Breaking the barriers of convention



Since the year dot, mankind has laid down rules and traditions – many of which actually are pointless. Yet most people simply accept ridiculous traditions or senseless rules. Carried to an extreme, such behaviour can become a neurosis.

By no means should the law be held in contempt, or rules broken for the sheer pleasure of it. Laws are necessary and order is part of civilised society. However, blind adherence to outdated convention is a different story.

Often traditions no longer make sense and certain rules are foolish. This is when you should be flexible.

In Neurosis and Human Growth, psychiatrist Karen Horney commented, “The shoulds always produce a feeling of strain, which is all the greater the more a person tries to actualise shoulds in his behaviour. Furthermore, the shoulds always contribute to disturbance in human relations.”

Do you feel you should always support your children’s passions, be sociable with colleagues whom you dislike or be interested in your husband’s hobby even though it’s not your cup of tea? And if you fail in one of these shoulds, do you berate yourself as per Horney’s statement?

There are just as many should-nots, such as should not be angry, foolish, silly, gloomy, etc. No one is keeping tabs on you for not being something that someone else says you must be.

Etiquette is a good example of useless shoulds. Always introduce the man to the woman, sit on that side of the church at a wedding, tip this, wear that, eat your soup this way, etc, etc. About 90% of etiquette guidelines were composed arbitrarily. Don’t confuse etiquette with good manners. The latter entails consideration for other people.

Of course you can choose whether you’ll tip and what you’ll tip, what you’ll wear, how to introduce people, where to sit, how to eat. This is not a manifesto for being a social rebel, but rather a guide for directing the course of your life. Being true to yourself means being devoid of the need for an external support system.

One classic example of blind obedience is when the Nazis executed six million Jews because it was the law. After the war, these barbaric acts were shifted up the hierarchy of power until the only people who could be held accountable were Hitler and his chief henchmen. Everyone else was merely following orders. There are many more examples like this.

Herman Hesse said in Demian, “Those who are too lazy and comfortable to think for themselves and be their own judges obey the laws. Others sense their own laws within them ….. Each person must stand on his own feet.”

By complying with all rules all the time, you’re destined for a life of emotional servitude. Determine for yourself which rules work and are necessary to preserve order and which rules can be broken without harm to yourself or others.

• Always asking, “What should I wear,” as if other people’s opinion really matters.
• Drinking certain drinks with certain food because that’s what the ‘experts’ say.
• Attending a wedding even if you don’t like the couple.
• Giving titles to those that serve you, eg a doctor or dentist. Do you say Plumber Botha, or Handyman Villiers? Why is a doctor’s position loftier than others?
• Finishing a book or movie you don’t like.
• Applauding when you didn’t like the performance.
• Tipping when the service was indifferent or because you think you ‘should’.
• Going everywhere with your partner because it’s expected.
• Selecting daily living roles: women do the dishes, men take out the rubbish.

Toss tradition aside and the world is yours to use as creatively as you choose.

Ref source: Your erroneous zones, by Dr WW Dyer