The majority seem to be single, white and middle class: social workers, teachers, computer consultants. They have paid pounds 10 to listen to Chuck Spezzano, PhD, therapist, psychologist and author of 30 Days To Find Your Perfect Mate.
According to the book blurb, he is the creator of a breakthrough therapeutic healing model called the Psychology of Vision. Even more impressively, he promises, on the back cover, that in just 30 days readers can find themselves 'ready to welcome another person into their life . . . freely, openly and joyfully'.
On stage, two comfy chairs face the audience. We watch as a tall, blonde-haired lady in a flowing white tunic walks on and sits down. Chuck, dark and more rotund, relaxes into the other empty seat. The willowy blonde is Chuck's wife, Lency. 'I want you to know,' she says in a breathy American whisper. 'When I first met this man he couldn't say the word m-m-m-m-marriage.' (A loving glance in his direction.) 'But Chuck has found his heart,' she continues. 'He's made every mistake a fellow could make . . . and come out totally loving. So this is my husband.' (They embrace tenderly.)
To an audience of lonely hearts, this gratuitous display of marital harmony is like cooking two steaks in full view of a starving refugee camp. The collective envy is palpable. Chuck disentangles himself from Lency's embrace. 'I was so poor at relationships,' he begins. 'Believe me, if I can change, so can you.'
Change is the basis of his philosophy; unless you can 'find yourself', it seems you won't find a partner. He explains: 'People always ask me: 'Aren't you going to tell us where you can go to meet the perfect partner?' But my answer is: don't go out, come home to yourself.' If you don't find your mate, he believes it's because you don't want to. 'Circumstances in your life change when you do.'
Chuck's circumstances seem somewhat idyllic - living on the island of Oahu in Hawaii with his wife and two children, Christopher and J'aime. He began his career as a staff psychologist in a drug rehabilitation centre, where he learnt 'vital healing information' while working with victims and families. He preaches a combination of psychotherapy and spirituality. 'Whatever word you are comfortable with will work best for you, whether you call it 'Holy Spirit', 'Creative Mind' or 'Higher Power'.'
His book consists of 30 lessons that will 'make room and invite in' your partner. Complex philosophic issues are neatly reduced into nugget-sized chapters: 'The Importance of Value', 'The Purpose of Life' and 'Guilt, Unworthiness and Fear Are Merely Illusions'.
At the end of each chapter, readers are encouraged to fill in a blank page, entitled 'My Daily Progress Towards My Perfect Mate', choosing a particular problem in their life to write about.
His vision is optimistic. Meeting the perfect mate has nothing to do with weight, age or salary but 'how much energy you are willing to let out on the world'. According to him, we can all feel beautiful. 'When was the last time you felt irresistible?' asks Chuck. The audence looks blank. 'Probably as a baby - even then some of you wouldn't believe it.'
This is, he says, because most people don't value themselves. They carry around 'truckloads of guilt' or they are 'victims looking for a place to happen'. He seems to suggest that once you relinquish these roles and traps, your perfect mate will miraculously appear.
Back in the foyer, people browse through Chuck's considerable body of self-help literature, on sale in book and cassette form. The same advice is repackaged under numerous titles: The Journey, The Irresistible You, and, intriguingly, 30 Days To Getting Along With Your Mother-In-Law.
The atmosphere at the bar is a cross between an 18-30 holiday and Oprah. The lecture had provoked some decidedly self-confessional conversation. 'I was nine when my mother first started using me as her marriage guidance counsellor,' one woman explains to her neighbour. Elsewhere, it's hard to avoid eye contact with a number of intense-looking men clutching copies of 30 Days To Find Your Perfect Mate. Many had obviously decided this was Day One and there was no time to lose.
One approached me nervously. 'What did you think? I thought he was really good on the the role of victim as passive aggressor.' He had just signed up for Chuck and Lency's two-day workshop. Some are more sceptical. 'It all went a bit deep for me,' says Linda, 32, a computer consultant. 'If I tried the book I'd probably give up after two days.' 'There's too much hugging going on for my liking,' observes her friend.
In the auditorium, a question-and-answer session follows. 'My partner wants me to open up my heart. I want to do it but I'm frightened. Where do I start?' asks one woman. Chuck explains that the process has begun, but due to an unresolved issue with her father she still distrusts men.
His role shifts quickly from psychologist to clairvoyant. 'In the past, one person loved you so much but because of this fear you pushed him away - you never got over that.' She nods, transfixed, then sits down and holds hands with her partner.
'How do I know when a relationship has ended?' asks one man. Chuck believes it's when a couple can split up but form a mature friendship. 'So you mean we go through all this shit just to finish and become friends?' For the first time all evening Chuck looks stuck for words. 'Um . . . well, I suppose that's one way of looking at it.'
After 90 minutes, Chuck concludes: 'You may be single, but your partner is going through life now. Their story is kinda opposite to yours.' His voice diminishes to a low whisper. 'But what drives you, drives them - pain and aspiration. Even now, before you've met them . . . you can open your heart and it can be so beautiful.' With that, he embraces the angelic Lency and conveniently leaves the rest of the answers in our hands.
30 Days To Find Your Perfect Mate (Vermilion pounds 6.99).
For more information, call the Psychology of Vision Partnership: 0372 451979.Reuse content