What is a “Petty Tyrant?”, by Carlos Castaneda

A petty tyrant is a tormentor. Someone who either holds the power of life and death over warriors or simply annoys them to distraction.
~Carlos Castaneda – The Fire from Within~

“My benefactor used to say that a warrior who stumbles on a petty tyrant is a lucky one.”
~Don Juan~

A petty tyrant is a person who causes distress by imposing his/her will on others using psychological pressure rather than physical force. The petty tyrant feels he may impose his will because he believes that he is a superior being and because he wants to operate from a position of authority.

Petty tyrants are the button-pushers, the individuals that have the ability to throw things off-balance for you if you let them. Many petty tyrants are unaware that they are the cause of so much frustration. They are effective teachers because they force the warrior to closely monitor their own reactions and habitual behaviors. The result is mindfulness and the ability to shift the assemblage point, even if ever so slightly, in order to loosen the fixation to the conditioned response that causes the reaction in the first place.

Castaneda believed that by looking at the petty tyrant through a different filter, a person could not only co-exist with a petty tyrant but also benefit from the relationship. This type of relationship would be most common in the workplace, school or other public forum when you have no choice but to be in close proximity to the petty tyrant. The challenge for the warrior is to try to consciously get along with this co-worker without being petty yourself. It’s a “rise above it” opportunity that could challenge one to the core.

Don Miguel Ruiz summarizes by saying “don’t take anything personally.” This is the biggest gift of the petty tyrant. To be able to recognize that even though you will be annoyed to no end by the petty tyrant one must not allow themselves to be energetically attached to the petty tyrant. They are ruthless and are often painfully consistent in throwing someone off of the center quickly and effectively. To fall prey to a petty tyrant means that you allow yourself to become agitated repeatedly by the same words, behaviors and attitudes over and over again.

The freedom arrives when the petty tyrant no longer affects you. You are in their presence and they are the same they have always been. Annoying to no end, distracting and even disruptive but they just don’t have the same affect on you anymore. You are no longer annoyed or imbalanced by them. You have accomplished the feat of shifting your assemblage point so that you no longer perceive annoyances in the same manner you did in the past and you have successfully severed the energetic stronghold that the petty tyrant had on your self-importance. In fact, you can’t even remember what it was that annoyed you so much in the first place.

This is the gift. The petty tyrant pushes and pushes and pushes until the very thing(s) that bothered you about them in the first place no longer do. Unwittingly, they set the stage for growth in areas you may not have even realized should be addressed. The petty tyrant can stop your world by activating a series of emotions and responses within you that you could not even imagine existed. They are, in their own right, a portal for deepening your quest for freedom.

Even the worst tyrants can bring delight, provided, of course, that one is a warrior. This may be incomprehensible to those who are in the middle of working with one of the nastiest petty tyrants. How can someone who causes so much emotional turmoil and revulsion possibly bring delight? The delight is found in the moment that the warrior rises above the tyranny and recognizes how utterly ridiculous the seriousness of the petty tyrant is! Petty tyrants are, for the most part, trying desperately to become stronger by stealing your personal power, to build up their own egos by belittling you and pushing you around. The moment you pull the carpet out from under them and stop energetically feeding them leaves them in such a state of confusion and no other choice but to go and find their next “victim”.

The petty tyrant teaches the warrior to develop a strategy utilizing the four attributes of warriorship:

  1. control,
  2. discipline,
  3. forbearance, and
  4. timing.

As a result the warrior deepens so much so into these four attributes that it may be a very long time until the next petty tyrant appears. And then, the ultimate pleasure arises when you become aware that you have become someone else’s petty tyrant. And the gift, in this case, may be pure awareness and detachment to the petty tyrant as the result of your fluidity and energetic efficiency.

Quotes from Carlos Castenada’s Book.

Nothing can temper the spirit of a warrior as much as the challenge of dealing with impossible people in positions of power. Only under those conditions can warriors acquire the sobriety and serenity to stand the pressure of the unknowable.

The perfect ingredient for the making of a superb seer is a petty tyrant with unlimited prerogatives. Seers have to go to extremes to find a worthy one. Most of the time they have to be satisfied with very small fry. Then warriors develop a strategy using the four attributes of warriorship: control, discipline, forbearance, and timing.

He said that what the new seers had in mind was a deadly manoeuvre in which the petty tyrant is like a mountain peak and the attributes of warriorship are like climbers who meet at the summit.

Control and discipline refer to an inner state. A warrior is self-oriented, not in a selfish way but in the sense of a total examination of the self.

Forbearance and timing are not quite an inner state. They are in the domain of the man of knowledge.

The idea of using a petty tyrant is not only for perfecting the warrior’s spirit, but also for enjoyment and happiness. Even the worst tyrants can bring delight, provided, of course, that one is a warrior.

The mistake average men make in confronting petty tyrants is not to have a strategy to fall back on; the fatal flaw is that average men take themselves too seriously; their actions and feelings, as well as those of the petty tyrants, are all-important. Warriors, on the other hand, not only have a well-thought-out strategy, but are free from self-importance. What restrains their self-importance is that they have understood that reality is an interpretation we make.

