Here is a quotation from Merton on the false self, thanks to Matthew Boedy:
“All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered… I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could become visible when something visible covered its surface. But there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed. I am objectified in them. When they are gone there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness, to tell me that I am my own mistake.”
Powerful but sad words from a man who said that being a monk, being a writer, being a Christian, being himself – the work he exerted in being those things – terrified him.