PreThinking: James Dyson and PreHab

Angus Lyon
May 20, 2015 · 5 min read

So what’s this about?

Well I suppose I could begin at 8 o’clock and talk about Matisse.

At the Cut Outs exhibition at the Tate a few months ago in the first room was an experimental picture. Within the frame Matisse rearranged his cut outs to balance them. He took the component parts and set them in a kind of artistic order.

This was to do with deconstruction and reconstruction, taking apart the constituent elements and rearranging them artistically. The composition was governed by his own personal aesthetic which he later developed into the pattern cut outs.

I recently dried my hands in what I assumed was a Dyson blade contraption, but in fact it had been made by another manufacturer. This surprised me and I thought about patents and the like. The set me thinking about Dyson and his reinvention and his process of rethinking and reformulating through deconstruction and reconstruction. His first cyclone vacuum cleaner went through 5,126 prototypes before he hit on the marketable commodity, the DC01.

The rather bizarre diagram at 1 o’clock shows the principle of a cyclone extractor for removing dust particles from the air in sawmills. The contaminated air goes into the cyclone. It circulates downwards taking the dust. Gravity takes the dust to the hopper at the bottom and the air then proceeds upwards and outwards. The expelled air is relatively clear of sawdust. Dyson’s genius was to think about the principle and apply it to vacuum cleaners.

The rest is history.

The point is that he deconstructed and reconstructed and made something elegant and beautiful that had not been contemplated before. He applied known principles to unknown solutions. In short, he invented an elegant solution to a problem that we were unaware of.

This made me wonder about the process of psychotherapy. As a therapist, I am familiar with seeing things in retrospect, often at times of great pain and distress. What if we were to deconstruct and, as well as providing help in crisis, think about things in prospect. How could we do this? What process or theory could we apply to this?

In recent psychotherapeutic practice the ideas of mentalization are being used in an increasing number of settings. Mentalization has been applied to help people with borderline personality disorder and more recently through dynamic interpersonal therapy (DIT) with people who have (so-called) mild to moderate anxiety and depression.

It is being applied through the AMBIT scheme in family intervention work in the UK and with stressed out professionals at the Menninger Clinic in Houston. If the process and thinking can be applicable to such a wide range of psychiatric distress then why should we not be able to consider and apply the principles before things get difficult.

Rather than thinking and working at rehab, could we not be thinking about prehab?

At 2 o’clock there are the words ‘aerodynamics’ and ‘psychodynamics’. Dyson worked with aerodynamic principles. Could the same process of deconstruction and reconstruction not be applied to psychodynamics? Why not identify, separate, and map psychodynamic principles, the theories that we work with in therapy, and construct them in a way which will be helpful before problems arise, so that we can be more aware of what is happening around us?

Surely if we were more aware of what is happening within us and what other people are experiencing around us (and how we consequently relate to one another individually and in groups) this may help us to be aware of problems as they are arising?

Mentalization is informed by much current thinking, disciplines including neuroscience, attachment theory, theory of mind, emotional literacy, the practice of mindfulness, and psychoanalysis.

Dyson is understandably keen to protect his work by patent infringement. If however the principles of psychodynamics are universal, should they not be available to all and thought through and made a matter of open discussion and debate? Up at 11 o’clock there is a quote from the singer Bruce Cockburn, “It only lives when you give it away”. I was wondering here about copyright and Creative Commons and the principle of sharing for debate, discussion and enquiry.

Maybe the model here should be the principle of “This is for everyone”? Tim Berners-Lee giving away the world the World Wide Web from its early roots at the Cern laboratory. It lives because it was given away.

And then at 6 o’clock, one of the ideas of Blue Ocean Strategy and how we might be able to think about creating solutions to universal problems that have not been thought about in this way before. Or, if they have been thought about, have not been thought about widely or perhaps not in a way that has found traction? We know so much about the workings of the human mind, but we are still so unaware of ourselves and how we relate with one another.

There must be a better way of learning and discovering. Perhaps this way is deconstructing and reconstructing, taking apart and mending, separating and reassembling?

Through his cut out experiments Matisse created something astounding, stunning, and bursting with colour, life, energy, exuberance, and passion.

Maybe life could be more like this?

OK … end of rant … to be continued … all feedback most welcome …

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