You’ve heard of soulmates, but what about twin flames? While the two concepts might seem similar, they’re significantly different.
While there’s a lack of scientific evidence proving that twin flames exist, some psychologists say the phenomenon is real — and worth exploring.
“Twin flames are two halves or mirrors of two different individuals,” says Barbara Spinelli, LP, a therapist, relationship expert, and CEO of Babita Spinelli Group and Opening the Doors Psychotherapy.
These individuals tend to have similar strengths and weaknesses and feel intensely connected over something shared — usually over shared pain, she explains.
Lisa Vallejos, PhD, LPC, a therapist who specializes in relationships, defines a twin flame as two people who have a deep soul connection.
“They seem to mirror one another, have shared similar life paths, history, and sometimes trauma,” she explains.
Vallejos credits the term “twin flame” to Elizabeth Clare Prophet, a leader of the Summit Lighthouse and the New Age religion known as The Church Universal and Triumphant. Prophet is perhaps best known for calling on her followers to prepare for nuclear Armageddon in the late 1980s.
Prophet coined the term “twin flame” in the 1970s, says Vallejos. In 1999, Prophet published the book “Soul Mates and Twin Flames: The Spiritual Dimension of Love and Relationships.”
Yet the concept of twin flames goes back much further, Vallejos argues.
In the fifth century B.C., Plato wrote in his philosophical text “Symposium” that the Greek god Zeus disempowered humans by splitting us into two halves, male and female.
While some scholars say Plato’s writings describe soulmates, “a lot of us use this as background for twin flames,” Vallejos explains.
The bottom line
Twin flames are believed to be two halves of the same soul. As such, they act as mirrors for each other and can be a great source of reflection and growth.
Still, there’s no scientific evidence that twin flames exist.
There are a few signs psychologists say could point to a twin flame relationship:
- sense that you’re meeting yourself
- multiple similarities, sometimes uncanny
- deep connection
- desire to grow
- prioritization of growth over being in a relationship
- the meeting signifies a major change in your life
You feel like you’re meeting yourself
In a twin flame relationship, “something feels so familiar about the person,” Spinelli says.
According, to Spinelli, it may feel:
You may even think you can feel the other person’s emotions.
“The number one thing is that it’s undeniably familiar, like… you’ve known them forever. There’s a comfort that seems uncanny,” Vallejos says.
You notice lots of similarities
“There can be a lot of mirroring of life experiences,” Vallejos says.
For example, if you had a traumatic childhood, your twin flame may have as well.
That might not always mean the person is an exact mirror image of you.
“Twin flames show you your fears and insecurities, but they can also show you how to overcome them,” Spinelli explains. “They just encourage you to look at those things more completely.”
You feel connected or close on a deep level
“There’s often a deep longing and yearning,” Spinelli says. “You might find yourself chasing each other.”
They make you want to be better
Twin flames help you to work through your triggers, insecurities, and challenges, per Spinelli.
For example, if you have avoidant attachment in your relationships and your twin flame isn’t good at communication, you might begin to ask yourself why you’re chasing this person.
“You notice there are things you feel insecure about,” Spinelli says.
Your twin flame forces you to ask why.
You’re more interested in individual growth than coupledom
In a true twin flame relationship, both people feel committed to act in the highest interest of themselves and this other person, Vallejos says.
In false twin flame relationships, people may act in a way that’s in their own self-interest, not their twin flame’s.
“They don’t care if they’re married. They’re supposed to be with [you], without understanding that decision could be destructive to a lot of people,” Vallejos explains.
Your life changes quickly
A twin flame relationship can be rapidly transformational. You might’ve thought you’d be doing one thing, but, suddenly, you’re changing careers or moving across the country.
“It’s completely unexpected and out of nowhere,” Vallejos says.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to “test” if a person is your true twin flame:
- What is it about this person that attracts me or feels familiar? Is that necessarily positive?
- What do I notice about myself when I’m with this person?
- Do I really believe this is a sacred connection? Or is a past trauma activated when I’m around the person?
- Do I feel thrilled — or panicked?
The stages in a twin flame relationship are similar to other relationships, with a few exceptions, Spinelli notes. These stages are:
- immediate connection (the honeymoon phase)
- exploring, integration, and healing
- acceptance and release
Immediate connection (the honeymoon phase)
Unlike other relationships that often take time to cultivate, Spinelli says most people recognize another person is their twin flame the first time they meet. They feel an immediate connection.