Petty tyrants take themselves with deadly seriousness while warriors do not. What usually exhausts us is the wear and tear on our self-importance. Any man who has an iota of pride is ripped apart by being made to feel worthless.

To tune the spirit when someone is trampling on you is called control. Instead of feeling sorry for himself a warrior immediately goes to work mapping the petty tyrant’s strong points, his weaknesses, his quirks of behavior.

To gather all this information while they are beating you up is called discipline. A perfect petty tyrant has no redeeming feature.

Forbearance is to wait patiently–no rush, no anxiety–a simple, joyful holding back of what is due.

A warrior knows that he is waiting and what he is waiting for. Right there is the great joy of warriorship.

Timing is the quality that governs the release of all that is held back. Control, discipline, and forbearance are like a dam behind which everything is pooled. Timing is the gate in the dam.

Forbearance means holding back with the spirit something that the warrior knows is rightfully due. It doesn’t mean that a warrior goes around plotting to do anybody mischief, or planning to settle past scores. Forbearance is something independent. As long as the warrior has control, discipline, and timing, forbearance assures giving whatever is due to whoever deserves it.

To be defeated by a small-fry petty tyrant is not deadly, but devastating. Warriors who succumb to a small-fry petty tyrant are obliterated by their own sense of failure and unworthiness.

Anyone who joins the petty tyrant is defeated. To act in anger, without control and discipline, to have no forbearance, is to be defeated.

After warriors are defeated they either regroup themselves or they abandon the quest for knowledge and join the ranks of the petty tyrants for life.

What are some good stories on bullying?

On this day, he was walking down the bus aisle to find a seat. Behind him, an older and larger classmate lurked.

Suddenly, he pulled George’s pants down to his ankles.

There was a cacophony of laughter as Georges rushed to pull his pants up — turning to see his crush starting at him dead-faced.

In another instance, the bully threw George’s head into the wall and pinned him down into his seat like a feral animal.

And if this wasn’t enough, the bully was handsome and athletic: the person ruining George’s life was popular and beloved by all girls.

The bully was unrelenting and things eventually came full circle.

Fearing he’d be seen as weak, Georges never tattled on the bully. He stoically took the abuse.

However, during one drive home, the bully punched him in the face, nearly knocking him out. It gave him a swollen black eye. His parents freaked out and forced him to reveal what had been happening. They now understood his depression and bad grades.

George’s father resolved he would speak with the bully’s dad. He drove to their house. The two met and spoke of the matter. George’s father urged the man to talk with his kid.

It didn’t work.

Georges was small, but he’d always been a fighter and full of pride.

He kept fighting back and lost every time. Eventually, the bully got tired of picking on him and moved on to an easier target.

Yet it wasn’t the last time the bully saw George.

Two decades later — a surprise run-in

Georges has now been a UFC champion for years, handing beatdowns to world-class wrestlers and elite kickboxers.

By the end of this run, he would defend his title nine times and be considered by some — the greatest MMA fighter of all time.

He is on billboards all over Canada and renowned for his athleticism, throwing Van Dam-Esque high kicks and lunging superman punches.

Georges sat in his car and turned the keys to go run errands.

Suddenly, a tall and disheveled man knocked on his window. Georges rolled down his window and heard, “Do you have any spare change?”

It was the bully.

The bully recognized Georges and his face drained.

Georges turned off his car and got out. He struck up a conversation with the man. They spoke for 15 minutes, talking about life and how things had been.

The former bully had fallen on hard times. He was unemployed and living on the streets.

There was a time when this bully had so much power over Georges — when Georges wanted nothing more than to kick his ass.

And here, fate handed him this opportune moment. Their power dynamic had been reversed.

And instead of laying down a beating, Georges handed him $100 and said, “You are full of potential. Go, man. Do well in your life. You deserve more than this.”

One year goes by.

Georges drove to visit his parents. As he walked into his house, his dad said, “A man came to visit you.”

It turned out to be his bully. He’d stopped by to thank Georges for giving him the money and talking to him. It changed his life.

That’s when George’s father told GSP something he’d never mentioned before.

When his father went to visit that bully’s dad all those years ago, he noticed the dad drinking hard liquor.

And when he left, he heard the father yelling at and hitting the bully. The bully was crying out for his dad to stop.

The bully had learned to communicate only through aggression and violence. And as is often the case, he repeated the behavior he saw at home.

People forget that bullies aren’t created in a vacuum.

It took me a long time to realize my own bullies came from similar dysfunctional homes and that they didn’t know how to reconcile their own feelings.

They couldn’t fix their pain, so they projected it on others. It was the only currency they knew.

Anyone who follows MMA knows that Georges St. Pierre is the nicest guy in the sport. He never badmouths people or curses at them.

He became this way because bullies drove him to pursue martial arts and learn respect.

Georges said, “At the time, I wanted to kill him. He was a terrible person. It wasn’t until later I realized — like most people — he was good on the inside.”

George’s story exemplifies the power of forgiveness over vengeance.

When we choose to forgive, we choose to be free.

When we latch onto grudges, we poison ourselves from within. We become vindictive, bitter people. We become no better than the abused bully. We spread our pain rather than heal it.

It’s as Confucius said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

One for your intended. The other for yourself.

Corny as it sounds, the best revenge is to stay kind, succeed, and enjoy your life.