How to Survive your Evil Twin.

 “Man is not by any means of fixed and enduring form. He is nothing else than the narrow and perilous bridge between nature and spirit. His innermost destiny drives him on to the spirit and to God. His innermost longing draws him back to nature, the mother. Between the two forces his life hangs tremulous and irresolute.”

~ Herman Hesse
 

Life with a chance of demons.

I’ve been trying to tame myself my entire life. Like most humans, I’ve had more faces than I can remember and I’ve done things I’m not sure if I should save or delete.

If only I wasn’t so ephemeral or if I could live another thousand years. 80 won’t do to figure it all out. Or maybe if I was a better detective of this life and I could solve all mystery and memorize all knowledge… If only I was god, I think I could finally succeed at understanding myself. All-knowingly. For good.

The Absolute doesn’t have nightmares. 

We are all born manifold: more than one, sharing the same body. It’s a good thing to live in unity; as long as we don’t mistake unity by units; as long as we stop limiting ourselves to being ‘just one being.’

You are not one, you’re many. You are the body and the shadow, the subject and the object, the one and the other. You are a group. You are legion. Physically and mentally, you are a plural phenomenon.

Out of all the people who cohabit me, perhaps the one I like the least and love the most is Ms. Yang, the dark(er) side, the bitch, the horror.

The first time my Evil Twin emerged, I must have been at least five, because I can still remember the fire. If, say, anyone wanted to hurt my brother, an inevitable demon would rush its way through me and terrible knives would start growing out of my knuckles.

 

I didn’t exactly recognize the person kicking and screaming at the bad guys, but there she was, burning through my skin. I suppose the bitch has been with me since before the world was made.

As the years passed, ET returned, changing shapes, as I also changed my ways of welcoming her.

 ***

Part 1 — When you deny your demons.

In school they teach us definitions. You can’t just smell a plant, you have to learn what a plant is: Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae, says Wikipedia.

Definitions are needed to situate you and help you survive in the jungle of Society, but children don’t care about the situation. They care about the story.

And through this daily story of definition upon definition of what we should (must, oughta) be, these children—you and me—are taught the Art of Separation.

Not that distinction is negative per se. We are part individuals, after all. We need to point at things and mindfully appreciate the difference.

But Separation also has a self-destructive side where, instead of welcoming all the opposites within us, we keep one Self and kill the rest because you see, they just don’t fit in the one-bedroom apartment in our chest. Or so we’ve been taught.

 

 

You must be reduced to one single paragraph, one type of person, one label, one name. Or so we’ve been programmed. And you better pray that your one Item doesn’t turn out maladjusted or bad-looking.

In this divorce from the whole, the Evil Twin is the first one to suffer, because the rest of your personalities are usually more acceptable.

There is no necessary opposition between being outspoken or discreet; beautiful and smart; outgoing for the most part and an introvert on rainy days. Even a scientist and an artist are complimentary.

But no one likes the bitch. Nobody digs the asshole. No, really, it’s not sexy.

We may like to date them from time to time but we marry the nice (er) people. Nobody likes to hurt or be hurt. 

So you just limp through life. You grow up thinking there’s a one kind of woman you must be, a one type of man you should try to become. One image.

 

Renaissance is for the unreliable. You must settle down. Choose your major. Pick your team, your color, your specialty. Restrict yourself to one. And let it be nice. 

For the greatest part of my life I couldn’t get myself to admit the existence of an Evil Twin. Skinny, pale and lonely Yin was in denial. I thought that, like a terminal illness, once the dark side was diagnosed it would immediately get worse and everything would start to crumble.

Or, minus the drama, my ET was more like a seasonal flu, a nightmare that if never mentioned, I’d never have again.

She didn’t exist.

Except for when she did.

You look great,” someone told me once. “Have you been losing demons?”

“What demons?” I shouted back in rage.

 ***

Part 2 — When you repress your demons.

