What is it like to be a Holistic Problem Solver?

Hey, I’m in good company then. I think I get all the concepts being discussed in theory, but I still don’t…feel them, as it were, in practical terms.

So regarding the pizza example and the considerations that go along with it, do you feel like those considerations are goal driven? Are they all an attempt to achieve the goal of deciding what to eat for dinner? Because that’s kind of how I feel. But it seems like the others are telling us those considerations are more about, I don’t know, maybe determining how they want to live almost. Like, do I want to be the kind of person that cooks my own dinners, or do I want to be lazy? Or do I want to be the jerk that makes everybody else eat Chinese, or do I go along with pizza because it seems like that’s what others want?

Edit: After thinking about this reply, I think that, just as it was mentioned earlier that an HPS will try to apply their own thought process to an LPS, in saying that it’s like the HPSers are trying to determine how to live, I’m trying to apply some type of goal for their considerations to be directed toward, some linear path that their line of thinking can follow. The intent, though, was to express that they are managing many different areas of life in answer to the question of “do you want pizza?”

Yeah, exactly.

I would be interested to hear the holistic thinker’s response to this. It’s not exactly what is going through my mind, but I do often feel like I’m trying to holistically balance everyone’s needs ie “my eldest hates Chinese food but we had pizza recently and its cheap and Indian food gives my wife heartburn, maybe I should just get off my butt and cook something.” Now that I think about it, maybe the fact I’m not really such an intuitive thinker is why it’s a frustrating position to be in. Hmm, maybe there are seeds of a story in there…

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Again, I think we all tend to overthink and suffer “paralysis by analysis” in some areas of life… but not all. If it’s “all,” then we stop functioning in life. Because a fully-analyze-everything-to-the-nth-degree person would never stop working through whether today is the right day to get out of bed or not.

So, depending on whatever is your current story’s OS Problem, at least one of your characters should (to use Melanie Anne Phillips’ term) “self-select” to be extremely analytical and holistic-thinking regarding that problem.

Meanwhile, other characters in the story should self-select to be linear and direct-actioned regarding that problem… while others should get emotional regarding that problem, or skeptical regarding the identity or solution to that problem, and so on. (Yes, complex characters will juggle or rejigger these archetypal traits; regardless, multiple approaches should definitely become evident.)

The special accuracy of Dramatica is that it insists your story’s Main (audience-surrogate) Character should either tend toward the Holistic PS Style or toward the Linear PS Style, and should try to stick with that style all the way through… until that climactic moment when your MC either Changes to try the alternative PS Style, or remains Steadfast to their original PS Style. And the value of the finally chosen PS Style is shown in whether the Outcome is Success or Failure, and the Judgment either Good or Bad.

The Dramatica Theory repeatedly states that the static MC Dynamics (like MC Approach and MC PS-Style) are preferences, not cast in stone. So the MC can always choose to try the alternative Approach or PS-Style. But where they come out at the end shows which Approach and PS-Style you, as the Author, thought was best in their particular situation and circumstance.

It is truly tied to you recognizing that no more than half of your principal characters should think toward “your” side of these bilateral choices, and you should research the other side (like Gregolas and the rest have done here) to make sure the alternate perspectives are well-represented in your Grand Argument Story (even if most of your GASes end up validating the Problem-Solving Style you typically prefer—depending on the context).


@keypayton, that’s a great reminder that we all have the ability to use both styles and that we should be considering both to solve problems. After all, we’re real, fully formed people. Not individual aspects of a human mind like a character in a story is. Thing is, I prefer linear problem solving so strongly that it really is hard for me to grasp a holistic ps style. Maybe I do it subconsciously more than I realize but at a conscious level-at the risk of sounding kitschy-it feels like the closest I can come to Whole-istic thinking is Partial-istic thinking.

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Well, Greg, a little “Partial-istic” thinking, in your early drafts, is better than none!

