What is it like to be a Holistic Problem Solver?

Wondering how many of you consider yourselves to be primarily holistic problem solvers and might care to discuss what that’s like.

  1. I feel like I’m primarily, almost entirely, a linear problem solver. While I can generally see more than one path to a solution, I definitely tend to see the best path as being the most direct to the solution. If you’re a holistic problem solver, how do you decide the best course of action to take when solving a problem? Is it the one that brings the most balance? Or is it maybe that there’s not a “best” course of action, just different paths that are all different but equally valid?

  2. Part A. When I watch Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, I see nine individual characters all on the same journey. Would a Holistic problem solver see not nine individuals on a journey, but one Fellowship (because that’s the relationship they share) comprised of nine parts?
    Part B. If I were to describe the Lord of the Rings, I’d probably talk about how the characters are trying to get the ring to Mount Doom so they can destroy it and prevent it from falling into the hands of Sauron. How would a Holistic problem solver describe it? Would it be more about how the good guys are trying to prevent the world from being taken over by Sauron? Something about keeping the balance of “good”?

  3. Part A.The stereotypical saying is that women always talk about feelings and men never do. I feel like I’m always stating my feelings. “I don’t want to do that” or “I’d rather do this” or “I’m too tired to go to town” or “I don’t care” or “Whatever you want to do” are all legitimate ways of expressing feelings to me, and they’re all usually directly related to the issue at hand. Is this just a Linear Problem Solvers way or discussing feelings and Holistic Problem Solvers (from here on out, i’m using HPS and LPS) don’t see because they don’t address balance? Or am I just completely clueless about what feelings are and how to express them?
    Part B. Let’s say a guy has three kids who are all being loud, messy, distracting, just absolutely getting on his last nerve. He’s getting frustrated but his wife is dealing with it just fine and asks him what’s wrong. If he answers “these kids are driving me nuts”, he thinks he’s discussing very directly how he feels. So then the wife says, “but why have you been so grumpy lately? Not just today?” His actual answer might be “because the kids have been driving me nuts lately and not just today” but that’s not going to satisfy her question either. So instead of speaking directly to the issue, would it satisfy the question if he were to pick ANY OTHER AREA and discuss why that’s a problem? For instance, “I’m in a bad mood about the kids because I’ve been under a lot of stress at work”, or “Sorry, I’m just grumpy because I really wanted The Last Jedi to be good and most of the reviews I’ve read say it stinks”. I’m being a bit facetious there, but you get the point. And if this would work, I just want to point out that yes, I realize it would be a bit deceitful on the husbands part. I’m just wondering if it would make the wife feel more like her husband is discussing his feelings.

These are just some things I was curious about and that I thought might start a conversation. The conversation about what it’s like to be a HPS need not be limited to that or even answer any of those if you are an HPS and have something more interesting to speak to. I’d be happy to let the conversation be about any other questions any other LPS might have as well, so everyone feel free to jump in.


This is a huge blind spot for me as well.

Regarding point #1, I believe that HPS don’t even think in “paths” or “courses of actions” in the first place. While LPS believe their goal lies at the end of a line, HPS believe the goal lies within a certain area, and having the area under the right conditions brings the goal about.

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I’d like to think I’m more Holistic than most guys, so I can try and give it a shot. At the very least, I can try to tie in some of my favorite Holistic characters and show how their thought processes affect their problem-solving style.

I think of Holistic Problem-Solvers as sort of like tinkers. Remember, they don’t see the problem as “if-then;” instead, they see this swirling mass of influences resolving into the current state of affairs. So to tease out the solution, they play with one dial and see what happens. Maybe they want to convince some friends of theirs to help with some light physical labor. Instead of, say, using logic to convince them to help or paying them to help, they turn on the charm and say something like, “Oh, if only I had some big strong men to help with this…” Maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t. But whatever reaction there is, it’s something the Holistic person can adapt to. You figure out their personality quirks, and then you poke and prod at them a little. And when it works, the Linear folks are shocked. “How did you… but… you didn’t even… huh?!” (As another example, take everyone’s favorite rogue, Tom Sawyer. How does he convince his friends to do his fence-painting for him? By loudly yelling, “Man, painting the fence sure is fun! I’m sure glad I get to do it and none of you do. Pfft, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing right now than painting this fence.” See also: potatoes.)