Okay, so maybe there is someone in my closet, after all. She can be selfish, dark, twisted and cold. She’s got fangs, she drinks blood instead of wine and she has good memory (which is a terrible thing for her offenders).

She likes to prey upon the ignorant, ignoring that she is herself one in more ways than she could understand; and that ignorance is the most relative condition. She ignores, for instance, the most basic notions of accounting or how to handle her money.

She is way too dramatic. She’s always thirsty for arguments and likes to fight whoever gets in her way, even when they’re carrying a white flag.

Her problems are the end of the world. And being in danger, the world should pause from spinning, until she solves them. She was the first woman in history to chop someone’s head off, in order to cure a migraine.

It’s not that she enjoys being her. It’s just that hurting is her only language. She doesn’t know of any other way to communicate or materialize. It’s the currency in her country. What can you do?

 

{Photo: Francesca Woodman}

After I was forced to notice her – over too many battles to ignore – I started actively hating her.

I was a sweet, almost-funny, likable lady, until the monster showed her teeth. I was ashamed and afraid of her at the same time. But mostly, I was mad. I wanted to kill the fucking snake (with all due respect to snakes).

She disgusted me especially because she lived with me (Me! What Greek gods have I upset? Zeus, get it together!) and she had no intention of moving out.

But I didn’t know how to put her down without also cancelling myself in the process.

So she kept on showing her ugly face at the most inconvenient moments, embarrassing me and others, mercilessly setting fire to all my qualities. The more she showed up, the more I tried to silence her; and the more I punished her, the more she hurt me back. I was living in my own, organic mad-house.

I guess the most painful realization was the disappointment of looking in the mirror and seeing the disfigured shadow behind the relatively pretty face; the disenchantment, the imperfection, the not-enoughness. The deep, dark and inoperable lament of the soul.

Does 21st Century Western Angst imply having a psycho signing my letters after me?

***

Part 3 – When you face and swallow your demons.

I don’t remember how truth came to be on this Earth, but I’m pretty sure it used to be life’s original condition.

All I had time to learn in nearly three decades of human experience is that it doesn’t dawn upon you at once, but gradually, so we don’t go blind from a sudden display of light.

Truth works through puzzles, just like love. One day you wake up and you know. Your eyes are opened and you finally see the picture you’ve been building all along.

So I woke up that day with a mission. Open Pandora’s Box and let the devil out. I was worn out from so much hiding her. Besides, she still found a way to cheat out of all closets, so why bother any longer?

I thought, just let the creature out of the cage, let her go 100% crazy, while I sit back and watch the bloody show. Let’s see what happens.

Sometimes you have to choose between losing your dignity and losing your life. I chose the first and in losing my small self, I found that terrifying, beautiful and fuller condition they say it could be, must be, Life.

 

Like any dragon let loose after lying in a dungeon for ages, my Evil Twin was skeptical at first. 

“What now? You mean I can go? Like, walk away?” I nodded in disgust. “Really? You’re not gonna’ try to exorcise me or something?” She couldn’t believe it.

She did roar around for a while, but soon enough, the strangest thing happened. She started losing interest in her freedom and she even made a few attempts to communicate with me, managing to transmit a sad echo of her story.

So I seized the opportunity and caught her off guard one day, in the bathroom mirror.

“Hey Satan,” I said, “how would you like a job?” She stared back at me, visibly surprised. I think I saw the fangs again and heard a deep, tired growl. I figured I should explain better, lest she should decide to bite my head off. You never know with these creatures.

I told her I was willing to let her stay, cooperate, come to an agreement, some sort of win-win situation for the next 80 years. There had to be a way…

She couldn’t close her devilish eyes for an entire minute. I tried not to make any sudden movements, give her some quiet time to think.

And as she was considering her new mission – that of a bodyguard instead of an assassin – she suddenly seemed to me less hateful and more human. I felt that if I just looked at her long enough and from the right angle, I’d find a watercolor sadness behind all her monstrosity.

