Lifetalk with Roberta Russell
I live in the shadow of COVID-19, devoid of touching, or kisses, or any kind of physical intimacy. Living is useless without loving. The vitality and constant presence of Lexie, my unmasked, honed-in, snugly, white fluffy standard poodle, helps to remind me there is love. Not surprisingly, there is now an unprecedented demand for dogs.
Widowed after 27 years of life with my darling daring husband, Harold Krieger, I have now become a reluctant heart hunter. We were devoted to each other. Now I do not belong. Just the suggestion of mutual comprehension and intimacy, real or imagined, turns me on like a light switch.
But I soon adjust to a harsh lonely reality. For COVID-wary people, outside emotional exploration is often tempered by reason and dread. Many still have their families, their communal meals and mutual commitments, and their ever-present COVID fears. At best, they share affection and attend to each other, affirming their identities. New relationships are limited by more than just the diminishing odds of supply and demand.
Nevertheless, because I was fully Moderna-vaccinated weeks ago, along with an increasing swath of people, the prospects for a more moored life are looking up for me.
With just a bit of encouragement, I spin a promising saga for myself. If there is nothing out there, why not make it up and act accordingly anyway? When I look back, doing just that, even in starker times, succeeded miraculously.
For instance, I met R.D. Laing, the late famed Scottish psychiatrist and author, at a European Association for Humanistic Psychology Congress in Zaragoza, Spain in 1980. I found his subtle awareness intoxicating. Months later, in Rome, where Laing was also the featured speaker, we moved up a notch. I had been invited there to present my findings on effective psychotherapy, and also to run an original self-marketing workshop which was simultaneously translated into Italian. Framed by the sunshine at the entrance of the pensione, he greeted me with a transformative hug and invited me to join him and his entourage.
Long after that, alone in my Manhattan apartment ruminating about my lack of purpose, I bucked up to calling Laing, who was in Hampstead London immersed in his own sadness. I had been told by a mutual friend, conference organizer Knut Pflughaupt, that Laing was deeply troubled.
Dr. Laing could truly “see” me. Many others felt that he knew them better than anyone else did, even after a brief acquaintance. He had described my Report on Effective Psychotherapy: Legislative Testimony as: “Illuminating and interesting. A useful piece of work. Well put together and very instructive.”
Thus, guided by the research-supported belief that empathy and the feeling of alliance between a client and therapist are the active forces in therapeutic change, and motivated by my desire to help R.D. Laing increase his income, I suggested that he write a book telling readers how to have a therapeutic relationship with a carefully selected person outside the confines of therapy. Like the heroine in the movie Pretty Woman, he saved me right back by counter-proposing that I join him in London to write such a book. By doing so, we could try to create a successful “how-to” book, and increase our personal options as one does in successful therapy. That is the way R.D. Laing & Me: Lessons in Love, which is a true love story, began.
I have found that fantasies can come true—tempered by an evolving reality. I am working on a formative one now. “Reason is and ought to be a slave of the passions,” said David Hume, the 18th century philosopher.
If you want to find out how this intentionally therapeutic alliance evolved, you can download the book, free, from scholargoogle.com. Then, you may wish to create and examine your own therapeutic alliance. Laing cautioned, in his contraindications to the reader, “…one’s heart has got to be in the right place, or one will inevitably get the wrong end of the stick.” I’d love to hear how you do.
You can follow my current reverberating adventures in my quest for post-COVID community through publisher George Capsis’ WestView News and my new column, Lifetalk with Roberta Russell.
Roberta Russell is the author of R.D. Laing & Me: Lessons in Love with R.D. Laing, Report on Effective Psychotherapy: Legislative Testimony, and Report on Permanent Weight Loss. She has also been a contributor to various international magazines and journals including: Psychologie Heute (Germany), Japan Times, The Psychologist (U.K.), Human Potential Magazine (U.K.), Changes (U.K.), Clinical Psychology Forum (U.K.), Psychoanalytic Studies (U.K.), and Bottom Line (USA). Occasionally she hosts a New York City cable television show called Lifetalk which has featured interviews with movers and shakers in controversial areas of psychology, weight loss, nutrition, medicine, environment, and population growth.