This doesn’t always work, especially when the Linear thinkers are on to the game. There’s this scene in House of Cards, where Holistic thinker Frank Underwood is trying to manipulate someone into doing his bidding. He asks for something totally trivial, completely meaningless to the other person. The other person says something to the effect of, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re trying to manipulate me.” They’d figured out his M.O., so even if they couldn’t see the immediate cause-and-effect, they knew he was trying for something.

Regarding Lord of the Rings, I think a Holistic thinker would talk about all of the different parts. They’d emphasize the part where Aragorn leads the charge against Mordor, not to immediately get the Ring from point A to point B, but to distract Sauron and his forces from the two little hobbits sneaking around the back way. Rather than say, “It all comes down to destroying the Ring,” they’d focus on how it’s a team effort, and how defeating the Witch-King and routing Saruman and inspiring the Ents to action are all necessary parts to defeating the threat of Sauron forever. But ultimately, I think they’d have to fall back and accept that Lord of the Rings is a very Linear story, and its plot ultimately does come down to getting the Ring from the Shire to the Mountain. They might, perhaps, be more interested in a story like A Song of Ice and Fire, which is much more about managing political relationships and manipulating each little piece until the right person can take the Iron Throne. (Though I haven’t been following ASoIaF, so I could be wrong on that.)

Regarding the difference between men and women, you’ve finally given me the perfect opportunity to share this video with everyone! (If you’re Linear, here’s the Holistic answer to this video: perhaps she already knows the nail can’t come out of her head. The goal of her complaining is not removing the nail, but pain reduction.) Regarding feelings, I think you could say the difference is that for Linear thinkers, feelings are something you resolve, whereas for Holistic thinkers, feelings are something you manage. Like, let’s say your SO does something that makes you mad. The Linear thinker thinks, “I’m mad about this! I want to stop being mad about this. How do I go about doing that?” Whereas the Holistic thinker thinks, “This has added ‘mad’ to my emotional system. Now I have to modify everything else in the system to balance it out.” Or they might think, “My SO did this thing that made me mad, but it’s not as simple as saying, ‘Don’t do X.’ They only did it because of A, B, and C personality trait, so if I want them to stop doing X, I have to change A, B, and C.”

Or for another example, the cliche of the girlfriend always saying, “I don’t know where I want to go to eat; why don’t you pick?” Remember, it’s not about the nail. The real thought in the girlfriend’s mind is, “Does my SO know me well enough to predict what I want to eat?” The girlfriend picks up all of these things, because to her Holistic mind, that’s what managing a relationship is like. When it’s her turn to pick where to go, she puts all of that to mind. “I’m hungry for X, but I need to watch my calories, so Y might be better, but SO prefers Z, but we’d have to get dressed up for that, and I haven’t shaved my legs, so he’d probably like Q, since it’s pretty similar, and restaurant V has a low-carb menu…” A Linear thinker hates this! If he could hear this thought process, he’d say, “What’s that? You’re hungry for X! Great! Let’s go get X!” But it’s not about the nail!

Regarding the grumpy kids, a sidebar. There was this scientist who wanted to find out what things affected a judge’s ability to make fair rulings. So they polled one area for several days, checking a certain kind of crime and logging the number of times the judge chose to pardon or convict the defendant. They found a disturbing phenomenon: at the beginning of the day, the judge would pardon about 40% of the time, but that number would decrease steadily throughout the day, hitting 0% moments before noon. Then, after lunch, it’d jump right back up again. That’s right–the judge was making more convictions because he was hungry. If you were to ask the judge whether he was completely fair all day, he’d say, “Yes, I judge strictly based off of the facts.” But the numbers tell a different story; the judge was actually trusting his gut–literally!

Holistic thinkers see through the veil (or at least, they believe they see through the veil). If a person is happy or sad or angry or grumpy, it’s caused by a huge mish-mash of everything in their environment, not just one dominating factor. If a traveling salesperson makes a sale, it’s not just because of the value of their product, but a whole host of factors, down to the crispness of their suit and the wideness of their smile. Holistic thinkers are great with vague, “soft skill” concepts, like “mood” or “charisma,” because they don’t mind having to spin all the plates at once. They can’t tell you what makes a charismatic person charismatic any more than a Linear person can, but they can see a lot of things that make someone more or less charismatic, and they can affect those things.

