What is it like to be a Holistic Problem Solver?

My Fair Lady, 12 Angry Men, West Side Story and Rocky, I bet those are liked by holistic viewers. I liked them. Maybe it has something to do with very developed relationship stories with a lot of well thought-out minor characters with colorful backgrounds.

How did I miss 12 Angry Men?! I love that one. Good call, @Prish.

Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not totally sold on the relationship story/colorful character theory, though (although I personally love both of those things in a story). All of that is storytelling, whereas the theory is really specific on the Timelock being a turn-off for a Holistic thinker in a structural sense.

@jhay, maybe you’re a mix of Linear and Holistic (Male and Female thinking), and when it comes to the Story Limit you prefer the Optionlocks.

I like both! My own writing tends towards Optionlocks but I LOVED the old 24 show with Kiefer Sutherland.


Definitely a mix to some degree (aren’t we all?), but generally closer to Holistic of the two.

However, no question that I’m a bigger fan of Optionlocks. Not sure why, though. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written anything with a Timelock in my seven years of writing professionally. Might be a good challenge for myself, actually! (Also I never saw 24! :grimacing:)

Anyone else have any theories on why Holistic thinkers don’t mix with Timelocks?

Here are @jhull’s thoughts from his article on Audience Reach. In this section he’s discussing the issue with Linear + Timelock stories:

That’s because it is relating a story about a character who has no concept of the pressure supposedly building up around them. They would be completely disaffected and disinterested. And so would the Audience. Holistic thinkers don’t see time the way linear thinkers do—they don’t see it as something that cannot be malleable and transmuted into something else.

The idea is that Holistic thinkers sort of see a Timelock as “dumb” because what is time, anyway? If you can picture the whole thing at once (all four dimensions including time), then time no longer seems like a limit. Or at its best, a very trivial, one-dimensional limit.

I would second this analysis.

As a holistic thinker, timelocks in stories feel arbitrary. Like, why give the characters three hours until the bomb goes off? Why not six, or twelve? It could be anything, since the author is just making it up. Obviously in real life, we encounter timelocks on the regular, but in a story, using one seems like an excuse for a weak argument, since you don’t have to explore ALL the options and demonstrate that one of them is conclusively the best, you can just offer the one you prefer and ignore the ones you don’t want to contend with, implying that there was no time to consider them.

Optionlocks feel more grounded in reason, i.e. the characters have explored all the possible solutions and have concluded that only one strategy will solve their problem. Having the story end because the characters run out of time feels like a cop-out.


I might add that I have liked many stories that are timelocks, but they definitely feel like lighter fare. Take My Fair Lady– I watch it to see Audrey Hepburn in the pretty dresses, the songs, the dancing, etc. I don’t watch it to have my point of view challenged. It’s a timelock story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is the kind of timelock story I tend to enjoy.

That’s an interesting take. Either way, the problem is still being fully explored, but it changes the question the story is asking from “Can we do this?” (or “is there an option to do this?”) to “How should we do this?” (or “what is the best option?”). Kind of like saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and this is the best way” vs asking “Can we skin this cat?” Where the Timelock version of My Fair Lady asks “Can we make Eliza presentable in high society?”, the Optionlock version would have compared multiple ways of making someone presentable to see which way was the best.

Taking that into account, maybe an LPS can accept Timelocks easier because LPS are about finding the most linear path to the solution and Timelocks are just about finding one path that will lead to success. And then HPS are trying to weigh all the options as a form of balance so it doesn’t necessarily matter to them if an option doesn’t succeed if it’s still the best option. Like maybe it doesn’t matter if Henry Higgins can make Eliza presentable if the better option is to not change her at all. Does that sound right at all?

The Timelock thing probably hasn’t been fully explored yet, so I’m still interested in answers that question. But I’m going to add another one.

I’ve gone back to looking at how Steadfast Holistic MC Storyforms look the same regardless of Judgment. Holistic MC’s are balancing everything together while Linear MC’s are looking at a particular path. So it seems like maybe an HPS is saying that, with all things weighed against each other, being Steadfast will always look like X regardless of how I feel about the overall efforts at the end. This doesn’t work the same with Linear MC’s because Success/Good, Success/Bad, Failure/Good, and Failure/Bad look like four different destinations, and four different destinations would have to look like four different paths from point A and thus four different Storyforms. Is that thinking about Holistic Problem Solving the right way?