But then take that draft to the most Holistic Problem-Solver in your circle of influence, and ask them to help develop that Partial-istic thinking into a full-fledged Holistic approach for that story, well-written to balance your (unconsciously, I suspect) Linear MC’s preferred approach.

Really glad you brought up the question, because the Holistics above gave some great answers to help us see “both sides now”!


The husband walks into the grocery store, grabs the thing, then leaves. I walk into the grocery store and go down each aisle pondering what we need. I, finally, surrendered to using a list, due to time restraints…a long, long, long list, with some dashes to previous good spots, just in case. I take hours and hours cooking, and the husband has washed all the dishes and pots and pans for 35 years. I walk away from chaos, then he works his magic…presto… dishes, pots and pans all done! Love the linear!

The best problem solve for a holistic is to live with a linear!

Go into the kitchen and cook something you imagine, without following a written recipe, just following former tastes and combinations and previous recipe reads and previous appreciations.

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Nope, still linear! A holistic sees nine different stories.

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Holistic hops around to read this topic. The title caught me. The long posts look interesting. I pick out a sentence here, then hop down below to another sentence, noting that I have to work through this all, eventually. (it being so fascinating) There is 0% interest in reading the whole, line by line, from the first post’s sentence to the end. After I’ve hopped around gathering tidbits and posting comments, I will probably read it all, together. It’s like learning an Adobe software program. Forget reading the instructions. I just bumble around. Hell is, finally, surrendering to going through the instructions.

Maybe, the goal is to make sure everything gets done. “everything”

Hmmm…one eyes the goal and walks forward keeping an eye on it (to get there…haha), with the other noticing what is going on during the journey, making their world and the whole world a better place, while they move forward. A good team!

Not short sighted, but too much in a hurry.

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No, she knows he’s into his thing and won’t change. She’s just squeezing something in, prying apart to form a gap to get some variety going. Not “bull-headed” but enjoying puttering through at a slower pace. The holistic looks for what is fun to the brain on that track, moment by moment, to keep it going the same direction as linear.

It is always a good comic touch in shows/films for one character to want to do something as simple as walking out the door to the park for awhile, and the other character ending up bringing along boxes of things after extensive phone calls making arrangements…if you get the drift.

Hmmm…perhaps, a holistic would have each person order the kind of food they would want to eat, while a linear would work at figuring out what they could all eat together that was the same.

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This might be an educational holistic problem solve:

The linear and the holistic are watching Blue Bloods, together. It looks like a daughter might be guilty of a murder instead of the incarcerated father. The linear says to the holistic, “This looks like one of those that you have a good word for. What is it, again?” Holistic says, “Bleak.” Linear tosses back, “Yah, that’s it.” Holistic informs linear, thinking back to this topic and posting, “You know what I do with these possible bleak ending shows? I fast forward to the end to see if they are arresting the daughter or if she dies, and if so, I just don’t watch the rest of the show, just delete.” The linear said, “I can’t do that. I have to see it to the end. But if it is a bleak ending, I’ll just never watch it, again.”

I think it’s very much aligned with how Carl Jung delineated the difference between Sensors and Intuitives, and further specified each with an extroverted and introverted version of each of those. (Gonna get back to the question in the end, bear with me.)

Intuition and Sensing are perceptive functions. We don’t use them to solve problems per se, not rationally at least. They are more like targeting and navigation systems that we use to decide where to focus our rational functions on.

The Thinking and Feeling functions are the rational ones, using their respective logical and ethical systems to solve problems. Thinking is Objective reason and Feeling is Subjective reason.

Intuition and Sensing on the other hand are irrational. Memory and sensory systems for Sensing, and pattern matching and pattern projection systems for Intuition. All of those can be faulty and unique to the individual because Intuition creates its own systems. Extroverted intuition derives truth from multiple contexts with one normative data point each, while introverted intuition derives meaning from one normative context with multiple data points. Introverted Sensing derives meaning from memory, and Extroverted Sensing derives truth from the immediate senses.

