"I was provoking your self-importance," he said with a frown. "Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it--what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.
"The new seers recommended that every effort should be made to eradicate self-importance from the lives of warriors. I have followed that recommendation, and much of my endeavors with you has been geared to show you that without self-importance we are invulnerable."
..."Did you find a petty tyrant yourself, don Juan?"
"I was lucky. A king-size one found me. At the time, though, I felt like you; I couldn't consider myself fortunate."
...Don Juan knew that he was done for. He understood the man's maneuvers. Both he and the other foreman were in cahoots to get lowly Indians from the mill, work them to death, and divide their salaries. That realization angered him so intensely that he ran through the kitchen screaming and got inside the main house. The foreman and the other workers were caught totally by surprise. He ran out the front door and almost got away, but the foreman caught up with him on the road and shot him in the chest. He left him for dead.
Don Juan said that it was not his destiny to die; his benefactor found him there and tended him until he got well.
"When I told my benefactor the whole story," don Juan said, "he could hardly contain his excitement."
"That foreman is really a prize," my benefactor said. "He is too good to be wasted. Someday you must go back to that house."
"He raved about my luck in finding a one-in-a-million petty tyrant with almost unlimited power. I thought the old man was nuts. It was years before I fully understood what he was talking about."
"That is one of the most horrible stories I have ever heard," I said. "Did you really go back to that house?"
"I certainly did, three years later. My benefactor was right. A petty tyrant like that one was one in a million and couldn't be wasted."
"How did you manage to go back?"
"My benefactor developed a strategy using the four attributes of warriorship: control, discipline, forbearance, and timing."
--Carlos Castaneda, The Fire from Within
Now it just so happened that when Carlos Castaneda was living at Milton Erickson's house on weekends and vacations, that he had a secret hatred for one of Erickson's redneck neighbors, and Milton Erickson used this circumstance to prescribe actions which changed Carlos' life, teaching him the principles that Carlos later taught as "self-importance" and "the petty tyrant".
Because Carlos was forced to play the part of a deaf-mute, cross-dressing maid in order to continue receiving the teachings that Erickson was grudgingly willing to convey to him about how to induce altered states of consciousness, and because he could not blow his cover for fear of being evicted, he was not able to react to the chauvinistic, bigoted neighbor's constant catcalls and insults. "Hey you cute little chunk of dark meat, come sit on Papa's big white tree," and stuff like that roiled in poor Carlos' mind to a degree that he was afraid he would have to give up his apprenticeship just to be able to sleep at night.
When Carlos explained the problem, which was causing him to oversleep in the morning and miss his first shift, Erickson laughed and commiserated with him. But Carlos was horrified when Erickson went on to explain that the neighbor was his brother-in-law, the widowed husband of his ex-wife's sister, and although he was obviously an undesirable person, the man had inherited a lot of money and loaned most of it to Erickson to build the boarding house on Erickson's property where Carlos as well as Erickson's other students stayed when visiting. As Erickson put it, "He and I are already on tenuous footing, we are aware that we don't like each other, and I for my part am already handling more than my share of the tension that is between us. Unfortunately my medical costs have skyrocketed recently and I have only been able to pay the interest on the loan in hopes he will not foreclose against me. And you know what kind of person he is. If there is one more problem, my brother-in-law is going to twist the knife, and he will end up owning all my property and throwing us all out on the street."
Carlos was not sure if he was being hoodwinked or not, but he was between a rock and a hard place; he could not call the old man a liar, and he had to assume that whatever else was going on, there must be a reason for it, so he played along. He asked Erickson for his advice on how to handle the situation, because he was so angry that he hadn't gotten a decent night's sleep in a month.
Erickson's prescription was for Carlos to buy a sheet of plywood and paint it dark green, making it into a chalk board. But he was not allowed to write on it, and he was told that if he ever got it dirty or marred in any way, he would have to make a new one. Every day he had to carry the big chalk board almost to the boundary of the neighbor's property and place it on a big easel that he also had to make himself, laboriously sanding and varnishing each piece. Then he had to get a stool with no back and sit facing the chalk board with his nose almost touching it in the exact center, his knees between the legs of the easel so he was right up against the dark green void gazing at it point blank. He could not see any part of the neighbor's property which was just beyond the chalk board, and the chalk board occupied all of Carlos' field of vision including the peripheral.
In spite of this odd arrangement, Carlos found it hard to even think about the chalk board that was right there in his face, knowing that the hated neighbor was on the other side of the chalkboard despising him for being a "Mexican whore" and calling him all kind of names, much of it in Carlos' hearing. He had to stare for hours at a time in the direction of the neighbor's house--without seeing it since it was blocked from view by the chalk board--until he could make himself no longer think about the neighbor or his house or his anger at the neighbor. He had to stare at the green chalkboard until he had no more pictures of the bad man in his mind. And no more fantasies of revenge. Erickson suggested that Carlos defocus his gaze and stare at the four corners of the chalkboard equally, and then pretend he could see behind his head. This gazing activity, which Erickson called "the not-doing of getting even" was supposed to occupy his full attention. He was also forbidden to fall asleep, no matter how tired his eyes might get. Of course his eyes would get tired and he would be nodding off all the time, having little dreams, and waking up when his nose tipped forward and hit the chalkboard. This is when Carlos learned of the existence of his dream bodies, since he kept waking up with his face resting on a big green sheet of plywood and had to keep asking himself, "What just happened?"
This is how Carlos regained the ability to Notice non-physical images and shut off distracting and unpleasant mental pictures, and it also cured his insomnia so well that for a period of time he was afraid he had become narcoleptic.
After weeks of grueling practice, when Carlos had finally accomplished all that Erickson prescribed, he announced his progress excitedly to Erickson and Erickson said, "Oh how nice. Because my brother-in-law, the harmless and horny old fart that you profess to no longer hate to distraction, needs a maid. In fact he told me just the other day he wishes you had time to work for him too. And he pays twice the hourly wage that I do." Carlos almost collapsed. He wanted to puke. But Erickson went on, "Of course my brother-in-law is far too stupid to realize that you're not a girl, and frankly, he prefers your body type. But don't worry, in spite of his bad manners and his big mouth, he won't lay a hand on you. And the good news is that, he really has quite a crush on you and his insults all along have just been his odd way of showing this. Once you are in his employ, his affection will become obvious and he will suddenly stop being mean to you. He will feel that he has made a conquest of you."
If that was the good news, Carlos was feeling ill already, so he held his breath waiting for the old man to deliver the bad news. Erickson continued, "But I feel that it's only fair that I should warn you that the old man is an incurable lecher, and while you are cleaning his house, the whole time he will be locked in his 'study' thinking about you and masturbating."
And so it was while he was employed at the neighbor's house that Carlos learned how to change any distracting sound in his environment into just another structural member of a magical mindset. Any sound.
Including the sound of, "Hey baby, I know you wanna piece of me, Muchacha, come to Papa, come, come, come..." from behind the neighbor's closed door.
"From now on talk to the little plants," he said. "Talk until you lose all sense of importance. Talk to them until you can do it in front of others."
--Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan