Steve Biddulph is a world renown psychotherapist and educator. In his latest book, Fully Human, he combines the latest in neuroscience, cutting edge psychotherapy and his life’s work helping people heal and grow from the worst. It’s a book that feels particularly timely given the past two years. It’s both interesting and educational and explains so much of the way we process things in our mind and body and how to do it in a better, healthier, and more cohesive way.
Fully Human tackles two main ideas:
1. Supersense which is the way in which your body sends you messages every second you are alive. These messages are quicker, subtler, and smarter than your conscious brain at knowing what it is going on, yet we often completely ignore them.
2. The four-story mansion is a metaphor Biddulph came up with to explain the multiple dimensions and layers that make us up. Through this metaphor Buddulph explains how to use all your layers in harmony and embrace all the parts that make you instead.
There’s so much I took away from this book, but the four-story mansion stuck out as something that needs to be shared. So, to give you an idea of what to expect from Fully Human, I’m explaining what your four-story mansion is, a concept that seems simple but could be quite groundbreaking when applied.
The Four Stories of your Human Mansion
The Ground Floor
The first floor, the ground floor is your physical body that acts and senses. It needs food, sleep, movement and to be in nature.
No culture in history has ignored the body as much as ours. We cut off our body from our emotions, from our spirituality. This means that when the inevitable traumas of life come along, we are very ill equipped to process them. As Biddulph says, “The problem is not the trauma, but the lack of ability to let our natural healing systems do their jobs”.
The Second Floor
The second floor is your emotions and feelings. Emotions are more distinct and intense than your senses on the ground floor. Emotions mean something. They can tell you the truth about something or energize you. Emotions are a kind of intelligence that can help you relate to other people.
In his section dedicated to emotions (my favorite section), Biddulph explains that we human beings are designed for trauma. Life was often scary and traumatic for our ancestors and we evolved to handle that by letting our feelings out. PTSD is not a natural consequence of trauma, it happens when there have been serious incidents one on top of another, without chance to heal. Because our culture hasn’t paid attention to this, it’s become a massive health problem for millions of people.
Traumas can eventually become useful and life-affirming experiences if handled properly and processed fully by your body. Emotions if you let them do their job, will get you through difficult situations and then their aftermath as you continue to learn and grow from what has happened.
He goes on to explain that there are no negative emotions, they are all intended to help us, protect us, and energize our lives. The heart of emotional intelligence is to know your emotions and to feel them fully, but not mistake them for your whole self – not to get trapped on one floor of your mansion.
The Third Floor
The third floor is your head with your brain that thinks. Thinking is the way we make sense of our lives and how we communicate with others – putting our thoughts into words and sharing them. Importantly, your thoughts, he says, are not the totality of you. It’s just a tool – you are more than your thoughts.
The final floor is your spirituality – where you connect with everything. This isn’t faith or religion but rather the part of you that connects to something bigger than yourself – the world around you. Unlike the other levels, he explains that the roof is open because at its essence spirituality is about freedom.
How to Use the Four-Story Mansion Metaphor
The metaphor helps us understand the layers and levels that make up our minds. When they’re broken up in this way it becomes easy to see which parts of you align and which don’t. You can also see what parts of you you’ve been ignoring. When you live on all four floors of your mansion, he goes on, you’ll begin to notice that the floors are sometimes at odds with each other. Feelings don’t match actions. Your body wants something your brain is saying no to. The goal is to look at how your life stacks up and work towards getting all your layers working in harmony with each other and making sure that you’re not neglecting a part of yourself or getting stuck on one floor.
How you do that, well you’ll have to read Fully Human by Steve Biddulph to find out.