James Finley (Part 1) – Sacred Psychotherapy: Bringing Depth and Spirit to Healing, Suffering, and Trauma

James Finley Depth Dimension Healing Path Sacred Psychotherapy

Dr. James Finley, clinical psychologist, trauma specialist, scholar, poet, and author of the powerful memoir, The Healing Path, has an extraordinary breadth and depth of understanding about trauma and the alchemical effects of adding a depth dimension to therapy. Here, he shares about his own experience of trauma and healing, the therapeutic effects of introducing the depth dimension to his clients, the dynamics of anger and forgiveness, the path of longing, and how love gives itself away in the preciousness of each moment, rendering ordinary life sacred. James’ profound understanding of grace is unmistakable, beautiful, riveting—both from personal experience and as a student of Thomas Merton, who introduced him to the wisdom of the mystics at the Trappist monastery, Gethsemani.

Practically everything James says is both a poem and a revelation, so whether you are Christian, Buddhist, or atheist, this conversation offers a therapeutic wisdom and understanding of trauma that goes way beyond the norm, as well as a transmission of infinite love, bottomless mercy. At the end, James laughs at how he is talking: “I can’t believe I’m talking like this…a traumatized kid from Akron, Ohio. It’s not coming from me; it’s flowing through me. All I’m doing is passing on what was passed on to me. So as it catches fire in you, it might pass through you into others.” Recorded August 17, 2023.

“In the momentum of the day’s demands, we feel we are skimming across the surface of the depths of our own lives: we are suffering from depth deprivation.” 

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1

  • Introducing Dr. James Finley, clinical psychologist specializing in trauma, spiritual therapist, author of The Healing Path & Merton’s Palace of Nowhere (00:58)
  • How does James bring the worlds of psychotherapy and spirituality together? (03:32)
  • James’ experience of God responding during his traumatic childhood and how Thomas Merton introduced him to the mystics at the Trappist monastery (04:22)
  • Teaching high school religion, writing Merton’s Palace of Nowhere about how to find our way to our true self, leading silent contemplative retreats, and becoming a clinical psychologist (07:25)
  • Where trauma and the presence of God touch each other: into the broken places, the light shines through (08:54)
  • There is healing without forgiveness, but there is no healing without anger (11:21)
  • Standing in the clear mindedness of anger, you’re not completely free until you forgive (14:29) 
  • Self-hatred and how we perpetuate the violence until we find a safe place to work it through (18:14)
  • Finding refuge in zazen, forgiving abuse at home and in the monastery, and how James found his way back into mystical Catholicism and the depth dimension (20:58)
  • Where faith comes in to interior healing, where the alchemy happens: being carried along by mercy equals salvation (25:00)
  • Getting past the distortions of religiosity: regrounding therapy in the depth dimension, moving back and forth from the hurting place to infinite love and mercy (26:36)
  • What shines forth out of love or out of tragedy: being intimately overtaken by the nearness of the unexplainable (30:11)
  • When we have just lost everything, we glimpse the infinity of mercy, and a longing is born to abide in the depths so fleetingly glimpsed: this is the path (31:58)
  • Where is all this trauma coming from? We are suffering from depth deprivation (33:13)
  • The horizontal dimension of time is intersected by the vertical depth dimension of the infinite (35:19)
  • “I know it, I know it, I know that I know it”—I can’t say what it is but I can bear witness to it (36:11)
  • Psychotherapy at the depth level is meditation for two (37:27)
  • Roger’s summary of points covered: forgiveness, anger, stages of working through trauma, how religion can be used in the transcendence of ego, and the tragic belief that I am the only one who is broken and suffering (37:39)

Resources & References – Part 1

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James Finley Healing Trauma Sacred Psychotherapy Depth Dimension

Student of Thomas Merton and clinical psychologist, Dr. James Finley teaches how connecting to our Divine indwelling can transcend fear and shame and awaken our True Self. A faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation, he is the author of The Healing Path and Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, and the host of CAC’s podcast Turning to the Mystics.

Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell

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