So I think part of this 3.B. question is a hidden question: “How do I manage interactions like this?” (See, Holistic thinking right there!) If a Holistic person in your life comes to you and asks, “What’s got you so grumpy?”, try taking a step back for a moment. Your pat, top-of-the-head answer may not be the whole answer. For example, maybe you’re usually really accepting and cheerful when the kids are playing, but for some reason, it’s setting off a nerve in your brain today. There might be something more going on. It could be something like you said–“I’m stressed,” “I’m bummed about the latest movie reviews”–or it could be something even more intricate. You were standing in line for a long time for burgers today, and when you came home, SO was frying up ground beef, and the smell reminded you of that feeling of frustration and impatience you felt back then.

On the other hand, look at this from the other angle. You came home, and when the kids came up and started playing, you snapped at them and told them to play by themselves. Your grumpiness is throwing the home atmosphere out of whack. It’s not about the nail; the question isn’t, “How can I help you stop being grumpy,” but “How can I get your grumpiness out of my network?” So maybe the correct answer to, “Why are you so grumpy?” is, “I’m sorry, I’m going to find something cheerful to counteract my previous grumpiness.” So say something like, “I was grumpy because I hadn’t gotten the chance to see how lovely your hair looks this evening.” :stuck_out_tongue:

(I was thinking about your aside, “his wife is dealing with it just fine.” Because she’s been in the environment so long, she’s figured out how to balance everything else out to make it less of a strain on her mood. …Or maybe not, and if they get any more rambunctious, she’ll snap and not fully know why. That’s always the big weakness of Holistic thinkers: they often try to handle problems indirectly, either through Being–changing their own environment and diluting the negative effect–or through Doing–subtly manipulating the other person until the problem goes away from the back end. “Manipulating” is such a bad word for it; when it works, you don’t even notice it. Shoot, you thank them for it! But when it doesn’t work, it feels very… well, manipulative.)

[Oh, and this is why it’s so difficult for me to explain this. Because I always have to explain it two ways: through Being, and through Doing.]


So for a while, the closest I could come to Holistic Problem Solving was to simply think of it as non-linear, which didn’t help much. Then someone suggested to think of HPS as being about volumetric space, which seemed pretty helpful.

Using that thinking, I might picture a sheet of graph paper where a person could see themselves as filling any square on the sheet and the solution to their problem as filling any other square on the sheet. The LPS would look for the most linear path possible from the square they were on to the square where the solution would lie. It might not be a completely straight path, but they would look for the straightest. The HPS, then, could take a straight path, or a curved path, or a zig zag path, or they might make circles around the solution until that solved it. Or, instead of a path of connecting squares, they might bounce randomly around the sheet going back and forth and never touching two connecting squares until the problem was solved. Much closer, but I agree that that’s still a very linear way of seeing the Holistic approach.

Then I think I got a little bit closer when the idea of balance as it relates to the graph paper itself finally clicked. The LPS may not even realize that the graph paper is being held at angle as he tries to solve the problem by moving from one square to another. But perhaps for the HPS, it’s not about moving from one square to another, but rather making sure that the graph paper itself is a flat surface, not being held so that one corner is way up and the opposite corner way down. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten.

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I am a holistic thinker to the nth degree, so maybe I can answer a few of your questions.

A. It’s not so much how many “paths” there are to solving a problem, but rather how many factors are involved/considered at one time.

For example, someone asks me: “Do you want to get pizza?” To a linear thinker is a simple question. How much do I want to eat pizza? A lot, a little? Translate that to yes or no. Done. But for a holistic thinker, answering that question is more complicated, because “want” vs “not want” is considered from a holistic point of view. If I WANT pizza, that involves either heading out to a restaurant or ordering in, both of which are expenses/trips I might not WANT to make. Maybe I just took my shoes off, and I don’t WANT to bother putting them back on. Maybe I WANT to lose some weight, so eating salad would be a better option. Maybe I WANT to look good for a date this Saturday, and I know pizza makes me break out. Plus if I WANT to learn to be a better cook, why miss this opportunity to fix myself something? And I definitely don’t WANT to inconvenience you, if you’d rather stay in, or eat something else instead . . . Etc, etc.

To a linear thinker, those WANTS are all independent concerns. But to me, they all combine into some generalized sense of want-vs-not want that gets applied when making a decision. How much I want to do anything is a combination of how much I want/don’t want all relevant factors’ positives and negatives, mashed into one metric that eventually spits out a yes-or-no answer. But it may take me a while to arrive at one, and I’m liable to respond with “I don’t know, has it stopped raining yet?” in the interim.

