The following article was published in the Spring 2010 issue of Dream Network which you can join at

“We Are Somehow Different”
Dr. Mercy Runyan

Vol. 29 No. 1/Dream Network 43

I was born an identical twin in the post WWII baby boom in Cincinnati, Ohio, when twins were still a rare occurrence. I have experienced the world for these many years through twin eyes. I cannot explain this world view nor can I truly understand the singleton experience. We are somehow different. Several years ago my identical twin was killed in the crash of a small plane and I was thrust into the deepest grief. Through my gradual acceptance of ‘twinless twin’ status, I was privileged to meet Dr. Jane Greer, a clinical expert in twin loss, and Dr. Nancy Segal, a researcher into twin psychology and herself a fraternal twin. We were all seeking the answer to what differentiates the cognitive schemata or, in other words, the archetypes of the twin psyche from those within the singleton psyche. All were looking to understand twinship and to help twins adjust to life in a singleton-dominated culture.

Twinship, a master status in sociological terms, reverberates through mythic and recorded history. The post modern world embraces the facsimile, the doppelganger, the body snatcher, the loss of uniqueness at the subatomic level, and the inevitable slide of identity towards identicality. Will the real person please stand up? How better to understand the inner world of twins than to study their dreams? This I did with prodigious support from Dr. Robert Van de Castle, coauthor of the Hall and Van de Castle dream coding scales, and Dr. William Domhoff, a prolific researcher in quantitative dream studies and author of the web site Given my life-long fascination with both twins and dreams, I forged ahead and have published a dissertation for my PhD from Capella University, “Do twins dream twin dreams?: A quantitative comparison with singles’ dreams,” available at ProQuest/UMI. This present moment however evokes a phenomenological exploration. One of my own dreams which I dreamt the very night after being diagnosed with breast cancer on August 5, 2008, reveals the inner narrative. The characters are my identical co-twin Malinda deceased on July 21, 1988, and my second twin and husband Hank deceased September 5, 2009. He was alive at the time of the dream and we were separated due to severe alcoholism.

The dream as recorded the following morning: “I gave Hank to Malinda. They loved each other. They were far away on a large field. I went to them. I asked for inclusion. They looked at each other with love and understanding and did not make room for me. I realized that it was too late. They did not need me any more.”Looking at the dream through the twinship lens, I can see that it fits to some degree the quantitative profile of the 164 female identical twin dreams in the sample. The characters are familiar and include the co-twin. The setting is unfamiliar. The dream activity, however, is minimal compared to the sample twin dreams where the complex narrative is filled with events and strivings as one would expect from ‘dream people’ with thin personality boundaries described by Dr. Ernest Hartmann. But what does this dream mean? How does it reflect on the diagnosis of breast cancer? What does it tell us about ‘the twinless twin?’

The interpretation depends upon the two levels of imagery analysis, objective and subjective, used by Dr. Carl Jung and recently restated by Dr. Yoram Kaufman in ‘The way of the image.’ Objectively, Malinda often got the guy. How many times did boyfriends meet her and drop me flat? (Well, at least once.) I was the more outgoing twin, the second born, the usurper, the sorceress and yet Malinda was so loving that people flocked to her. Hank had met her once when we were 20-something; Hank and I were lovers then and child abuse caseworkers in the same office in Jersey City, NJ. The field might be the large green and playing field on Pleasant St. near our childhood home where Malinda and I played endlessly with our friends until the church bells rang in the carillon tower summoning us home to dinner. Perhaps Malinda had run down the field with a friend and I was left out. But no, this dream is not the typical triangle. There is more to be revealed here in twin terms. The diagnosis of breast cancer that very day had transformed me from a joyful healthy woman into a ‘dead man walking.’ Three weeks later I learned at the Mayo clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, that HER2-NU breast cancer had been curable since 2006 with the targeted chemotherapy ‘Herceptin.’

The morning after the dream I believed that the dream implied my impending death and that I was leaving Hank behind in this world with Malinda as spirit guide. “It was too late” meant that it was too late for me to change my lifestyle and avoid this disease. Therefore it was best that Hank not need me. I would be a very young soul and less capable of guiding and protecting Hank than the experienced and evolved soul Malinda. After all, were we not identical twins separated at earth? She would certainly love Hank in the same way that I had always loved him. I had been absolutely convinced for many years based on hypnotic regression and my dream experiences that Malinda and I had planned to come to earth together and would rejoin on the other side. I still did not understand how, when or where that glorious reunion would occur. Subjectively, both Malinda and Hank were powerful twin introjects.

I can only believe that Malinda represented my anima and Hank my animus. My animus was an alpha male, professional football player and sportsman, very intelligent in IQ terms and yet very weak emotionally. Stress and crisis led him back to the proverbial infantile breast or bottle. Malinda was a gentle and beautiful anima with long hair and sensual features. She was the introverted twin, the compliant daughter, the devoted wife and elementary school teacher. She lived literally in my shadow as we grew through childhood and adolescence. I was the ‘bad’ twin, the free spirit, the child who escaped the family system. Malinda escaped through her transformation to spirit at the age of 39. No doubt she had less bad karma to overcome! At the subjective level, the diagnosis of breast cancer freed ME from my ties to Malinda and Hank. I had no time left to delay my individuation.

I needed to own my projections immediately or risk despair when I desired integration. ‘It was too late. They did not need me AS THEIR TWIN any more.’ In fact, Hank was dead 13 months later from the physical ravages of alcoholism; he died of a heart attack or, in other words, his heart was broken. I could never save him but I could become fully my Self. The denouement: I am fully cured of breast cancer and finished all treatment in December of 2009. The tenth year is completion. The PhD is complete. A new beginning arises for my twin self, hosting Twin Talk, a radio program on at 11am ET on Friday mornings. The energy of the image transforms us in our respect for the dream.

Twincerely, Dr. Mercy Runyan, the Twin Doctor