Everyone has both Intuitive and Sensing cognitive functions, according to Jung. But we differ on their relative dominance. Jung theorized these functions stack in certain ways, and there are only 16 ways these could possible stack. So there are 16 personality archetypes.

Two different types will use their Intuition in different ways. So to describe how a linear (sensing) or holistic (intuitive) person thinks, you are have to consider not just two types, but sixteen.

Dominant introverted intuitives (INTJ and INFJ) think in patterns projecting into the future. But the INTJ is focused more on mechanistic or instrumental systems, while INFJs are more focused on psycho-social and semantic systems. Both have inferior extroverted sensing, which can manifest as a distance from the present moment and difficulty engaging others.

Dominant extroverted intuitives (ENTP and ENFP) think in possibilities like a flowing river, but the water is physical principles for an ENTP, and the water is narrative potentials for an ENFP. Ne-dominants are masters of sailing on the water to find their unique cool idea or unique cool story. Both have inferior introverted sensing, which can manifest as unwillingness to compromise their autonomy.

Dominant introverted Sensors (ISTJ and ISFJ) think in terms of what they know from memory, but for ISTJs its memory is used to work out power relationships with others competitively, while for the ISFJ it is a sense of loyalty to the people they trust and know, and use memory to work out loyalty relationships demonstratively. Both have inferior Extroverted Intuition, which can manifest as unwarranted certainty in their beliefs.

Dominant Extroverted Sensors (ESTP and ESFP) think in terms of what excites them with their immediate senses. The ESTP use their bodies, reflexes and perceptive senses competitively, while ESFPs use those expressively. Both have inferior introverted intuition, which can manifest as poorly thought out future planning. They might have frequent try/fail cycles to get through that.

The other eight types have intuition or sensing as their secondary cognitive function, in support of their dominant function which is either Thinking or Feeling. I’ve leave it up to those interested to research that themselves with their favourite search engine. Or I might get back to this later to fill it in…

I am an ENFP. So, I appreciate your insight on the ENFP vs ENTP. I had to re-read this several times to make sure I got it. I would like to see you do the rest of the Thinking and Feeling dominant ones. just so I can see how you are looking at the MBTI stacks. Dramatica doesn’t seem to care about Introversion or Extroversion in Personality. Nor does it care which cognitive functions are expressed as such. I believe that is because the model relativizes that based on where the problem is.

In other words, you could have two extroverted subjective characters where each is in a dynamic paired domain. For example, one in Universe and the other in Mind. Similarly, with J and P. Like it will take two Judgers and do the same. This is because Dramatica is Objective and doesn’t seem to care about the ego of the character.

What Dramatica does care about it is Point of view and the story mind. So, the cognitive functions play a huge role in that. Sensing is the same as Linear and Intuitive is the same as Holistic. It is not clear how the rational functions effect the model. My personal opinion is that these would link to the hidden story forms not used in the West much. However, the examples used on this site and others are often confusing as there are four permutations of cognitive functions and not just the two presented in Dramatica. Often people confuse being a Feeler as Holistic or being a Thinker as being Linear. This is however not the case.

As an ENFP, I have one of the more feminine personalities for a guy. My best friend is an ENTP and seems more masculine in his personality, but less so than an ST or SJ. We both solve problems (in the dramatica sense) the same way. But, we extrovert our decisions and share them differently.

I will bring it up with the STs and SJs at the user group meeting and see if they have some insight. My hope is that the theory will be expanded one day and we can integrate personality theory with our writing more. In the mean time, perhaps you could do a quad of the four cognitive types and we could run it past Melanie (who is clearly an N) to see what she thinks.

Also, if Jim, Chris, Sandy, Mike, Jonny and anyone else who wants to don’t mind, it would be helpful to have their personality types identified. I know some of them from working together. But, it might help for them to post them instead of me sharing my estimations.

Here is the quick online test for it:


The reason this would be helpful is that it may be easier for the experts to see a solution if they know their own blind spots.

