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

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: control, discipline, forbearance, and 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.


  1. Toby S Hazel 1 year ago

    Came to this site looking for description of a petty tyrant to help a friend who has snagged one. Went on to read Susanne’s bio and was surprised how similar my karmic path was to hers, As a dancer and later a psychic reader !
    Found it interesting that Carlos shows up here. Is the Nagual a reader?

    • Author
      Suzanne Wagner 1 year ago

      Wow. Very interesting. Good luck. Thank you for checking out my site.

  2. Hairy Magdalene 2 years ago

    Hi Suzanne, I’m wondering if I’m a petty tyrant… I moved to another country to study and pursue my dreams. While there I hoped to experience love for the first time. I lost my virginity and fell into a deep, long depression. I had many other trials going on in my life and tried to distract myself by gaining a sense of confidence and control over my sexuality and found myself in situations where I was not being reciprocated or being left after one night. I lost sight of my original goals and was trying to realign. Then I met someone. When I first saw him, it was like a synesthesia vision. He was shrouded in yellow light. I felt a strange magnetic pull towards him. We spent the evening together and everything felt strangely healthy and comforting. He left in the morning and things seemed promising. He added me on social media but he didn’t make plans with me or carry on a conversation. When I reached out to him to ask if he wanted to hangout he told me he had plans and I thought he was trying to blow me off. So I told him if he wanted a one night stand I’d understand and that I was just looking for a friend with benefits in the short time I had left in the country as my visa was ending. He thanked me for the proposal and said he’d message me but then didn’t. I reached out again and asked if I misinterpreted things, and state I’d still like to see him. He told me he was healing from a breakup and just getting to know himself again and not looking for a structured situation. I went on a rant trying to convince him I just wanted to have sex(hoping to salvage something and appeal to physical needs if emotional needs couldn’t be met) and told him I understood he was rejecting me indirectly and that I’d leave him alone. He said he was dtf and made plans with me but then canceled the day of. We ran into each other 3 more times unintentionally that summer. I tried to have normal conversations with him and he would always end them quickly. He messaged me on and off sometimes and then would ignore. I thought perhaps he just wanted sex and tried to be direct about it which didn’t appeal.

    I didn’t message him for months and then sent a vulnerable message,, apologized and took accountability for my insecure behavior. He just wished me Merry Christmas. Months later he added me on social media and had small interactions with me. Once again, cutting the conversation short just as it began. I grew so frustrated and hurt. I exploded with a message being critical of the sexual interaction we had, placing blame on him for my psychological distress. He was upset and told me he didn’t want to speak to me again.

    It’s been two years since the night we spent together. Nearly one year since the explosive message that I regret sending. I’ve become obsessed with my failure. I’m not on my path anymore. I’m lost. What can I do to realign? How can I forgive myself for this?

    • Suzanne Wagner 2 years ago

      The key here is to recognize that within all of us we have wounded and needy parts. And those parts lash out when they feel abandoned, betrayed, or shamed. In this case, it bumps into all three.
      First, recognize that a younger part wanted more than was offered.
      Second, recognize that a person can only give what they have to offer in that moment. If they do not have it to give then they will feel as if they are disappointing another and step back or away.

      After two years, practice letting go and I would do the Ho O’Pono Pono which is 4 phrases that you fill in the blank.
      See the person in your mind and speak to their astral self. And use the statements…

      1. I’m sorry …. (fill it in)
      2. Please forgive me …. (Fill it in)
      3 I love you when …. (Fill it in)
      4. Thank you …. (Fill it in)

      Do this each night as you go to sleep.

      It is really helpful to clear this type of energy.

      I don’t think you were being a petty tyrant.
      More of a wounded child.

      And know that this person is clearly wounded himself. (He even said he was healing)

      I believe you both bonded on a wound and that your wounds are similar.

      That is the problem. It is hard to have a full relationship with half a soul.

      Take care.


  3. abstract flight 4 years ago

    Being publicly scolded by an experienced petty tyrant recently reawakened my spiritual warrior big time. Just the gratitude I feel for her doing this for me allows me to look forward to our next encounter to see if she has learned something about herself from the experience.

    • responsible irony 4 years ago

      Abstract flight: I’m sorry you were publicly shamed. I was shamed and emotionally beaten by a petty tyrant which reawakened my spiritual warrior as well. A part of me I had never seen before came out as I publicly scolded this person while feeling unbelievably guilty as I was spiritually and emotionally aware of what was happening. The petty tyrant will want to be right always and letting them be right opens a beautiful door to some depth which made it all oh so worth all the suffering to get here.

  4. Jeanine 4 years ago

    I have worked with different types of “petty tyrants” throughout my career. After awhile, it becomes so obvious what they are trying to do, and rather than being angry, I became more and more amused. It truly is funny to watch, and I’ve remained calm and strong because I know that they are unhappy and at war within themselves. I pray for them..
    This is not about me being superior, because we are all human. I just let them go through their tirade of the moment, and then look them right in the eyes and ask “Are you OK?’ That usually ends it.

    • Suzanne Wagner 4 years ago

      That is a great way to handle them. Great awareness.

  5. Erika 5 years ago

    Thank you for this perspective. I notice that quite a few motivational speakers try to convince people to accept other people’s dysfunctional behaviour. This is unnatural. I believe that it is important for us to acknowledge that we are capable of feeling undermined and sabotaged by petty people. I work with someone who is so petty that she caused our work team to miss an important deadline by several weeks. My response was to ask for her input while we redid the work so that we could complete the project to specification. That helped me and my workmates to understand something very important: prior to starting a work project we didn’t have an objective set of specifications for how the work should be completed. Instead, everybody was adding their opinions after all the work had been done. It had to be re-done several times as a result. We acknowledged our mistake and take responsibility for holding back the project. However, this colleague is really very petty and refuses to do any work. Thus, it was almost impossible to convince her to present herself to offer some opinions on the work as it was in progress. She asserts authority by refusing to participate in doing any meaningful work. She avoids any situation that is difficult or may show up her lack of skills. She avoids any situation that is difficult or may show up her lack of skills. She pretends that she is delegating responsibility and deflect from her lack of skill or knowledge by complaining about petty things in the final product. So asking her to sit down and cooperate with us won’t work. I discovered, through this latest work project, that she has a difficult time adairying that she doesn’t know anything. That’s what makes her a petty tyrant: pride, fear and ignorance. These are facts that she cannot change about herself. One of the things I swore never to do was to act like that. Because of people know that you are full of pride and hubris, they won’t respect you.

  6. Miles McGrath 6 years ago

    Suzanne, thank you for this. I have been struggling with a difficult person at work from day one for over two years. I am now stepping towards finding gratitude in our relationship and beginning to realize now she has been a painful mirror helping me to see my blind spots I could not have seen without her.

    now I can exhale

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