This is awesome, because it’s exactly how I (mostly a Linear thinker) feel about certain types of Optionlocks. e.g. How many damn rose petals were on the Beast’s rose, anyway? Or the road trip movies, how do you know they’re not going to take a wrong turn when they’re almost there? Meanwhile, the thought had never crossed my mind that a ticking clock like in 24 could be arbitrary!

WHOA. I think I just figured out why I’m weak on Story Limit in my own writing. (Yes, weak. Explanation to follow in a separate post.) This has been bugging me for a while!

Everyone is by definition a mix of Linear and Holistic. It just depends on the context which cognitive function is being used for the story and then the personality determines how dominant that function is for a person.

But, one definitely dominates the other and it is either 4 to 1 dominant or 3 to 2 dominant at the conscious level. Example: As an ENFP, my linear introversion is 4th string to my Holistic Extroversion. Like I can do it. But, it requires some serious focus and it is a weaker function.



Look at the cognitive stack for INFP.


—-As an INFP, you are mostly Holistic. But, you’re not as Holistic dominant as an ENFP like me. So, your Linear part is not as weak as mine either. This makes a huge difference. We have the same functions, but different dominance:



If anything, the limit is difficult for a Holistic person because they don’t see the Timelocks and have the clear distinction. But, I believe the story limit is super clear for Jim and Chris because they are Linear dominate and see the difference. Like time pressure is as natural for them as running out of options. I hate time pressure. It is a productivity killer for me. But, I think it brings out the best in some Linear dominant people.

There is also an element of Percieving vs Judging that effects time locks. So, if there were four PS Styles as I theorize, we would have to consider the appreciations for those as each woukd have blind spots.

How Deadlines are different for J vs P:


Another thing to consider is the lock as a pressure cooker. And, consider the difference between stress and pressure emotionally. Or, use Physics to consider the difference between Force and Pressure. What if the anology is like Force is to Conflict as Pressure is to Story Limits?

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I know this is an old thread, but I’ve been working to understand the concept of Holistic Problem Solving since it was posted. I finally feel like I’m starting to get it, if only a little bit and only in a theoretical sense, and wanted to see what all you Holistic Problem Solvers thought. I wrote something at one point to help me work through it and was delighted when I found the article “How NOT to Apologize to a Woman” and found similar ideas in the article to what I had written. So I’ve based the below scenario on some of that. The first part deals with a Linear problem solver and how he sees things as spatial and the second deals with a Holistic problem solver and how she sees things as temporal. It’s a little long, and I apologize, but thoughts on how I am doing? Thanks

John and Marsha are sitting on the couch when something happens that leads to an argument. Neither of them want to be in an argument. John, who primarily has a Linear Problem Solving Style, approaches the argument with a spatial bias. This means that he sees the argument as being the state of things. There is an argument and he is a part of it, or he is within the space of an argument.

John announces, “I’ve had enough. I’m not talking about this anymore.” Consciously, John is telling Marsha that he’s done with the argument, but subconsciously is announcing that he is going to change the state of things—specifically, the state of there being an argument. Here, he storms out of the room. Maybe he goes to the backyard to shoot some hoops, or to the garage to mess with his tools, or to the bedroom to read a book or watch a movie. Because there is both a space and time element involved, John will still be upset for a few minutes. But once he’s had time to move out of the space of the argument and has fully moved into the space of shooting hoops or messing with his tools or watching a movie, the argument, for him, is over. When Marsha comes around, he can speak to her and act like everything is fine because, for him, it is. When she is surprised that he’s being so nice now, he simply remarks that he is fine, a subconscious statement that the state of things is acceptable.

Suppose now that Marsha either a. followed John out of the room when he had first left, or b. hears John say he is fine and then says “let’s talk about it”. In scenario a, Marsha follows John as he storms out of the room. This makes John even more upset than he already was because he was trying to change the state of things and sees Marsha’s following him as an attempt to maintain the state of things. She is keeping him within the state of an argument, a state that he’d already announced he wanted out of. He sees that she seems surprised that he is even more angry now than before and it doesn’t make sense to him that she’s surprised. He’s made it all very clear. Scenario b. would play out similarly. He would see her request to talk as an attempt to bring back the state of the argument.

Now from Marsha’s point of view. Marsha primarily uses a Holistic Problem Solving Style and approaches the argument from a temporal bias. This means that she sees the argument as a process that, once begun, needs to play out.

