Two Points on a Line
Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Dinkmeyer, Dinkmeyer, and Sperry (1987) define two points on a line as finding "an imaginary line that connects someone's two apparently contradictory . . . [behaviors]. This makes it possible to locate innumerable other characteristics along the same line." They provide the example of a woman who, on the one hand, was good as gold and who, on the other, threw tantrums. The therapist hypothesized that "she wanted to be the best and if she couldn't be the best at being good, she would try to be the best at being bad." The woman felt immediately understood, and remembered that in childhood her father had told her that when she was good, she was very, very good and when she was bad she was horrid (p. 268).
We have made the important contention that the understanding of human nature can never be learned by the examination of isolated phenomena which have been withdrawn from their entire psychic context and relationships. It is essential for this understanding that we compare at least two phenomena which are separated by as great a time as possible and connect them within a unified pattern" (Adler, 1957, p. 152).
Dreikurs used an analogy from geometry applied to the lifestyle concept. "One needs two points to draw a line, and once a line is drawn, one knows an infinite number of points." If a client reveals two apparently independent and contrary facts, a line of logic can be drawn to delineate a picture of a unified, self-consistent life style. The counselor attempts to find the line of logic through intelligent guessing, and if correct, the answer will resolve the puzzle and indicate the basic life style (Terner & Pew, 1978, p. 247).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 102).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Adler, A. (1957). Understanding human nature. (W. B. Wolfe, Trans.). New York: Fawcett. (Original work published 1927)
Dinkmeyer, D. C., Dinkmeyer, D. C., Jr., & Sperry, L. (1987). Adlerian counseling and psychotherapy (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Terner, J., & Pew, W. L. (1978). The courage to be imperfect: The life and work of Rudolf
Dreikurs. New York: Hawthorn.