wonder Twins Please Rescue Me From This One Pain

by | Mar 3, 2019 | Anxiety, Highly Sensitive Person, Relationships | 38 comments

When I was seven years old, my favorite Justice League superheroes were the Wonder Twins. I loved that their magic rings would activate their superpowers. I loved that one shining moment when they locked rings and were transformed into their magical animal and water selves. And I loved that they always had each other.

These archetypal figures – superheroes, characters in fairy tales and myths, even Hollywood actors – speak to aspects of psyche that we long to integrate into ourselves. As a young child I had no idea what longing was activated while watching the Wonder Twins. In fact, I haven’t thought about them in decades, and it’s only now, forty years later, after a week of listening closely to my clients and course members talk about their longing for a partner or friend so perfect in their ability to attune to their every feeling and need that they could rescue them from their fundamental human loneliness, that I understand my attraction to these superheroes. It’s the same yearning that was activated when I watched the documentary Twinsters last year and wondered what it would be like to suddenly discover that I had a long lost twin out in the world somewhere. When the film ended, I wept from a longing so deep inside of me I didn’t even know it existed.

The Core Longing

The longing is for twinship. The longing is for someone who so closely resembles you in every way that you would never feel lonely again. The longing is for a perfect other. The longing is for a soulmate. The longing is for someone to see you and know you so deeply that you would never feel “other”. The longing is to belong. It’s this longing that the romance industry exploits as it sells you the message that when you meet your perfect partner this longing will be met.

I’ll share an example of how this raw area of the human psyche arose this week in my work with clients (*as always, when I share excerpts from sessions I do so with permission). A member of one of my phone groups shared that, while she’s happily married and completely smitten with her young daughter, she still flies off into fantasies about a different life with a different partner. This is someone who has been engaged in my work for years and was able to break free from enough of her relationship anxiety to move forward with her marriage. She loves her husband deeply and is fully committed to the marriage, but was feeling troubled that even after all these years she’s still struggling with these flights of fantasy that land her in the arms of another man. We explored this in the group:

“Let’s backtrack and rewind to the moment that the intrusive fantasy hit,” I suggested. “What was happening just before that?”

“My husband and I were having a discussion and we weren’t seeing eye-to-eye about something. It wasn’t a major issue, but I didn’t like that he wasn’t seeing it my way,” she shared. “And then I went into the fantasy. I thought, ‘Maybe this other guy would see it the way I see it.'”

“And what feeling were you trying to avoid by going into the fantasy? In other words, what does it feel like when you and your husband see things differently?” I asked.

“It feels lonely, I guess. I want him to see things the way I see them. Maybe I feel scared when we don’t see eye-to-eye.”

“So instead of letting yourself feel that loneliness – which is very painful to feel – you fly into the fantasy?”

“Yes, I think that’s it. Why is it so painful to feel that feeling?” she asked.

I shared that we all enter marriage with an unconscious hope that our partner will fill in the missing pieces. We imagine that this perfect other will be like a nectar, pouring themselves into all of our empty places and vacant holes. For some people, once they realize that perfect twinship isn’t going to happen in their marriage, they project their longing onto the hope for a perfect friend. Again, we’re sold the bill of goods that such a person exists, and we only have to wait for this prince or princess to arrive and our lonely holes will be filled with golden nectar.

Here’s the truth:

There is no escape hatch from the fundamental loneliness of being human. There is a place inside that cannot be met by another human being. We are separate by design, and if it were meant to be otherwise we would have evolved differently. This means that there isn’t a friend or a partner in the world who can rescue you from the awareness that you are the only one that lives in your body and sees the world through your eyes. There isn’t anyone on the planet, not even a genetically identical twin, who can rescue you from this aspect of being human.

When we know this truth, we can stop projecting the longing onto a partner or friend and instead accept the limitations in our relationships while learning to tend to the true loneliness at the root. This means accepting that people will misunderstand you frequently. It means you and your partner won’t always see eye-to-eye. It means it’s okay to argue; it doesn’t mean you’ve picked badly. It’s okay when someone misunderstands; it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It means you can tolerate imperfect communications with friends and you can allow them the grace of failing to attune to you. And, ultimately, it means befriending loneliness until you no longer experience it as loneliness, for when we wrap ourselves around the feeling and become our own golden nectar, the feeling that we believe we can’t tolerate will eventually, miraculously, become a friend.