When John says he’s not talking about it anymore and leaves the room, Marsha sees this as an attempt to avoid bringing the process to a close, or as an attempt to prolong the process of arguing by refusing to stay in the room and allow the process to wind down. She can a. follow John out of the room and continue to work through the process, or b. let John leave and work through the process on her own.

In scenario a. she follows John to another room and is probably hurt to see that her attempts to work through the process have made him more upset. But they keep the process going until it has wound down. Maybe she works through the process while he mentally sees the state of things as having changed (either he sees that he was wrong or sees that she sees that she was wrong), but probably some combination of both time and space is involved for both.

In scenario b. Marsha doesn’t follow John into another room and is left more upset than she was because he has refused to engage in the process of working through things. When John comes back in twenty minutes later smiling and happy, she is maybe confused or, more likely, annoyed by this. She has been trying to calm herself down and, since there’s an inequity in the relationship, it would be a lot easier if John were there working through it with her. Instead, he went away and calmed himself down without her, outside of the relationship, neverminding that she was still upset. Is she not important to him? Is the relationship not important? Even if she is calm there needs to be some sort of closure to actually end the process of the argument, something to assure her that things are going to be okay moving forward. So when John comes back into the room and seems calm, she says “don’t you want to talk about it?” and doesn’t get why he seems to be annoyed by this. “Didn’t we already talk about it?” he asks. “Why do we need to bring this back up?” But Marsha insists they need to talk about their feelings because, again, she needs to know things are okay moving forward and assumes he knows this. She doesn’t get his reaction and takes it as a sign that things are not okay and doesn’t realize that talking through it is akin to pulling him back into that undesirable space. He doesn’t realize that staying out of that space is forcing the undesirable process to continue for her. Even if she calms down and they seem to be okay for now, that process is still moving forward for her, so she might bring it up again a day from now, or a week, or a month. Long after John has completely forgotten about it, in an attempt to close off that process.


That’s a really useful, concrete example of both approaches and the State of Being/Situation/Circumstances?Sense of Self quad too!


Previously having contributed about holistic thinking, I thought to give a tip what could be used to switch a character’s thinking in a story from holistic to linear. I’m living it. The blessed father passes away leaving enough to pay all bills and debts. Now, one can work towards accomplishing dream goals for real. Believe me, holistic’s not going to do it. I have such a profound appreciation for the linear thinking. I’m not good at it, but if you need to buy something or something needs to be done, you just have to stick with it until done…even if it takes extra time with retracking. I thought it would be a gist of ‘one step at a time’, but it is ‘one thing at a time’ for a holistic doing linear.

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Two coping mechanisms: linear turns on favorite TV show and holistic cooks dinner.

It sounds like John and Marsha have 2 different definitions of “argument.” John leaving the room to cool off stops the current argument if you define it as the accusations and yelling, but if you see that stuff as a symptom of two conflicting opinions causing an inequity (like disagreeing on how to best use a joint savings account or whether or not “you never listen to me!”), then John’s abrupt departure has merely delayed solving the actual problem. If the problem isn’t solved, then the next time one of them spends money “unwisely” (in the other’s eyes) or acts “inconsiderate,” the accusations part of the argument can start up again. Maybe John is ok with putting it off until later when he can approach it calmly, but Marsha wants it solved ASAP because it’ll eat away at her-- but that might just be character traits like patient vs impatient, unrelated to PSS.

I don’t quite get the pizza example way back. If an HPS and LPS both need to help decide on what to do for dinner and both said that they’d consider other factors like convenience, then where’s the difference?

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This was the idea. Just to look at the act of arguing regardless of what it’s about. If LPS are spatial in nature, then changing the state of things by leaving the room or engaging in some other state would seem to end the current…let’s call it conflict instead of argument. But if someone sees this conflict as a process, then changing the state of things only stops that process from winding down, or cuts it off without closure. But yes, in the example I gave, there would still be the issue of how best to use a joint account or whatever that would still need to be solved.

I’ve forgotten a large amount of that and, honestly, I didn’t follow my own post that you quoted. I’ll have to go back and take another look at it before I could reply.

Hmmm…pizza…Linear assumes you ask because he would want it…Holistic assumes you ask because you have been sneaking in pizza on the side.

Thank you, Rocky.

What you mentioned ties right in with my curiosity about psychology in general. I’ve wondered how our knowledge of neurology gained since Jung can clue us in on how to render these personality models to be more accurate.

Can you point me toward more links besides Dario Nardi? Thanks.