As if all she’d really wanted all this time is for someone to listen to the silent whisper beyond the louder cry. To understand. That’s all.

Isn’t that what we really need, after all? A witness to our lives?

 ***

A bitchy Renaissance.

From that day on my Evil Twin and I have become some sort of awkward friends. Or more like friendemies, a middle-ground new variation of our human species.

She makes serious efforts to stop herself before it’s too late and sometimes succeeds in doing what I never thought her capable of: think twice. And when she can’t help but cross the line, her madness is usually not terminal and I am willing to fix her mess.

 

On the other hand, unlike me, she’s extremely focused and helps me finish my most mind-consuming projects. She’s the one who contacts my phone company each time my internet goes down or whenever we experience tech issues with this website.

She gets me through the toughest times, especially when Sweet Girl has had enough cruel world for lunch. And in doing so, she cusses way too much. Sometimes I have to cover my ears.

She protects me from the bad guys in the dark alleys — even better than most men I’ve dated; and she is so much stronger than me.

So I no longer want to kill the snake because I’ve learned to sort-of dance with it. As gross as I find snakes.

I turned the Bitch into a friend — or, better put, a trusted co-worker. We share the same office space, the same hands that type this letter. She even makes me laugh at times.

The first best thing about our newly integrated relationship is that figuring out whatever “right” means in any situation is no longer a struggle, but an adventure, where no one has to die in order that another may live.

Because I am not bound in any way, but free to be as multiple and manifold as I possibly can. Each one of my Selves has a say in any matter, especially the Evil Twin.

Managing your demons is more interesting and takes less energy than ignoring or fighting them.

Who would have guessed that in losing yourself you’d find your selves – and thus, your higher, more complete Self? That when you die to the little and limited you, you’re born again into a whole, more comprehensive version? That those who seek to preserve their one small and cozy life will lose it and those who lose it for the sake of their bigger beautiful, bold truth, will, strangely, find it?

Well, Jesus did – among others – but religion has found a way to lock the truth in churches; false morality has managed to castrate the Evil Twin.

It’s a newer, more progressive and subtle version of the Spanish Inquisition. They don’t hunt witches down now, they just turn them into nice girls.

The second best thing is that once you learn to co-exist with your Evil Twin, to accept and forgive him/her, your start regarding everyone’s Evil Twin with the same kind of compassion, far from the black or white but somewhere among the different shades of grey that we all are.

You stop being their judge, just as you’ve stopped being your own judge and policeman. Or you are at least capable of trying.

I never understood what was so wrong about Adam & Eve eating that apple… wouldn’t you rather know your good and evil?

Would ignorant bliss have been better than the freedom of thought — which you can only acquire from looking your own demons in the eye and using them to your benefit instead of letting them silently destroy you?

So what if we’ve made a mess out of things? “Truth comes with blows.” There’s no Plan B, only one long and crooked A.

Simone Weil figured this out long before I was born:

“I also am other than I know myself to be. To know this is forgiveness.”

So, love thy enemy, you think? Even when that sweet enemy is occupying the same body as you?

They say it’s only love that changes people. Not knowledge, progress or materialism.

I think acceptance needs to come before love. I can’t love the Bitch unless she means something to me. And I certainly can’t accept other Bitches, unless I’ve accepted mine first.

‘Cause when I give you the same right to exist, you matter. And when you matter, I consider you. And when I repeatedly consider you, I start understanding you. And when I understand you, I start feeling your pain.

And once you feel somebody’s pain, it is impossible not to love them. Because pain, no matter what the size or shape, is really one universal knife stuck in one heart.

Everyone lives inside your chest.

 

***

P.S. Shhh! Not a word. No one can see this but you.

Evil Twin ending this letter. I’m often put off by the length of my Nice Twin’s arguments. She thinks she’s so clever. But I stop listening to her after the first long sentence. This woman can’t shut up. 