However, you might not realize the person is your twin flame until years later, Vallejos adds.
“It’s exhilaration, or an overwhelming feeling that you’ve found this person who feels like home,” Spinelli says.
The meeting is also unplanned. According to Vallejos, you may cross paths in a way that can’t be predicted.
Exploring, integration, and healing
Following the immediate connection, you may begin to recognize the person’s faults, noticing disappointments and having arguments.
You may also recognize the other person’s faults in yourself.
“It puts a spotlight on the things you need to work on,” Vallejos says.
It’s not that you dislike the person or feel angry, she adds. Instead, their actions emphasize your own behavior that you want to change. This results in rapid-fire transformation.
Two individuals may then decide to work on and stay in a relationship. Or the relationship may result in a separation, Spinelli says.
Acceptance and release
No matter if you stay with your twin flame or your paths part, the person remains sacred to you.
“Instead of clinging to when they’re coming back, you accept that whatever happens, happens, because your souls are united. Whatever form it takes is still beautiful,” Vallejos says.
With a true twin flame relationship, people experience an unconditional love that doesn’t make sense.
“It’s unshakable,” Vallejos says. “You know no one in the world will ever occupy the space they occupy. It’s not that they can’t do wrong, but there’s nothing they could ever do [to] make you not love them.”
That said, twin flames don’t always result in a healthy long-term relationship. That may mean that you aren’t meant to ultimately stay with the person. You have to ask yourself if the person is healthy or right for you, Spinelli says.
Both Spinelli and Vallejos say it’s also common to mistake an unhealthy relationship with a twin flame. Due to the intense connection, people tend to confuse a twin flame relationship with a relationship involving a narcissist.
“Narcissistic and codependent relationship styles look a lot like what people think are twin flames,” Vallejos says. “People often think it’s a twin flame when they’re having a codependent trauma response.”
For example, if you have an insecure attachment to your parents, you could be acting it out in an intense and tumultuous relationship with a narcissist whom you mistake for your twin flame.
Twin flame relationships can feel intense and activating, but it’s safe and thrilling. In an unhealthy relationship, you can feel terrified.
“It’s the difference between going up to the top of a roller coaster versus being carried out to sea,” Vallejos explains.
The bottom line
Twin flames may share a profound sense of unconditional love for each other. This doesn’t mean they’re meant to be together, or that their relationship will express itself in healthy ways.
Narcissistic and codependent relationships are often mistaken for twin flames because of their intensity.
Both twin flames and soulmates can occur in either romantic or platonic relationships, including between family members, say experts. While these relationships seem similar on the surface, they’re not the same.
Twin flames are seen as a soul that’s been split in two. According to Spinelli, soulmates are two separate souls “that are coming together in a way that feels destined.”
While twin flames are often mirror images, soulmates often complement each other.
“They’re more like kindred spirits,” Spinelli says.
Soulmate relationships tend to feel very comfortable and supportive. Twin flame relationships, on the other hand, tend to be the opposite.
“They come into your life and expose all the things that were issues for you: your traumas or growth edges,” Vallejos says. “Most people feel their world has been completely upended.”
This can lead to personal awakening.
“[Twin flames] are often there because they’re supposed to be part of your growth and healing and teach you something,” Spinelli says, adding that people may overlook the unhealthy part of twin flame relationships.
“[You] don’t want to see these aspects in yourself, because you’re so attracted to the other person and feel so connected,” Spinelli continues. “That can lead to codependency or boundary crossing — where do they start and you begin? That’s not usually the case with a soulmate.”
The bottom line
Twin flames are considered to be one soul split in two, while soulmates are two souls that share a profound connection.
Spinelli thinks it’s possible to have more than one twin flame.
“I think you have a myriad of relationships in life that come and go. It’s how you evolve in life… and everyone has a place in your life,” she says.
Authentic twin flame relationships aren’t common, says Vallejos.
“There’s a quantifiable difference between overly romanticizing a relationship and a real twin flame, which really is an ascending transformational connection,” she says.
In an authentic twin flame relationship, two people are focused on their individual spiritual growth.