If T/F is built into the model already, I would like to know how it works because the S/N is so clearly represented and it could be a break through for teaching it to others since there are a quad of cognitive functions and also four different ways process info in the quad: group vs individual, top vs bottom (Linear) , left vs right and dynamic vs dynamic (Holistic) according to Melanie.

Perhaps T/F define the other two so that we have four. But, which goes with what? My guess is NF is
Left vs right and NT is currently holistic and ST is currently Linear. So, SF would be group vs individual. Beyond that and I need to get into the story engine.

Another question I have is how does this play out for objective characters.

I don’t think Dramatica follows any particular psychological theory or personality typing system. It’s more mechanistic in that it concentrates on functional actions and a more essentialist viewpoint. Being and Doing – respectively these are an Introverted Feeling (Fi) and Extroverted Thinking (Te) ways of delineating things. For that reason, I’m pretty sure Chris is an INTJ and Melanie is an INFP. I took Melanie’s description of her waking up from dreaming with ideas to incorporate into Dramatica as her accessing her subconscious Introverted Intuition (Ni) (which would be her 5th function in the 8 function stack), which then Chris was able to help her structure with his dominant Ni. (Her work with developing Dramatica is not at all like the stereotype of how an INFP would think and behave, but I think accurate to how real INFPs are.)

INTJ’s cognitive function stack is Ni Te Fi Se while INFP’s are Fi Ne Si Te. They share the same rational functions but differ in perspective functions.

Stats I’ve seen (that may be inaccurate but it’s all I got to point to) say that INFPs make up about 40% of all writers, INFJs make up about 40%, INTJs about 10%, and any other type fits in the remainder.

As such, Dramatica is going to work for mainly INTJs, some INFPs, but not INFJs like myself, and not all INFPs since those types I think are what writers have traditionally called “pantsers”. Those INFPs will prefer to just write “by the seat of their pants” and find their story along the way.

T and F – Te and Fe could be seen as assertiveness, and Ti and Fi as principles. On the other hand, both Te and Ti are about Causality, and Fi and Fe are about Mentality.

Dominant Extroverted Thinkers (ENTJ and ESTJ) think in external processes and strategies, mechanistic causality. The ENTJ uses their auxiliary Ni to envision what they want and their dominant Te is adept as getting it assertively, adapting those around them into the roles they must play for their vision to succeed. The ESTJ uses their auxiliary Si to imagine society as fixed roles doing familiar things, and assertively demand people play their roles and do those same things. They may be good at imagining the different ways people can be effective with their roles, but it’s variation to support the status quo and prevent chaos.

Dominant Introverted Thinkers (INTP and ISTP) want to know what’s possible and think through problems logically, according to their understanding of principles, and make comparative calculations between possibilities. INTP use their auxiliary Ne expend their mental energies on abstract problems, while ISTPs use their auxiliary Se to limit their interests to what is practical and achievable, testing themselves to be able to respond as necessary in an unexpected but possible situations.

Dominant Extroverted Feelers (ENFJ and ESFJ) externally focus on the harmony of groups, and both have a great deal of empathy (not to be confused with sympathy). ENFJs use their auxiliary Ni to focus their empathy on understanding each individual in a group and are always ready to coax people to open up to new possibilities of self-awareness and self-expansion. ESFJs use their auxiliary Si to expose threats to the group harmony and carefully judge who to include and who to exclude. Both can get reputations for being manipulative. ESFJs will be more about guiding people through societal milestones and traditional coming of age rituals, because their view those stages in life as a core part of identity.

Dominant Introverted Feelers (INFP and ISFP) internally focus on making comparative calculations based on their core values. INFPs look at their lives as one big story and seek to understand the narrative role each new person in their life will play. They understand themselves in terms of the story their life is making. ISFPs look at their lives as an expression of what matters to them in the moment and seek a reaction from others they encounter. They understand themselves through their influence they have on others, so their interests in aesthetics, beauty and design is aimed at that.

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What kinds of things do they each write? Fascinating.