B. I’d see nine individuals on a shared journey.

C. I think that to holistic thinkers, linear thinkers often seem . . . rather dense, and also rather blunt. When I say “I want to go to the park,” as a holistic thinker, that means “I’ve considered all relevant factors (including how inconvenient my request might be to YOU), and I’ve come to the conclusion that the positives that would be gathered from acting on my desire to go to the park with you outweigh any negatives that might be accrued in the process of doing so. Meaning that either, I don’t predict that fulfilling this request will be a major source of inconvenience or negativity for either of us, OR, I know this will be a pain in the ass to accomplish but it really matters to me!”

Whereas a linear thinker saying “I want to go to the park” means “I have a desire to go to the park.”

You see the problem, of course. Because if you express that desire to me, a holistic thinker, I’m going to presume you considered all relevant factors before coming to that conclusion. So I might be liable to think (or respond to you with) something like: "what, you expect me to drop everything I’m doing right now so that we can go to the park? Is you getting to go to the park REALLY that much more important than what I’m already doing?

But of course, you didn’t consider what I was doing at the moment, nor did you think expressing your desire to go to the park implied that you expected us to drop everything to go to the park. You were just expressing a desire that you felt, because you wanted to. But to a holistic thinker, what you said might sound almost selfish, like: “my needs are the only ones that matter here.”


You could also think of it as an issue of boundary-placement.

I think linear thinkers tend to have narrower boundaries around what they consider to be their “selves” vs the broader world. What “I” want as a linear thinker simply involves examining my internal state, nothing more. The world may then impose different obstacles on my ability to act on/realize my desires, but its problems/difficulties are separate from ME.

But for a holistic thinker, the boundaries between self and world are in a different place. My boundaries of “self” include the sphere of things around my physical body that affect my wellbeing, everything from the temperature of the room to the temperature of my relationships with my loved ones. Evaluating what “I” want means evaluating not just the wants and needs that stem from my own heart, but the wants and needs that press in from my immediate (or perhaps distant surroundings). All of these are, in a sense, part of me, and must be considered in determining what I want. In other words, part of what I want is part of what you want, provided you are in my sphere of influence.

This is not to say I don’t have boundaries between myself and the rest of the world, it’s just that they are not in the same place as a linear thinker’s conceptual boundaries between himself and HIS world.


So what you guys are saying is…it’s the path that brings the most balance?:joy: J/k.

But seriously, I am blown away by the incredible responses you’ve all given so far and the wealth of information they contain. Those answers are all really clear and really helpful and deserve a dozen likes each. I can’t wait until I can process all of it and offer a proper response!

I’m a more holistic man than linear, which confuses many of my male friends. I find it difficult to put it into words how exactly I think (because I rarely think about it too much). I’ll try anyway. @Audz did a pretty great job, though.

  1. It depends on the context. But, generally, I tend to think about all of the factors and the potential imbalances an action could create in the bigger picture. An example: I had a friend who I didn’t see for a while, we hung out, and after she went home, I was sure that she had spent the night flirting with me. I told a friend, and his question was: “Would you want to date her if that was the case?” A simple question to him, but my thought process was more complicated than yes/no:

I’m attracted to her, but our friendship is the best I’ve ever had. I want to say yes, but I’d have to change my entire lifestyle to accommodate another person. Also, she’s just coming out of a long relationship and I don’t really want to rush things. And I haven’t seen her in a long time, so it could just have been her being extra friendly. But she’s super cool and there’s something there, so if that were ever to happen, I’d say yes.

Suffice to say, he could not understand why it took me so long to answer a question he thought was simple. @Audz pretty much nailed it with her description of Linear thinkers viewing all of that thinking above as independent, unrelated concerns. My linear friends also think it’s just me making a lot of excuses, but it’s really just looking at a decision from all angles, positive and negative, and making what we believe to be an educated decision.

  1. I haven’t seen LOTR, so I’ll abstain from that one.

  2. a. I don’t see feelings as being a linear/holistic thing. I think you can be holistic and still struggle with your emotions. Throughout high school and university, I couldn’t talk about my feelings. It’s only in adulthood that I feel comfortable enough to do that. So I don’t think that has any real influence on this.

