The Curse of the Evil Twin

Synopsis: The Evil Twin is my shorthand for the part of us that gets us into trouble… and we often don’t even notice

wayne and dar

So, April 5 is our 30th wedding anniversary! Darbella is my best friend and so important to me, and I’m both honoured and humbled that she’s chosen to hang out with me for 3 decades plus!


Wayne’s books, related to today’s topic:
This Endless Moment,
Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall
evil twin

One of the hardest things to do, when relating, is to give up control.

Not SELF-control. OTHER-control.

I was visiting with a friend last week, and she’s at the “I think it’s over” stage of her 3 year relationship. I’d met her partner a couple of times, but really didn’t have a good idea about him. I know her, on the other hand, pretty well.

I used to call her ex-husband her “fourth son.” He would quite regularly do quite immature things, and not see it–he always had an excuse. She spent most of time lecturing him on his flaws, and insisting that he act differently.

The new guy? A slight shift, but still immature. He doesn’t like to be questioned or challenged; he gets angry, then runs away and hides for a few days.

In both cases, the issue, the trigger, remains unresolved. Because they all refuse to SELF-reflect

So, anyway, I was listening to her talk about how this was “it;” the relationship wasn’t going to make it. My friend mentioned, in passing, that her boyfriend, growing up, had had issues with his father. Dad was hyper-critical, and as a kid, her partner tried to comply, but as a teen… you might have guessed it… he started fighting back, yelling, screaming, doing the “You can’t tell me what to do!” thing. I imagine he also used to hide at his friends’, but have no evidence for that one.

I heard it, filed it, and missed the point.

My friend “bought into” one aspect of this. Her partner often tells her that he has no control over his temper. He’s been like this, he says, for 20 plus years, and when “he gets triggered,” he has no choice but to blow up. What he wants is for her never, never, ever, to do anything he could set himself off over.

See the issue? It’s her problem–she is supposed to control herself so he doesn’t have to control himself!

She actually bought into his inability to control his temper. She has tried to modify her approach to him, but ended with, “…but I can’t help myself. I lecture a lot, and then I do get angry. It’s how I am.

This certainly is her pattern, in both of the relationships I’ve known her during.

I talked with her about my own temper, which was more like “attack mode.” I noted that, back in 1982, I stopped flaring up and ripping people a new one, with only one or two slips since then. I have learned to incorporate that energy (let’s call it yang, for the moment) back into my quieter, adopted “yin” approach.

A day or so later, I was thinking about this article, and was playing around with the recent conversation, and I had a bit of an insight.

Both my friend and her (soon to be ex?) partner are caught, and what they are caught in is “the curse of the evil twin.”

What I realized was that when her partner deigned to speak, he played the “I’m helpless” card. “This is how I am: and I’ve been this way since I was a kid, and my dad was abusive… sniff, sniff… and I can’t control myself…”

In other words, “I’ve been acting like a child since I was… well… a child, and I there’s nothing I can do.” I guess we should all be happy he didn’t get stuck at the point where he was still shitting in his diapers.

And my friend, well, she lectures. She sighs a lot. And her pattern, stretching back decades, is to pick men who need fixing. The question is: can she give this up, and choose to be with an adult? Jury’s out.

Another version of this one is the parents who continually treat their grown children like kids, and then complain that they never grow up.

cool heat of passion
“I’m not a kid! I’m not! I’m not!

That one triggered yet another story-memory. 10 years ago, I was talking with the 30-year-old daughter of a friend. He was very much the guy who wanted to be seen as “big daddy–rescuer.” He was almost paralyzed if there wasn’t a problem to bemoan, then fix.

Anyway, she and her husband had a house and land, and had built a place for her mom and dad next door. Many mornings, she’d exit her morning shower, dance naked into her living room, and there would be dad. She’d scream at him, wrap herself in a towel, and demand that he “respect her privacy!” He’d say, “Kids shouldn’t mind their fathers checking up on them, and I’ve seen it all before, so get over yourself and make ma a coffee.”

I sighed, got up, grabbed her hand, tugged her over to the front door, and pulled it open. I shut it, locked it. Tried and failed to open it. “Does he have a key?”

Wide-eyed amazement, shake of the head (no key) and, “I never thought of that! He’ll be so mad. You’re sure it’s OK if I lock the door?”

She’s 15 when she won’t lock the door (back then, she wasn’t allowed to, but now???), and plays right into dad’s game of keeping his kids under his thumb.

To restate: the naked, dancing adult reverts to her towel-wrapped 15-year-old self, standing in the middle of her room, screaming at her intruding dad. In that moment, she is not only behaving like a 15-year-old, she IS 15.

And, key point, she doesn’t notice! She says, “What else can I do?”

Lock the frigging door, that’s one thing.

The biggest myth out there is, “I can’t help myself, it’s just the way I am (do things.)” Despite the fact that, as an adult, you’ve changed a myriad of things. But… this one is hard.

What, you thought it was easy?

Here’s the short form of the fix.

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1) Make a decision, when you are not “wound up,” that your evil twin is no longer allowed to take over.

Now, remember, this is not easy. In the examples above, the dysfunctional behaviour has been going on for decades. And boy, have they come up with excuses and defenses for carrying on. (“My father yelled at me 20 years ago!!!”)

You’ll need to sit quietly, either with yourself or with a therapist, and go over all the reasons you use to justify acting out — evil twinning, if you will. Those reasons, when you are heated, hold sway.

2) Picture the last time you “lost it.”

Close your eyes, and bring back your last “set-to.” Take a moment to see if you can trace it back to it’s source. (For me, it’s being 8, short, and picked on, and being told by a respected adult to defend myself with my mouth.) I want you to connect the beginning with the current result, so you “get” that your behaviour is either infantile or juvenile.

Now, re-trigger the last set-to, and register what’s happening in your body. Where are you tightening? What are you feeling?

Stop! Now trigger the memory again, and tell yourself to slow the process down. You can do this! Where, specifically, do you feel the first tightening or discomfort? Drop the thought, and feel the place that’s the start of the feeling. Give it a rub, a tough, a poke.

3) Now, have a coffee. Then, give your body a shake. Now, trigger your adult self, and park your evil twin.

Have a chat with yourself, adult to adult. What will your new behaviour look like? For me, it was a) clamp mouth shut, b) breathe, take a minute, and c) respond calmly, quietly, and from my adult place.

What’s yours?

4) Make a deal with yourself

Here’s the crux. You will need to join together the bodily feeling you found (the tightness) with a dead stop. A “whew, I almost bit on that one!” stop. And then, you make a pact with yourself that, in the pause, you will trigger your new behaviour (step 3 above) Every time!

5) Here’s the kicker: you can’t make excuses!

Your evil twin isn’t going anywhere. Mine still screams and demands, but does it in my head, and this is 33 years later. Same for you. Your evil twin is going to say, repeatedly, “But… but… anyone would react to this provocation!!!”

In the end, your evil twin is a bad habit, and, like stopping smoking, you can’t sorta stop. You gotta stop excusing acting like a child. You gotta step up, and be an adult, no matter what.

Because the world is a classroom, you will be tested. Provoked, prodded. Stand firm. And remember: if, like my friend, you got into a relationship with someone just for the drama and to have your buttons pushed, you choosing differently likely won’t mean your partner will change.

They’d have to decide the same thing you decided… to do this work, and stop being a child.

My friend with the towel actually did shift her side of things, and dad spent months trying the door. And then trying other things. She chose differently, and ignored him.

Your evil twin is a child, and acts and speaks like one.

Maybe it’s time to grow up!!!


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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