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Cole, G.W. (2004). On Lived Experience and Metapsychologies: A Response to Donald Moss. Am. Imago, 61(2):242-247.

(2004). American Imago, 61(2):242-247

On Lived Experience and Metapsychologies: A Response to Donald Moss

Review by:
Gilbert W. Cole

It is a rare and exhilarating experience to have one's work read and thought about as deeply as Donald Moss has mine. To feel not only deeply understood, but to have one's ideas interpreted in such a way as to leave me surprised is to feel engaged in the kind of generative dialogue that one yearns for, and that seems not always to unfold. It is as though we're playing a version of Winnicott's “squiggle game,” and now that I've seen his move, I'm left with a bracing feeling of having my thoughts completely renovated by a particularly unexpected interpretation.

The most prominently surprising aspect of this interpretation is being credited, or accused, of positing a metapsychology. I think of myself as pragmatically phenomenological, and so it is quite a surprise to have a metapsychology inferred from my work. Of course, being skeptical about any metapsychology may in itself be a metapsychology. But proceeding according to Moss's definition that a metapsychology generates plausible psychologies, I would have to agree that this is what I argue. And as he points out, the relational point of view that is congenial to me continues to struggle to theorize the body adequately. With a measure of trepidation, then, I feel a need to turn back to my original intention: adopting a phenomenological approach in order to look at the thing in itself—in this case the experience of doing psychoanalysis as an HIV-positive person—I sought to understand what had felt to me to be a rather awkward collision of personal, professional, and idealized senses of myself. That the specific condition of seropositivity eventually was left behind in favor of a consideration of more generally encountered aspects of the analytic encounter (such as mutual affective influence, or the average expectable vulnerability in the analyst) encouraged me to believe that the book could be useful to anyone. But Moss points out clearly that, as the specific gave way to more generally applicable observations, my reach exceeded my initial intention.

My

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