Monday, November 22, 2010

Inflexible or Follower of Traditions: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

If I find a way to drive somewhere, I tend to stick with it, even if I think another way might be more efficient. My parents used to live at the end of a deadend street but years ago the street was continued and now leads out of their neighborhood to the main street, just as much as the way in and out I've always taken. Even though the new way is probably more direct, I have used the old one the same way I did when they first moved there because I'm used to it.

In the same way, I used to go to college by one route and home by another (because I believed that the traffic was best that way, found it worked the first week I started college, and never varied unless I heard there was a terrible accident along the route and I had to make emergency plans).

I have certain ways I like to do laundry or other chores. I have routines I want to follow for some activities. I find it upsetting when these ways are unsettled. It feels like there is a right way (the way I've always done it) and a wrong way (any other way).

Many of us, myself included, plan Thanksgiving dinner around what we've always done. It's tradition to have yams (or for some people it is tradition to have potatoes). Is there stuffing? Is it cooked inside the turkey? Pumpkin pie, mincemeat, or something else? People have traditions. The question is: when is it tradition and when is it being inflexible?

I think that it might be merely a matter of when the tradition becomes a problem to yourself or others. When it is a problem, then it becomes inflexibility. This can be when someone wants to change things, when a problem arises that necessitates a change, or when something isn't working but it is still followed in the old way because that "is the way it has always been done." I find some groups get like that with older members; some tasks or events are done not because anyone has a good reason for it anymore but because years ago there was a good reason and since then it has just continued, outliving its purpose or being handled in a non-efficient manner, all for the reason for tradition.

I've been trying to learn to be a bit more flexible. I think traditions are a good thing--but not if the traditions are held too rigidly and are causing problems for one or more people. Also when people get together there may be conflicting traditions, and when possible the traditions need to be a bit flexible to honor all the people involved.

I think this is particularly important during the holidays when stresses are sometimes higher and people are getting together with their families.

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