However, I think Linear thinkers can appear to be short-sighted to holistic thinkers. Again, @Audz has covered this fantastically well, but Linear thinkers are goal-oriented. They know the endpoint, and that’s really it. I can hear a new goal every day from a Linear friend of mine, but in my head, I’ll be going through all of the processes that I don’t think he’s even considered. It doesn’t mean I’m right and he’s wrong, because we’re all Holistic and Linear, and neither is better than the other. But the difference is like this (all details are made up):

LINEAR: I’m going to start a tech business and become a millionaire in a year.

HOLISTIC: That’s a cool idea, but you don’t have a job at the moment. You can make a killing in the tech field, but it’s a crowded market. You may have a cool USP, but you’ve studied music for 5 years. Also, you’re a real one-man band, how are you going to lead a team? You can talk the talk, but you buckle it in presentations. Sure, you can become a millionaire, but a year is really soon and you don’t even have an idea yet. I don’t think this is a good idea at all.

So, I don’t think it’s a feelings thing. But I think Linear thinkers pursue goals just because they want the goal, while Holistic thinkers pursue goals because they’ve thought it through completely.

b) I don’t think so. Again, I don’t think Holistic thinkers are looking for ‘directness’. I think it’s been pretty obvious in this thread that there’s a lot more indirectness from a Holistic thinker by comparison.

In your example, the wife says “why have you been so grumpy lately? Not just today?” So, in her head, she’s already found examples that disprove what her husband has said. He could be telling the truth, and it’s just a subconscious grumpiness, but maybe she’s already thinking “If it’s about the children, why were you grumpy when we went out to dinner the other night?” or something similar. It would possibly be the same for any other answer he could give, or she could believe him, or just entertain it even though she knows it’s not true. It depends on the context around the example – what is their relationship like? What examples does she have? etc. There’s not quite enough in there to give a concrete answer.

I honestly don’t think the PS-Style involves feelings or the expression of feelings. I think the conflict between them is more about Holistic thinkers potentially viewing Linear thinkers as ‘short-sighted’, or ‘blunt’ (as @Audz put it). When you think so much in-depth about the most trivial of questions, it feels strange to get an answer that is so simple. I think most of the time, Holistic thinkers are just testing Linear thinkers to see if there’s anything else behind their thought, or if it really is that simple.


Yeah, and more on dealing with that short-sightedness or bluntness: one thing that has helped me a lot in interacting with my linear-thinking loved ones is when they verbally remind me that they are linear thinkers. Saying something like “I know that these things seem like they are connected to you, but to me, they’re not. I may have been grumpy before, but it was for a different reason then why I’m grumpy now” can be really helpful.

The reason linear thinkers seem blunt or obtuse is because the holistic thinker asks herself: “what would it take for me to give an answer like his?” To which she concludes: “I’d have to willfully ignore the obvious connections between X and Y, OR I’d have to notice them, but not care about how they impact each other, because X matters to me to the exclusion of all else.” The only way a holistic thinker could arrive at the same place that the linear thinker did is by being incredibly bull-headed, which of course, leads to the inference: why are YOU being so bullheaded about this, linear thinker?

It’s an empathy problem. The holistic thinker is presuming that she can just project her own thought process into the shoes of the linear thinker to understand why he has said what he’s said, or done what he’s done. When the reality is, she cannot, because the way he thinks TRULY is different from the way she thinks. And ironically, the holistic thinker’s failure to empathize with the linear thinker’s mode of seeing the world causes her to conclude that HE is not sufficiently empathizing with HER, because he obviously only considers himself in his decision making process.

Like I said, the best way I’ve found around this empathy gap is to talk about it for what it is. I have to hear “it’s just not like that for me” from a linear thinker and believe that he means it, which is easier to do when we’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room: that, in this way, we see the world through very different eyes.


Linear: problems & solutions.
Holistic: tradeoffs (aka opportunity costs or “at what expense?”)

A relatively holistic viewpoint is in the book Economics in One Lesson:
“The whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

And in its explanation of the concept of opportunity cost as applied to spending money to build a bridge:
“They can see the bridge. But if they have taught themselves to look for indirect as well as direct consequences they can once more see in the eye of imagination the possibilities that have never been allowed to come into existence. They can see the unbuilt homes, the unmade cars and radios, the unmade dresses and coats, perhaps the unsold and ungrown foodstuffs. To see these uncreated things requires a kind of imagination that not many people have. We can think of these nonexistent objects once, perhaps, but we cannot keep them before our minds as we can the bridge that we pass every work- ing day. What has happened is merely that one thing has been created instead of others.”