If you’re like me, it’s pretty simple. Please let me see beyond your pretty face. Who’s that Bitch under your skin? How’s the Asshole doing? Where’s the Vampire hiding? Don’t keep all the blood to yourself. Join me and introduce your Crazy. I’d love to meet the entire Psych ward.

 

*****

{Also shared on elephant journal.} 

 

 

 

{Creative Psych Ward.}

 

 

 

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Andrea Balt
Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Rebelle Society, Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness & Professional Dream Chaser at Creative Rehab. Unfinished book with a love for greens, bikes and poetry; raised by wolves & adopted by people; not trying to make art but to Be Art. Holds a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, an MFA in Creative Writing & a Holistic Health Coach degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. In her work she tries to reflect the wholeness of the human experience by combining Art & Health + Mind & Body + Darkness & Brilliance into a more alive, unabridged and unlimited edition of ourselves. She is also on a quest to reinstate Creativity as one of our essential Human Rights to (hopefully and soon) be included in the UN Declaration. Connect with her in the Social Media Jungle via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and sign up for her FREE MuseLetter.

26 Comments

  • Richard La Rosa
    ~Richard commented on October 17, 2012 Reply
    Bloody brilliant. My evil twin is honest to a fault and would go on a scathing sarcastic rant on hypocrisy at the drop of a hat if I didn’t restrain him. There’s more, but I’ll save it for the autobiography. You’ve inspired me to create a dossier on my evil twin. I shall bring him into the interrogation room and we will take turns giving each other the third degree.
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on October 20, 2012 Reply
      I’d like to hear your evil twin’s British accent.
  • Bret commented on October 17, 2012 Reply
    I meant to say, you really put your articles together well… You are an amazing technical writer… And find a way to tap into… That. Im too scattered and random to ever functionally make sense the way you do. Beautiful…
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on October 20, 2012 Reply
      Thanks Bret. Got you. “It’s not you, it’s me.” :)
  • Allison Liberty commented on October 18, 2012 Reply
    This is brilliant and fantastic and made my heart beat a little faster. Thank you, thank you <3
  • Kristi Stout
    Kristi Stout commented on October 18, 2012 Reply
    Andréa, awesome! I relate to this fiercely. Thank you so much for sharing this. You have inspired my darker other… <3
  • Diane Ferraro commented on October 18, 2012 Reply
    Nicely done. And shared on my Facebook page with fellow writer :) http://www.facebook.com/DianeFerraro1
  • fortheintolerants commented on October 19, 2012 Reply
    If only more people could be accepting of their “shadow sides.” This is brilliant. Thank you.
  • Andrea Balt
    Andrea Balt commented on October 20, 2012 Reply
    Thanks for all the kind comments. My shadow lost a few pounds of denial from typing this. And she’s never looked healthier. :)
  • Z commented on November 13, 2012 Reply
    In. Love. With. You. Andrea,
  • Vicki Woodyard commented on January 13, 2013 Reply
    Gawd, this is good.
  • pbiesen commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    I love this! I am sharing it.
  • jill commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    good writing… but when you say “no one likes to hurt or be hurt” you’ve lost me. Not everyones shadow is a bitch. Some people prefer to present an asshole image and underneath it have a big teddy bear–and i’m not just speaking about men. Jung has a lot of good things to say on this… he was the first to really introduce the ‘shadow’ as a psychological phenomenon… absolutes in general i find rather limit anyones intelligence
  • jill commented on February 21, 2013 Reply
    also, anyone who has a shadow that is a bitch tends to be attracted to assholes. or at least to end up with them. we are both attracted and repulsed most by what we hidden in ourselves. and often both at the same time. it is quite possible to enjoy being hurt. keep it personal, i think, and i wouldn’t be left arguing in my head. ‘i am this way therefore everyone…” not cool.
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on July 9, 2013 Reply