***

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38 Comments

  1. Sheryl, this was beautiful. I recently had a baby and although I have a very strong and loving partnership, I have struggled with feeling alone in my transition to motherhood, as I’ve come to realize that my experience of becoming a mother is so inherently different from his experience of becoming a father in so many ways (not least of which is how intimately my body has been involved in almost every aspect of carrying, feeding, and nurturing this child). He is a wonderful partner and we have a very egalitarian partnership, so I was caught completely off guard by the realization that our transitions as parents were so asymmetrical. (Of course it is a transition for him as well, but I think anyone who has become a mother can understand this asymmetry I’m talking about.) I’ve realized lately that at times I resent him for it, which leads to me being short or sullen with him (and only intensifying my own suffering!). I’ve had the insight that loneliness is part of what I’m feeling, but reading your piece has helped me understand that what I’m struggling with is feeling alone in this radical identity shift – this loss of my former self and this navigation my new, mother self, and it feels scary to go through this alone when we have gone through so much together (we met young and have been together for over a decade). It is a reminder that the work I need to do is my own, and that as I do it my feelings of resentment and loneliness will fade. Thank you for this piece and all your others – they have been so helpful to me as I have navigate ted my own relationship and pregnancy anxiety. Can’t wait for your new book!

    Reply
    • Transitions always elucidate the loneliness of being human, and how confusing it is when we’re going through a transition with a partner yet are aware that we’re having vastly different experiences! Yes, anyone who has become a mother can certainly understand this loneliness, and you’ve articulated it beautifully. And when you can name what’s happening for you and feel your own loneliness and grief about the loss of your non-mother self, the resentment will fade.

      Reply
    • I don’t have anything to add Chana but wanted to say how beautifully you have expressed this. So many mothers must go through this but are not able to articulate it like you have. Wishing you all the best with your transition x

      Reply
  2. It’s not often I’m moved to tears by these emails… but this shot straight to my heart, probably more than anything I’ve encountered in the program. Thank you for writing this <3

    I guess my question is… how do you remember this in day-to-day life? Those moments when you aren't seeing eye-to-eye, you feel so misunderstood, and it feels so real? This makes so much sense to me, and I want my brain to remember this. But all too often, these types of realizations flow right in, and then leave again 🙁

    Reply
    • Hi Emily, I’m not expert or whatsoever but I think gratitude is key. Hope that helps 🙂

      Reply
    • Print this out and keep it near. When we have these moments of a-ha, we generally need to read the words over and over again. Also, I encourage you to write down what touched you. Give it space. And if you can move with it creatively in some way – write a poem, dance it, draw it – it will integrate at a deeper level. I’m so glad it hit home ;).

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      • Perfect! Thank you! <3

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  3. Oh Sheryl I so much needed this, the exact same thing that happens to your client happens to me, and we also have the same ‘profile’ (know your work for quite a while, been married for years and have young children). Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your precious mission as a lightworker!!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Katie, for these beautiful words. xo

      Reply
  4. Hi Sheryl! I’m amazed at how every single blog post relates to something that it’s happening in my life at the moment. I feel so warm when I get email every Sunday night about a new blog. 🙂

    I also wanted to share with you this beautiful song that was released a few days ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDeNQNtW1f8). I just discovered it and I’m amazed at how much it captures the escape fantasies that so many of us have. It is also nice to see how the topic of relationship anxiety is slowly starting to enter the zeitgeist.

    Greetings from Argentina!

    Reply
    • WOW! That video was stunning. It brought me to tears. Every partner of someone struggling with relationship anxiety needs to see this!

      Reply
      • Roman, thank you for sharing this! I am pregnant and have struggled to balance an immense love and gratitude for my baby and a strong desire to get rid of the emotional and physical discomforts that accompany pregnancy. Before that, I have struggled with urge to flee a very loving partnership for an imagined relationship that could take away all pain. This is a habit I had in relationships before meeting my husband and it surfaced during our engagement. This video and the beautiful dance in it caused me to weep for my pain but also to recognize my gratitude for my husband’s steadfastness and my own growth with the help of Sheryl’s work and God’s grace. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

        Reply
  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    Reply
  6. Hi Roman, we are neighboors I’m from Chile 🙂
    Thank you so much for sharing that beautiful video, I was very moved by it and is SO SO TRUE.