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I love the distinction between paths and factors. I get that. For me, getting to a solution pretty much always feels like taking a path, but which path I take can depend on the factors. And I feel like there’s a linear way of taking various factors into account (including what YOU want), although I’m not sure I can do an explanation of this justice. But I’ll try.

In the example of “Do you want pizza?”, yes, I see this as pretty much a ‘yes or no’ question. But here’s the thing. If you ask me that, I figure that you want to know if I desire or am willing to eat it because it’s what you want, or I figure you’re trying to narrow down your own choices and my ‘yes or no’ will help you do that. My ‘Yes’ means you want pizza too, but my ‘no’ means that you’re going to suggest Chinese instead. And “do you want pizza?” is a very different question from “should we get pizza?” Yes, I want to eat pizza, but no we shouldn’t get it because I’ve already taken my shoes off and need to eat a salad that I prepare myself, etc, etc. Or Yes, I want pizza, but no we shouldn’t get it because it’s not what you want.

Or “I want to go to the park” could mean I want to go to the park even though you’re doing something else, but it could also mean that I see what you’re doing and know how important it is, but I also see that you need a break and I want to take you to the park so you can refresh before continuing whatever you’re doing. It’s still linear, still about a direct path to a solution, but it’s also considering various factors (how tired or stressed you are from whatever you’re doing, what the end result will be if your relaxed vs if you’re stressed). Although I suppose it could be that that’s where Holistic problem solving is sneaking into my Linear problem solving without my realizing it.

Awesome advice that I absolutely plan on trying out.

I feel like I mostly get what you’re saying with this and agree. What you want is definitely outside of what I think of as my boundaries to self. I still want you to be happy, but that is outside of me or what I can internally do about it. Making you happy is an external activity for me and a goal to reach and feel good about when I do rather than something for me to manage in order to keep my boundaries of self organized. So do you see making (the perspective of)you happy as a more internal thing because it’s within what you consider your boundaries of self?

Neither do I, necessarily. See the part where I mention that I feel like I’m always talking about my feelings. But I do tend to see the difference in how feelings are expressed as related to whether one is an LPS or HPS. I could be wrong about that too. The area that question was coming from, I think, was that I feel like LPSers are all about what’s written out plain and clear while HPSers are all about trying to read between the lines. When an LPS says “I feel like this”, why doesn’t that register to someone else unless that person is trying to read something that isn’t there? (hence the question, should I stick something between the lines, like work-stress or bad movie reviews, to satisfy them). The opposite of HPSers feeling like LPSers are dense or blunt would seem to be that LPSers feel like HPSers are missing the obvious or trying to make the issue be about something it’s not , and I wonder if this is the reason why–reading the lines vs reading between the lines.

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Well, not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a boundary between me and you, but it’s like the boundaries are overlapped a bit. Imagine a venn diagram with one circle labeled “me” and the other labeled “you.” That middle space is what I’m talking about. To me, part of how “I’m” doing in the world includes that shared space, because how the people I care about are doing impacts my dynamic experience of the space I occupy in the world.

And I think that might be what it comes down to. A linear thinker feels like he is the exact same person no matter what room he’s in, whereas I feel like my sense of self changes ever so slightly depending on my circumstances. There’s still a core sense of who “I” am that doesn’t change, but my relationships with others and my location impact the quality of my experience, and thus, my sense of who I am/how I’m doing. It’s slightly dynamic rather than totally static, if that makes sense.

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Apologies if I misunderstood, Greg!

That’s a good question (this whole thread is great, by the way), and one I don’t really have an answer for. Personally, I still think it goes beyond the scope of a Linear/Holistic thought process because it feels very contextual to me. For example, someone could say “I feel happy”, and a Linear thinker with knowledge of body language could push a little more to get to the truth just because they spotted something slightly off. So, even though person A said “I feel this”, Linear person B was reading between the lines there. But I’ll also admit that this is a very specific example, and generally speaking, I’d probably agree with you that there is some element of reading into things. I just think ‘reading between the lines’ is a bit of a misnomer.

