Winter is a time of darkness and deep introspection; the long nights inviting us to look at what needs mending. In ancient times; when we lived closely with the land, people sat around the fire on the long nights fixing equipment, and darning clothing, which left their mind free to examine their personal problems. While most of us no longer work according to the rhythms of the seasons, we are still hard-wired to slow down and look deep within while the land around us sleeps. Looking into the depths we often find resistance, things that need a bit of prodding, and discomfort in the sorting out. This is the perfect time for our Petty Tyrants to step forward.
What is a Petty Tyrant?
A Petty Tyrant is a person who causes distress by their will or actions. Personal Petty-Tyrants are not always aware they are creating the discomfort felt by others, but instead trigger us by displaying behavior reminiscent of someone or something that caused us harm previously.
This year has started with a lot of people being deep in their shadow, and many have been experiencing the dynamic push of encountering a personal Petty Tyrant. Many of my clients, students, and friends are being provoked by the wounds they carry surfacing for healing. In the long- run this is a good thing, but when it's happening interaction with one's petty tyrant can be brutal; causing us to be triggered emotionally as if we were back in the original wounding, only we are not, and the situation we are currently in is probably not even close to as bad as what caused the original injury.
So how do we learn to navigate this creature of darkness; the Petty-Tyrant, how do we know that is what we are experiencing and what do we do with it once we recognize it?
When experiencing a Petty-Tyrant it is first and foremost important to ask ourselves if we feel endangered. If the answer is 'yes' then the situation most likely is more serious than dealing with a personal Petty-Tyrant and I would suggest that professional advice be sought out. If our answer is 'no' then we ask ourselves a second question. "Do I believe the person taking this action is doing so to purposefully hurt me?" Again if the answer is 'yes', we will have to ask ourselves what we can do to change your situation or leave it. However, for most of us our personal Petty-Tyrant is not endangering us, nor are they seeking to cause us distress. They simply remind us of a significant wounding in our life that needs attention.
So now we know this is our shit, what do we do?
We learn to take a few deep breathes whenever we are triggered and in those deep breaths we feel. Paying attention with all our senses to what we are experiencing, how do we react in our body, what part of the trigger draws us in? Is it the way they are speaking, how they hold their body, their physical appearance, a habit they have that annoys you? In this manner, our breath is both calming us, while at the same time helping us to retain information about the situation for analyzing later. When we are in a safe place for reflections we can go back to the experience by taking the same deep breaths and allowing ourselves to remember the experience of engaging with our Petty-Tyrant. Keep your breath steady and pay attention to what comes to mind for you when you focus on the trigger instead of the tyrant. Does another situation in our life come to mind, do we find ourselves thinking about a past lover, parent, or difficult situation in our life? I'm assuming most of the people said 'yes' to this.
When we recognize what we are really hurt by; what our Petty-Tyrant is so graciously reminding us of, we can start to heal the real wound, which is usually pretty old and ugly. In truth, we should be thankful for our Petty-Tyrants for they are often our best healers and teachers. They will still trigger us, but when we recognize it as spiritual prompting and do a bit of breathing, we learn so much about ourselves and start to see our Petty-Tyrant for what they are; a focusing lens for our personal story of pain and healing. I have experienced the trials of the Petty-Tyrant before both as the one being set off and as the one fanning the flames for others. With integrity we can move through the situation a bit more whole. Growing and healing are painful but if approached properly we can do so with grace.
May you find peace in the darkness...