    Reply
  7. I wonder if you were a twin once? It is surprisingly common; the statistics are that 1 in 10 of us begin our lives in the womb as a twin. The longing you describe, which I have at an elemental level myself, comes from the time I spent in utero deeply connected to my brother.

    https://www.wombtwin.com

    Reply
    • That is a fascinating idea, Christine, and one I’ve never considered before. Wow. Of course there would be no way for me to know that but it makes sense. At the same time, I do think there’s an archetypal longing for oneness that comes from our time in the womb, and possibly even from a forgotten knowing that we’re all one yet separate while here on this planet.

      Reply
      • I think that’s very true! I’m writing about this pattern myself as it fascinates me. I think one of the characteristics of being a baby who is a surviving womb twin, is that you bring to your attachment to your mother a level of disappointment that is very unusual. Disappointment happens when you are able to compare. If a child has lost a sibling in the womb, they have a prior knowledge of an equal and profound connection that leaves them, inevitably, disappointed in the mother, however loving the mother is.

        Reply
  8. So timely and resonated with me Sheryl, thank you once again.

    Reply
  9. Hi Sherly I signed up for the 7 day Free from RA Course but only got day 1 & 2. For some reason I didnt get anything yest. Thanks

    Reply
    • I’ve sent this to my assistant and she’ll look into it. Thanks for letting us know.

      Reply
      • Sorry Sheryl I have got them. They weren’t appearing on my mobile but are there on my laptop. Apologies.

        Reply
  10. So beautiful. Thank you for your writings.

    Reply
  11. This fundamental loneliness is so key to my anxiety in the sense that I had the feeling of being “other” from very early childhood (familial sexual abuse and being the youngest of four with an overbearing and at times inadequate mother) and all my life I’ve thought that a perfect partner would make it go away. In many ways on a practical level of course much loneliness does disappear when you are partnered but then I’m left with such a dread of going back to that even more lonely place if the relationship fails that my anxiety is while in a relationship is off the chart and I can’t eat, sleep, work, breathe etc. And forces me to leave the relationship (or he leaves me more often). At 46 now, never married never lived with a partner and resigned to being single for life because the anxiety gets worse with each failed relationship
    (Over 40 of them by now), I am having to befriend the loneliness (both fundamental and practical) as I enter middle age and beyond. It’s a scary place for sure but somehow so familiar as frankly it’s exactly how I felt as a child. I realise now finally no one is going to rescue me from it, just like no one rescued me from the pain and practicalities of my childhood. It’s up to me to make the best life I can for myself as a single woman with no children.

    Reply
  12. Thank you for this. I struggle with this a lot in my relationship, sometimes my boyfriend feels so different from me and I notice that I expect him to be exactly what I need in the same way that my mother is. I believe I have an enmeshed relationship with my mother and am just now learning that we might be two different people. She has always been able to give me exactly what I need, at the cost of her own well-being, I now realize. And now it is as if I get disappointed that my boyfriend is so different from her. It’s like she is my model how people ought to behave towards me.

    I am learning to take care of myself and am accutely aware of the feeling of loneliness that comes along with that. Feeling lonely is probably what kept me not wanting to take care of my self in the first place but hoping someone else would do it for me. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Yes, an enmeshed relationship with a parent can also create the belief that others are supposed to meet your every need, then the consequent loneliness of realizing that you and you alone are responsible for your well-being. Thank you for sharing this insight.

      Reply
  13. Hi Sheryl

    You might not see this but I’m hoping you do!

    What would your advice be to new parents? Me and my husband are tired of course. We have 11 week old twins. We rarely have sex and to be honest I’d rather not. I just find him insanely annoying most of the time, I’m picking on silly things that he does that annoys me. He constantly tries to get me into bed but I mean constantly and I’m finding it repulsive! Or if he’s not trying to get me into bed he’s coming out with different sexual innuendos. It makes him seem perverted! I know it’s great he’s still attracted to me but his constant persistence is unattractive and annoying. If he’s not doing that he will fall asleep snoring on the sofa. I do all the nighttime/early morning feeds so he can be refreshed for work and it makes me angry when he says he is tired. Yesterday he fell asleep at the dining table and then the sofa. We’ve got into this routine where it’s all about the kids now and ive definitely switched off emotionally. I don’t even want him touching me id rather just continue being left alone. I know this is a problem but I’m unsure what to do….

