You know the saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Well, in many ways that would be critical thinking transferred to everyday life. There’s nothing strange or academic about it. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Why? Because in that sentence we use our common sense as well as our past experiences.
If it’s so easy…
An example: I tend to get spam mails. Often these mails have promises like Get Rich Quick Only $9,95 or Find Your True Love for Only $5. Yet most of us know that these are just empty promises. They’re money scams trying to find that one in a million person who naively believes this to be true. The very large majority of us apply our critical thinking and think along the lines of “Well, if it’s that easy, how come we haven’t all done it already?” So critical thinking is a natural part of who we are. The question is when do we apply critical thinking? When do we believe everything we hear and when do we need convincing?
Putting people in boxes
Now let’s try and use that saying on, for instance, the Enneagram. Personally, I have seen – and been through myself – that first phase when people more or less fall in love with the Enneagram. Where everything you learn just fits to a ‘t’. Where family, friends, spouses, etc. are put into neat little boxes so that they fit to the Enneagram. Personally, I had the great revelation at that stage that not everybody likes a little conflict now and then, that my 8 energy can actually scare people and that I – along with fellow 8s – can come across as aggressive. (I was mortified – I think I’m just committed and energetic.)
All that was very useful information to me. But I soon realized that I was so much more than just this. And fortunately, I reached the next stage. That was when I realized that it probably should be the other way round – that the Enneagram works better when supporting life rather than setting up a frame for life. Many people also discover that the type they initially thought they were is not the one that fits all of the time. Maybe the Enneagram is more complex. Maybe they themselves are more complex and that there is more to learn. In my mind that is not because they don’t know themselves – that’s because they DO know themselves and because it probably sounded too good to be true. They had to do some serious critical thinking, face some facts they came across along the way and then consider that what they thought to be true probably wasn’t. This is healthy.
Use your experience
A few years ago, I saw the film “The Invention of Lying” with Ricky Gervais (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1058017/) which took place in a world where nobody lied. Everybody trusted each other. You could go into the bank and make hefty withdrawals when the computer systems were down because the teller believed that you had a lot of money in your account. In other words, it took place in a world where this was just too good to be true. It was clear to everybody that it was a comedy because people in the real world just do not trust each other that much. We know that from ourselves and from others. We only rarely trust strangers blindly. Our experience tells us so and also we never met anybody in a bank who gladly gave us money because they trusted us and without getting anything in return.
Now that film was a comedy because you just know that stuff like that really doesn’t happen. It’s so obvious.
Be critical with the Enneagram
What if it’s less obvious? What if it COULD be true? What would you do? Would you believe anything that people tell you about yourself, about the Enneagram, about your life? Or would you apply some critical thinking, use your common sense or think to yourself “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. I have actually seen it advertised that if you put your future employees through an Enneagram test, you would know exactly what they are like and you would avoid them having stress-related breakdowns or other expense-related events because that would come up in a test. Or that you would be able to have people do what you want them to do because you knew the Enneagram and they didn’t. Both utterly false claims – and quite unethical to boot. But unfortunately some people believe that to be the case. If somebody says you can get that knowledge through the Enneagram, it must be true? No. Apply your critical thinking. The Enneagram provides some behavioural patterns, some motivations and some fears. But it does not say who we are or how to manipulate us. If it could that, then everybody would know it, wouldn’t they?
Get the details – think
I would strongly encourage you to use your common sense and your critical thinking on the Enneagram as well as on any other system, tool or philosophy that you meet. The Enneagram is not something to believe in. It’s not a religion. It’s not the one true path. It is, however, a very handy and accurate tool that can help you live a much fuller life through understanding yourself and others better – but only if you apply critical thinking. If you use your common sense and your past experiences. If you blindly “believe”, you will miss many of the nuances that make you who you are.