My Petty Tyrant

Petty Tyrants, according to Carlos Castaneda, are people who make our lives impossible—tormentors.  They hold positions of power.  We can’t control them.  I don’t like to think of myself as a person with enemies.  Gosh, I’m too nice, too enlightened.  But, I’ve got one, and it’s time I faced that ugly truth.

The apartment I live in is part of a government subsidized complex for people with mental disorders.  We’re a quiet lot, mostly, until the apartment manager comes around.  This woman (let’s call her PT) bullies, lies, loses paperwork, ignores requests for information and basically does whatever she can to get out of work and cover her ass.  She takes advantage of the renters because of their disabilities, treats them in a sickening, condescending manner, and never follows through.  It breaks my heart to see how some of my neighbors spin out of control because of her ignorance and incompetence.  She really hurts them.  I try everything I can to stay out of her way and off her radar, but there are times I still have to deal with her.

Encounters with PT make me so mad, so frustrated, so indignant that I make bad choices.  The rage is so uncomfortable that I scramble to feel better by stuffing my feelings with food or by watching non-stop TV.  I don’t like how I react to her.  And I don’t like how I let my reactions spin me into unhealthy behavior.  I’m long overdue for a change in tactics.

Castaneda says the damage from Petty Tyrants comes from the humiliation and offense that results from taking ourselves too seriously. Instead of raging over the PT’s behavior, instead of feeling victimized and helpless, Castaneda suggests working with Petty Tyrants as a form of Stalking.  The twist is that we don’t stalk the PT, we stalk ourselves in relation to the PT.  We use encounters with the PT to develop strategic control of our own conduct, which helps break us of self-importance.  Stalking also returns all that emotional energy wasted on the PT to be used more effectively elsewhere.

Unlike Castaneda’s mentor, Don Juan, I’m not out to destroy PT (though it sure would be nice to get her fired).  I just want to unhook.  Castaneda says this requires control, the ability to tune the spirit while being trampled.  “A warrior is self-oriented,” he wrote, “not in a selfish way, but in the sense of total and continuous examination of the self.”

Control, like balance, is a rare commodity in my life with bipolar disorder.  But, I think I can start observing my thoughts and emotions in my encounters with PT like I observe them during an episode of my illness.  If I watch, I’ll be able to see when my sense of self-importance flares up, when I get offended and self-righteous.  Seeing is always the beginning of change.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. strugglingwithbipolar
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 15:45:41

    Control. Interesting topic as it is something I battle every day. I don’t know that what is suggested by Casteneda would make me feel like I have more control. Then again, I’m trying to surrender to the idea that there is much in life that I cannot control.


    • Sandy Sue
      Apr 27, 2011 @ 19:18:23

      My understanding is that the first step is to let go of our attachments—attachments to what we think our lives should be, what we should be, what the world should be—which feels like giving up *all* control. But, it’s really our *illusion* of control we release.


  2. Ashley Erin Almon
    Apr 29, 2011 @ 06:27:12

    Personally I would get her ass fired, but I’m a vindictive BITCH when it comes to bully’s, especially the ignorant ones.
    Best, Ash


  3. Kathryn McCullough
    Apr 30, 2011 @ 20:15:45

    You are so wise! Bless your heart–so sorry you and your neighbors have to endure this kind of mistreatment. But the ability to turn this into an opportunity for growth shows enormous emotional maturity. By the way, I twice lived in government subsidized housing–not fun, I know.

    Thanks so much for visiting today! I am delighted to have found your blog and have just subscribed——— How wonderful to meet you, Sandy Sue!


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