Narcissism & The System It Breeds

"The system will more often seek to punish those who threaten it when they shatter the world of appearances - the fundamental pillar of the system – tearing apart what holds it together and demonstrating that living a lie is, in fact: living a lie. The truth-teller has said that the emperor is naked. There are no terms whatsoever on which a narcissistic system can coexist with living in the truth." 


Remind's me of the lyrics Dustin Kensrue wrote for the song "Whistleblower" on the last Thrice album:


You told me keep it quiet

That I'd ruin everything

But I'd rather start a riot

Than help you pull these strings

You told me to kneel


I'll tell the real story

I'm the bird that sings

I'm the whistleblower

Wake up and take warning

Congressmen and kings

I'm the whistleblower

Waiting in the wings


As I working on the new record, I came across a series of lectures given by Dr. Diane Langberg, titled: "Narcissism & The System It Breeds."


If you've heard my new single – Big Business – the clip of the woman speaking is Dr. Langberg, who kindly gave me permission to use the sample from her lecture for the song. (You can get the song for free when you pick up anything from my online store between now and the Cataracts release date – February 23rd. I'll send it to you.)


In the quote above, she references Vaclav Havel, from his essay "The Power of the Powerless." 


Langberg is a psychologist whose talk – which I discovered through the Global Trauma Recovery Institute – was being offered as a free resource for those desiring to understand the nature of Narcissistic leaders, abusive organizations and the victims their "fruit" produces. 


I think the institute's reason for hosting the discussion is worth sharing: 


It is a sad fact that many organizations, when faced with the choice of protecting an abusive leader or victim, choose to protect the leader (and thus the organization) rather than the victims of that abuse. All too often, victims report that the failure of the system to respond well to their cries for help cause more harm than the original abuse.


Tell me that doesn't sound exactly like the world we're living in. 


The outcry against insular, self-protecting organizations – whether they be churches or Hollywood or presidencies or parties – is louder than ever. 


The celebrity shutdown that began with Weinstein. Then spawned the #metoo movement. Thousands – millions – of stories of women who have been abused and silenced. Then – importantly – #churchtoo victims. People finally given freedom or permission or courage to speak out about crimes that "kingdoms" have protected – as though rape were merely an in-house issue that could be covered up with platitudes. 


It's not all sexual deviancy.


Subtleties too ethereal to put a finger on but no less abusive. 


The list goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and 


although factions may be amplified depending upon where you get your news,


it isn't limited to a particular political party or religious affiliation or socioeconomic status and 


it also doesn't exclude or exempt








We protect our own and we protect ourselves and that, too, is a truth that our own "systems" – our little private worlds – have a hard time co-existing with. 


Langberg's talk is specifically about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and she speaks of the way that, although not all people have it, we're prone to "catch it," or live it, vicariously, from a leader who may – defending him to the death, because a poor critique on him is a poor critique on us, and
















Unfortunately, whether personally or vicariously, we've also seen the way that plays itself out. 


I'd be hard-pressed to believe that our nation doesn't sit beneath this kind of personality, now, nor that many of us didn't sit beneath it for years when we'd show up for worship – together as separate – every Sunday morning to self-propagate our way.


Not The Way.


Of course, we just don't know that's the case until somebody starts talking about how we're naked. 


Actually, I think that perhaps we don't even know it then. I think we finally start to know after we've gone through the pain of feeling our nakedness, ourselves. 


Maybe that's another good way of thinking of deconstruction. 


It's certainly a fine way of considering repentance as it begins in the mind. 


And perhaps reconstruction is a bit like figuring out how to put some clothes back on, or maybe more like being clothed in new robes, arrayed in new garments of salvation.


Whether you hold to original sin or in original union or neither, whether you prefer phrases like "total depravity" or "lower levels of consciousness" or something else, we are all agreed that something is awry, and when we are honest with ourselves – when truth does pervade our systems – it is not difficult to deny these inward bents.


Augustine called it incurvatus in se, or  a life lived (or curved) inward


Paul said that the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do


Merton writes: 


"Thus we never see the one truth that would help us begin to solve our ethical and political problems: that we are all more or less wrong, that we are all at fault, all limited and obstructed by our mixed motives, our self-deception, our greed, our self-righteousness and our tendency to aggresivity and hypocrisy." 


Listen, I'm not writing as a guru, promoting my new album as an answer, or positioning myself as though I am incapable of committing the very same abuses I've experienced, or manipulations I've suffered.


I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: this isn't martyrdom.


Self-importance can manifest itself every bit as much or more in "poor me" as is "praise me."


I know myself well enough to understand by now that the vast majority of the things that bother me out there enough to talk about them are often a reflection of the things in here that I wish weren't so.


There's got to be enough self-awareness in critique to know that you're the pot calling the kettle black, otherwise the sentiment, void of love and humility (which is always a journey, and never a destination) is but a clanging gong too shrill to stomach, anyhow. 


Plus, I'm smack-dab in the middle of self-promoting an independent record release here, people. It's difficult to feel anything but bent inward while you're busy collecting attention for yourself. 


May there be mercy for us all. What plea do we have but that?


With love from the conundrum,



P.S. – It's been an exciting week, guys! 

On Thursday, I announced the name of my new record, and released a whole bunch of new items and preorder packages on our online store for those of you who are interested and willing to help us make this record a reality. 

Thanks so much to the people who have supported Cataracts thus far!

To those of you who may have missed it, or – perhaps – have been hibernating with your pet bears through the winter, below is a picture that I snagged from my friend Alex Sugg's Instagram account about the release.

You might know Alex better as GLOWHOUSE

He's the guy who has written all of the music for my last three records. He's incredible at what he does, and this project would not be anything close to what it is without him. 

I chose this image today, rather than a whole bunch of others, because I also wanted to give you an idea of what you can come to expect from my new record, and I think that a glimpse of that future is captured in what he captioned beneath the picture of the vinyl record we have available along with the rest of our new offerings... 


I'm thankful for Alex and every single person – named and unnamed – involved in this record, and I hope that you'll pick up a copy when you can.