In an unhealthy relationship confused for a twin flame connection, people are overly focused on simply being with the perceived twin at all costs.
It may be possible to suspect that anyone you’re very close to is thinking about you, including your twin flame. You may even “telepathically” communicate your thoughts or emotions without using words.
“I do think that you can feel the same emotions,” Spinelli says.
However, this research involves a technological interface: messages that are encoded and transmitted via magnetic stimulation of certain areas of the brain.
There may be a simpler explanation of feeling like you can “read” another person’s mind: You’re very close and have a heightened awareness of the person. You become very good at reading their body language. This could be in part due to mirror neurons, which
“It’s attunement. You’re picking up on things,” Spinelli says. “It’s referred to as ‘uncanny’ in the therapeutic space. You’ll be thinking something, and they’ll say it.”
The bottom line
You may feel a heightened connection with your twin flame, like reading each other’s moods or finishing each other’s sentences. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support the existence of telepathy.
Separation from a twin flame may happen because both people are already married, a twin flame dies, or one person simply needs space, Vallejos says.
The experience may seem like the most intense and painful loss you’ve ever experienced.
“It feels like there’s a part of you missing, or like something’s died,” says Spinelli.
You may experience the stages of grief.
“You may feel denial or anger. It’s a huge painful loss, and you may question whether it could work out,” Spinelli says.
While you may want to continue trying to connect with that person, even if they’re not right for you, it’s important to take steps to move on.
“That’s when individuals often come in for therapy. They can’t seem to move on from this,” Spinelli says.
Remember: People often learn best when they’re challenged.
“Sometimes, it takes loss for people to dive in and do the hard work [of] recognizing their own traumas and patterns,” Vallejos explains.
Also, keep in mind that every person in your life has a time and a place.
“Understand that you need to get through the process,” Spinelli says. “And it doesn’t mean the connection wasn’t real. You’ve learned something from this relationship and experienced love in a different way.”
Twin flames can be confused with codependent relationships with narcissists.
“Narcissists are very good at picking up on people’s unmet needs and desires and reflecting back to them. That’s how they survive and cope with the world,” Vallejos says.
A narcissist will typically overload their target with adulation, affection, and romance, making you feel like you’re the most important person in the world.
However, the narcissist eventually reaches a discard phase. They find a new target, and they dismiss you and tear you down.
“It can be subtle,” Vallejos says. “Then the person who is the victim of the narcissist will want that high again, so they start chasing praise.”
The problem: It’s much more common to be in a relationship with a narcissist than with your twin flame. Twin flame relationships have even been misappropriated to describe relationships with narcissists.
Specifically, Vallejos cites “the runner and chaser phase” that’s sometimes used to describe twin flame relationships, where one person flees an intense relationship, and it’s up to the other person to catch them.
“In my professional psychological opinion, it’s a way that people romanticize unhealthy relationship dynamics and use the label ‘twin flame’ to justify it,” she says.
The belief in a twin flame can also lead people to behave in unsafe ways.
“I’ve seen people stalking or obsessing over their twin flame or perceived twin flame,” Vallejos says. “The perceived twin flame had to file a restraining order.”
Another risk of believing in a twin flame is that it might lead you to discount another healthier relationship.
“I’ve seen people delay marriage because they think they’re supposed to be with their twin flame. They keep waiting and their opportunity to have kids passes, or they end up staying alone for 20 years waiting for this person,” Vallejos says.
A twin flame is when two souls are split in two, or two people are mirror images of each other. This results in an instant connection when twin flames meet.
There’s little scientific evidence for twin flame relationships, although some psychologists argue the phenomenon is real.
Twin flames often share similar experiences or traumas. The reflected image can help two people recognize their faults and work to change.
The main risk of twin flame relationships is that they’re often confused with codependent narcissistic relationships. People may also engage in dangerous stalking behaviors or discard other healthier relationships in the search for their twin flame.
If you think you’ve met your twin flame, it may be helpful to speak with an expert to help you stay discerning and healthy in your relationship.
Colleen de Bellefonds is a Paris-based health and wellness journalist with over a decade of experience regularly writing and editing for publications including WhatToExpect.com, Women’s Health, WebMD, Healthgrades.com, and CleanPlates.com. Find her on Twitter.