It is an easy to read book about Moods and Memes.
So far as we know 'Stop Paddling' is/was the first book to discuss memes and memetics in relation to our mental health.
Readers have found 'Stop Paddling' an inspirational story of recovery.
Words from the back cover...
This book is unusual with its mix of story and
logical advice. Parts of Roger's life are told as a short fantasy then
expanded to reveal experiences, events and interactions in and out of
mental health centres. The analogy of a river journey is used to explain
events and the beginnings of recovery after diagnosis.
I received treatment for anxiety in 1980, then I was well, not taking any medication or seeing any doctors other than for check-ups until July 1997, when I was invited to be a 'voluntary' psychiatric patient. Moods were never mentioned, nor was the possibility that I might be experiencing manic depression.
By the end of 1997 the drugs I had been given in hospital had made me extremely unwell. Then, based only on my medical records a psychitrist I had never met prescribed Prozac 20mg. The Prozac led to renewed extreme anxiety resulting in me being re-admitted to an acute ward where I was prescribed a high level of lithium as a 'mood stabiliser'. This failed to stabilise my moods and I was in hospital again in 1999.
It was about this time that I read about memes, which for me explained where my changes in mood originated and why it was highly unlikely any medication was going to 'stabilise' me. I had a stress-related-disorder. It was not just a "chemical imbalance", as health professionals had said in 1997.
Recovery started by meeting others with the same diagnosis, learning about self-mangement, learning the difference between pressure and stress and sharing all this information, as it was through sharing that it started to sink in.
Stop Paddling/Start Sailing was published in 2004, which lead to my change career after 20 years as a food chemist to full-time mental health researching, author and educator.
A lot has happened since 2004. Although bipolar disorder continues to boom as diagnosis, it is clear, to anyone with enough time to study moods, that the ancient greeks and others were right about people having 4 basic moods. The bipolar (medical model) approach of just 2 moods required for the bipolar diagnosis just does not work.
Is it possible that anxiety and depression are largely caused by memes? I put this to a psychiatrist in 1999. He laughed at the idea.
For 15 years now I have been in pretty good health with no need to see psychiatrists, nurses etc. Appreciating memes exist and affect our thinking every minute of every day has been beneficial for me.
It has allowed me to see mental health as the kind of science that anyone can get to grips with. Memetics simplifies mental health as it shows us it not some big and complex muddle. Like anything else, mental health is made up of small pieces.
Recovery of good mental health is a brick-by-brick / step-by-step process. It always has been - memetics simply proves this beyond any doubt.
"Chapters 1-3 made me laugh; the analogues/metaphors of MD being interwoven with a memetic interpretation was great. Your experience seems to have many points of similarity with my own” Nick Hewling, Recovery Devon (Partnerships for Mental Health)
“LOVED it" Rosanna Tarsiero, Italy
"I thought your book was brilliant!" Chris Radford, RETHINK
"Jane and I enjoyed your book. It's got a great tone and I think would be a comfort to anyone crawling from the wreckage of a first time mental crash or even people who have been coping for a while. I liked the sailing metaphors a lot. Bravo and well done. Jeremy Thomas, Author of "You Don't have to be Famous to have Manic Depression" and "Taking Leave"
Book Description on Amazon
Stop Paddling/Start Sailing is an amazing book. The concept was born out of a period of hypomania when the author, unable to sleep, imagined a very different way of looking at his life and life in general.
These imaginings give rise to the central theme of a journey on the river of life. The main story is overlaid on the fantasy journey, bringing real people and events in, to tell of times spent in and out of psychiatric wards.
He makes no attempt to write an autobiography detailing each and every high and low – mania and depression. He instead focuses on 3 of the episodes that landed him in hospital during the year before and after his diagnosis. You may be surprised to hear the author say that being diagnosed was a good day, after years of having psychological problems that could not be named.
This book has been described as a gentle introduction to bipolar disorder. It goes some way beyond this as it also gently introduces the idea of using memetics (a bit like genetics but relating to thoughts) as a tool that can be used alongside other self management techniques. This is a big step away from the wisdom of a few years ago when psychiatrists would tell patients it was all about finding the right combination of drugs.
It is suggested that memetics can dispel thoughts & feelings such
as, "It all depends on me" and the other extreme "I can't
do anything about it" and thus reduce the risk of future disorder.
Stop Paddling/Start Sailing contains a gentle introduction to the idea of using knowledge of memes to improve mental health.
Explaining the concept of memes can be a challenge for just about anyone. It seems to be so alien to the way most of us were brought up and yet once grasped it is so logical.
What others have said about memes:
1. Extract from The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore: "...when you imitate someone else, something is passed on. This something can then be passed on again, and again, and so take on a life of its own. We might call this thing an idea, an instruction, a behaviour, a piece of information but if we are going to study it we shall need to give it a name. Fortunately, there is a name. It is the Meme."
2. Oxford English Dictionary: "Meme - An element of culture that may be considered to be passed on by... imitation."
3. After reading the book, Roger's mother (at ager 76) correctly summarised: "A meme is any idea that can be passed on repeatedly from person to person."
4. It is worth considering: "Not all thoughts are memes… but memes have become the tools with which we think."
5. In 1991 D. Dennett realised: "Memes restructure a human brain in order to make it a better habitat for memes."
6. In less than perfect English: "Our memes is who we are." (S. Blackmore 1999)
Stop Paddling/Start Sailing uses boating metaphors to bring life to these ideas. Initially we believe the actress Katharine Hepburn's observation that, "As one goes through life, one learns that if you don't paddle your own canoe, you don't move." As we read Stop Paddling we start to realise there is an alternative and at least as valid way to look at life.
If you are looking for something more complex than our gentle introduction, a lot more has been written about memes and memetics, much of this can be found via this site: http://users.lycaeum.org/~sputnik/Memetics/. Be sure to read several articles as it is a big subject and anyone article is unlikely to give a full picture.
There again obtaining a copy of Stop Paddling/Start Sailing is a good starting point if you want to consider whether knowledge of memes/memetics can help with your mental health or to understand other's mental health.