by Veronika Grüneise and Dorothee C. von Tippelskirch-Eissing
In July 2017, Ross A. Lazar – psychoanalytic psychotherapist of children and adults and organisational consultant, Bion scholar and group relations expert and member of PCCA’s Advisory Board – died at the age of 72.
Born in the USA as a “Jewish boy in New Jersey”, as he liked to say, in 1945. He moved to the Tavistock Clinic in London in the early 70s in order to be trained as a psychoanalyst for adults and children in the tradition of Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion and Donald Meltzer. There, he got in touch with infant observation, which remained one important part of his rich professional activities in clinic and training (supervision) throughout his life. In his clinic he worked with adults and children, couples and families. He likewise got in touch with the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations, where he received training and became a highly recognised consultant to groups and organisations of very different kinds, including profit and non-profit organisations and psychoanalytic institutes.
Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that his first choice had been the study of history of arts and of education, in the USA. He had a broad interest in culture and art and especially in music.
It is not easy to name his multiple and vast activities as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in his private clinic in Munich, his teaching, supervising, writing and publishing, his cooperation with the Tavistock Institute, his role in the founding of MundO (Menschen und Organisationen) together with a group of colleagues dedicated to providing opportunities for Tavistock Group Relations work in German-speaking Europe. He taught at the Institute for Research and Further Education (IFF) in Vienna and Klagenfurt, the University of Vienna and served as a clinical supervisor at INSEAD. In the 1980s he founded the “Wilfred R. Bion Forum for the Furtherance of Psychoanalysis”. He was engaged in ISPSO (International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations), where he attended the conference and gave a paper in Copenhagen, shortly before his death. The multiplicity of his activities, the variety of roles he took up, the different tasks he accepted, show that for Ross work was a passion central to his life. When colleagues would suggest to meet with him, he could answer “if it is not for work, it won’t happen.” But luckily, he was good in inventing projects that would bring colleagues and friends together.
In 1978, he moved to Germany, Bavaria, Munich, where he lived together with his wife Gisela and their two children, in the meantime two grandchildren, whom he enjoyed tremendously.
It is impossible to remember Ross without remembering his love to laugh, his enjoyment of life, his humour. At the same time, he was deeply emotionally sensitive, one could feel the pain he had experienced in his life, hurt feelings, in many ways – of many of them he would not speak. One could feel them in his warm reactions towards the pain of others, sometimes in his sudden movements, when he himself could become hurtful for others, and he suffered deeply when this happened. He was sweet and hard. His mind was clear and sharp, he would not give up half way.
He worked as a staff member in different Group Relations Conferences, Leicester Conferences, OFEK’s International Group Relations Conference and the A.K. Rice International Conference. German psychoanalysts may remember him as director of a conference for members of the German Psychoanalytic Society (DPG) and the German Psychoanalytic Association (DPV) in Seeon, in 1996. As he did not belong to either of these institutions, he was free to direct this important conference. Members of both organisations were invited to look at their common history during National Socialism and the splitting dynamics of the post war era which was still at work between them – an impressive outcome of the first Nazareth Conference in 1994. This conference proved influential in the two organisations developing their organisational and scientific cooperation after decades of mutual scapegoating.
Ross further directed a Group Relations Conference on the future of the Deutsche Psychoanalytische Gesellschaft (DPG) for its members, in 2011, which helped members to digest the emotional upheaval involved in the DPG becoming a component society of the IPA.
PCCA was founded in 2007, but the conferences had begun in 1994, before the Seeon conference. Ross’s interest and dedication for PCCA’s primary task thus had been developed even before working as a staff member in the 2014 conference in Kliczkow, Poland. In this conference, we could experience his highly qualified consulting work. Not only was his contribution to understanding the dynamics of pain, guilt, hatred and reparation highly cherished. His familiarity with and experience in the use of the Group Relations method and both his flexibility and precision in applying it to PCCA conference work was extremely enriching.
This led to him being invited on PCCA’s Advisory Board and consulting to PCCA during its transition process of change in the chair, November 2015, where he helped us digest the retirement of three founding members and deepened our understanding of the needs and conflicts of our own organisation. By then he already had to fight his illness. While he supported conceptual thinking on the Advisory Board with passion, he had to resign from the board for health reasons, a painful departure for him and for us.
His death is a huge loss to all who have experienced his competence, his dedication, his pleasure in thinking things through and his creativity.