      HI Jill. I think you’re taking one little detail out of context and turning it into an argument for the sake of arguing. Which is okay, all opinions welcome. I’m quite familiar with Jung’s position and if anything, this article doesn’t go against it but absolutely in its favor. Sure, I speak from my own experience, if yours is so remotely different, that’s okay too. I can’t address the entire human population in all its limitless variety in a relatively short article – and I can’t include “from my own perspective” at the beginning of each sentence. I’d believe it is implied that everything I say or believe is, ultimately, from my own perspective, just like your opinion comes from your perspective. Furthermore, we all generalize, all the time, in more ways than we’re aware of. As long as we realize that our opinion is limited, and our generalizations and beliefs about life come from our own (particular) point of view and experience, I think we can get our points across just fine. So, from my own experience, I don’t know of anyone who enjoys feeling or provoking pain. If there’s any part of us that enjoys pain, it’s the shadow, which again, is what I’m trying to illustrate in this article. Once we integrate the shadow, we begin to be more aware of this need to hurt or be hurt. Being a bitch or an asshole doesn’t equal enjoying it.
  • Rachel commented on June 13, 2013 Reply
    My evil twin, or perhaps the evil brigade in my mind is scathingly critical and has an ability to find a weak point with razor precision with anyone that looks like criticising or judging me. The brigade has a few paranoid members. They don’t like to be seen or heard because they expect me to be so perfect that I dont need them…if that makes sense? Im only now, at 33 staring to have a conversation with them. Funnily enough, we’ve had some great laughs, and a whole heap of self acceptance has come as i slowly integrate my whole self and still believe that inherently Im a decent human being.. They are aspects of self that just needed to be heard – and seen with compassionate eyes – and asked, ‘what are you asking for?’ ‘What do you want for Rachel?’…
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on July 9, 2013 Reply
      I love that…this simple question “What do you want?” is usually the most neglected, and yet the most powerful, life-changing question. The Legion just wanted to be taken into account. Sounds reasonable to me. :)
  • Tafline Laylin commented on July 9, 2013 Reply
    Yay Andrea. This is one of my favorites; for me, it was love at first letter…
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on July 9, 2013 Reply
      Thanks so much! Love at first comment! xoxo
  • Janos commented on July 10, 2013 Reply
    What a great article Andrea. Thoroughly enjoyed every word. Pain and “The Evil Twin” as you call it. Can force us into a trap,but sometimes it can turn into our strongest ally.The motivator to make our life better. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Thank you.
  • mcstclair commented on December 4, 2013 Reply
    Thanks for the great essay! It was worth reading, but I have to say it does not touch me in a deep place, because your dark side doesn’t seem all that dark. You give the example: “If, say, anyone wanted to hurt my brother, an inevitable demon would rush its way through me …” That’s fierce, for sure, but I don’t see how the impulse to violently defend someone you love can truly be called evil. For some of us, the shadow is a great deal darker than that.
  • Leikin commented on February 13, 2014 Reply
    I have only just found this but i am at that transitional point in life yet again… This piece is simply too perfect and too deeply felt in the core of my soul. Thank you for the much needed reminder
  • Lynda Marie commented on April 4, 2014 Reply
    So refreshing. There seems to be layers of “shadow integration” and I am hopeful that I am in the “friendemies” step. Aho! We are posting to our FB page today. SkillfullyAware. We would love to know more about Creative Rehab! More of this information needs to get out to the masses!! Thank you Andrea. Thank you SO much!!!
  • Dahlia Shvets commented on July 8, 2014 Reply
    Wow. So unexpectedly wonderful, and different and spot on. I discovered a dark side of myself that was buried under my confident exterior for numerous years, without my realizing it. Although coming to terms with the fact that I had made some major mistakes by the age of 21 sucked and was so hard to be OK with, this article makes me feel better about myself :) Thank you, I really enjoy the way you write.

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