I think it’s possible, to bounce off of something @Audz suggested earlier, that it could be a kind of confirmation bias more than “reading between the lines”. That lack of perspective of the Linear PS-Style makes the Holistic thinker say “That can’t be it. That’s WAY too simple. I better push for the REAL reason.” For example, I remember doing something bad as a child and my VERY Holistic mother wouldn’t accept my pretty linear reasons for doing it (“I just thought I could get away with it”) no matter how many times I said it, even though it was entirely true. Eventually I made up a BS reason to end that discussion (“It was a cry for help because I felt left out at home”). It was a total lie, but it ended the whole argument. Only, she then wanted an explanation for the explanation… So, in that example, there was no reading between the lines, because there was nothing between the lines. I was completely honest, but it was a confirmation bias thing – the truth was too simplistic an explanation for her.

You’ve definitely nailed how the LPS/HPS view one another, though. That’s my parents’ arguments in a nutshell.


No apologies needed. I think it’s a fair connection you made. I mean, realistically I probably was using “feelings” as a short-hand for “Holistic”.

I agree. You have all made this a great thread. I wasn’t sure anyone would reply to it. I mean my original questions about LOTR and such were kind of dumb, but I was still trying to figure out how to even talk about the subject. All the insight and new perspective is a big eye-opener and I think it will definitely help me in using Dramatica to look at real life relationships and real life inequities.

And by the way, I almost forgot to address the most concerning thing in this entire thread…


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It all makes total sense. May take me a while to fully process this stuff, though.

No question is dumb if it starts a conversation like this. At the very least, it’s helped me figure out how to explain Holistic thinking. I always struggled with that.

As for the LOTR, it’s just not my thing (sorry, guys! :grimacing:). I don’t like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, either (The GOT pilot is the one I have seen the most ever, I ended up watching 9 eps and I still do not care for that show). Hardcore fantasy is the one genre that I just can’t get into. I saw all three Hobbit movies in the theater and honestly slept through each of them. You should ask me about the holistic thought process that went into that decision!

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This is a very interesting discussion.

Pretty sure I’m linear. But some of @Audz examples of holistic thinking also ring true for me – for example, ordering pizza. Ask me if we should order pizza and I’ll run through all of the considerations you mention and more. It doesn’t feel particularly “holistic” to me though – it’s more like paralysis by analysis that I have to just cut through in order to live my life. Somehow though I don’t think that holistic = neurotic. So I must be misunderstanding.

Other examples/interactions you mention (ie do you want to go to the park?) sound a lot like the conversations/non-conversations I have with my wife (with me firmly in the dense linear camp).


I feel like I’m an holistic thinker/problem-solver in some areas of my life, and more linear in others. A lot of it depends on the “area of life,” and how much time and attention I think that area deserves, amidst many other priorities in my life.

Essentially, holistic thinking tends to take a bit more time, and I don’t think every area of my life deserves “more time.”

My wife of course, often disagrees with my prioritizations. She often thinks I’m being “too linear” and “too simplistic” regarding topics she thinks deserve much more time than I’m willing to give them.

I, on the other hand, feel she is being far too linear and simplistic regarding topics that I think deserve much more problem-solving time and attention—that she needs to be more holistic, introspective and big-picture thinking on these topics, and not “waste” so much time on what are, to me, low-priority topics (despite her seeing them as vital).

If she and I were MC and IC in a story, we might have the same “Goal,” but in many of our approaches to that goal would see ourselves as having much different Concerns, Issues, Symptoms, Responses, Unique Abilities, Critical Flaws, etc. Which, because of our lifelong commitment to each other, helps both of us make more well-rounded decisions, despite a good bit of bickering over what to prioritize and why.

And that’s what great stories are often about: One character (or group) sees a certain problem as multi-faceted, complex, and to be approached carefully and with patient research, while another character (or group) sees that same problem as worthy of only a quick “I understand, let’s choose!” approach, “so we can focus on solving the bigger problem that really matters here!” Well, how is that going to work out, huh?

So I agree it’s good in a story to have some distinctions between those who see the central story problem as Linear and quickly solvable by logic vs. those who see the central story problem as complex, diversely imbalanced, and “not really the problem” that the Linear Problem-Solver has identified.

That’s the stuff that makes for good MC/IC banter. And awareness of this balancing act ensures that we won’t expect every story we write to favor one Problem-Solving Style over the other. Because in each story (as was suggested above), the better choice will depend on that story’s context, character authority, timing, and so on.

Great discussion, y’all!