The Ballad of the False Self

I wanna be lov’d,
I wanna be seen as cool;
I wanna feel safe,
I wanna be comf’table;
I wanna be strong,
I gotta be in control;
I wanna belong, I wanna belong, I wanna belong!

Repeat ad nauseam


While definitely not being a chant for promoting stillness before prayer the Ballad of the False Self has found a place on intensive Centering Prayer retreats as a means of re-energising participants on their last night. Technically it is not a ballad except in the current colloquial sense of a singer feeling endlessly sorry for themselves.

The rather flippant lyric began life as a mnemonic rhyme to help me remember the elements of Thomas Keating’s ‘False Self System’: the three energy centres of affection/esteem, comfort/security and power/control all wrapped in a cloak of cultural conditioning. These are the forces which, if we’re not careful, drive us through life.

Since the lyric (almost) rhymes and scans it can be fitted to a wide range of musical genres. We find it works easily and extremely well as a rap. The fact that I have presented it here as a piece of close-harmony swing jazz simply reflects my enjoyment of that style. If you’re ambitious enough to try it in this form and your basses can’t reach the high E’s (I can’t) use the bass line from the third and fourth phrases throughout. Above all make lots of joyful noise and, next time you feel that the sky has fallen in on you, you’ll be prepared to have a good laugh at yourself.

Listen to Soprano Part

Listen to Alto Part

Listen to Tenor Part

Listen to Bass Part


Choral Score PDF

Keyboard Score PDF

MP3 Audio