    What would you suggest?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • You’re far from alone, HR. In fact, this is one of the biggest challenge that new parents struggle with, and it comes down to a need to connect. Your husband is going about it by using sex to connect, which will never work – especially with a new mother of twins! But I imagine that underneath his pull for sex is a need to connect with you. He misses you. And on some level you probably miss him, even though that missing is eclipsed by your exhaustion. Would it be possible to sit together on the couch with no expectation of sex – just to hold each other and connect? Also, if you have the Birthing a New Mother course there’s a fantastic interview in there where the man advises other men to take the expectation of sex off the table for a full year. My personal wish is that couples would leave the hospital with a pamphlet that says, “No expectations of sex for one year, guys!” At 11 weeks he doesn’t stand a chance… and he needs to know that it’s not because you don’t love him. It’s because you are simply incapable of giving and connecting in that way, and that’s going to be the case for a while.

      Reply
  14. Hi Sheryl,

    Thanks for the words! When I come to the realization, again and again, after reading posts like this, that no other human can fill my voids, I usually wonder “why bother getting married, then?” (or being in a relationship). I’m single and I’d like to marry, but sometimes I’m not sure if this is a natural desire or if it’s just this longing for completeness. I know some people can be perfectly happy single, but I think I couldn’t. Is it because I’m looking at marriage as the “nectar”? How to get this mess straight in my mind?

    Thanks!!!

    Reply
  15. Thank you so much for this post Sheryl! Until reading it, I never was able to understand what I was really looking for, for so many years. It was “twinship”! Wow, what an illusion. You are so right, that the nectar of self-love, self-compassion helps to individuate everyone including ourselves. And like you said, it allows us to have relationships (partner and friendships) without the constant attuning and “judgement” of attuning. What a relief! Thank you for this amazing post !

    Reply
    • I’m so glad it was helpful, Julia!

      Reply
  16. Oh, how I understand this, Sheryl. I was just writing about this on my journal, but then I remembered about this post and I felt the need to share my thoughts here even if it’s been more than 20 days since it’s been published. I hope you don’t mind me doing this 🙂

    I feel the same way towards my favorite boyband. They are called BTS, and they are a korean boy-band of 7 members which is doing incredibly amazing these days. To me they are living the best life: they are doing what they love, dancing and singing on a stage, and breaking records and making history. They’ve been working and living together for 8 years, developing a bond so strong and sincere that even as an outsider you can’t help but notice and admire. They are traveling together and living their dream together and becoming legends together. They are not only record-breaking artists, but best friends who love and cherish each other. It would be my ultimate dream to live together with my best friends, people who are amazingly talented and I endlessly admire, and being able to sing and dance on a stage with them. It’s because I feel so alone and unable to make my dreams come true, with no direction in life, that I feel so attracted and connected to them. I know that their life was built with sacrifices I could never endure; and yet I think the good sides of this dream are so good that it is all worth it. So, I too have my Wonder Twins. And I’m so envious of them. Because they are real people who are actually living all of this; they are not fiction. I want to perform on a stage with my best friends and travel the world. I want to do beautiful things with my body and voice and grow my talent. But I find myself dreaming my days away, most days. I guess that’s one of the main dangers for fours (on the Enneagram) 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing. I hear the longing embedded in your fantasy – the longing for more connection and creativity – and I would also caution you not to project too much because you really don’t know how they might struggle in their day-to-day lives!

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for reading my very long comment and also taking the time to answer, Sheryl! I really, really appreciate this 🙂 I think you are very right, and yet the ego mind is so good at seeing the positive sides of a situation only! For example, I know that the korean idol industry is very strict: artist have to train for 12+ hours a day and they are often overworked; they aren’t allowed to date thorough their whole career and they have to deal with obsessive fans that daily stalk them, following them to their hotels, planes, and so much more. It’s a beautiful life, but definitely not an easy one. And yet the ego mind is so easy to overlook all of this x) ! Thank you so much, sending much love xx

        Reply
  17. Hi Sheryl!

    What would you say to that loneliness I might feel when my partner doesn’t find me funny? I always fantasize and say, I could be with someone who finds me funny like some friends who do.

    Reply
    • I’d say, “Make room for that loneliness and remember that one person isn’t going to meet or get every aspect of you.”

      Reply

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