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Without borders

I wrote two books in Czech that start with the word without: „Without treatment it goes“ and „Without conditions“ (these are raw translations, the first one was published as Recovered without treatment in English). I think that the title of the third one might be „Without borders“.

At least this is how I feel about myself shortly after my today´s visit in a family that I work with. It is not new for me. Such feelings often arise in my inner dialogue with my imagined supervisor. It is not a real person. I think about him rather in terms of a general authoritative supervisor (GAS), maybe a mixture of my father, my chemistry high school teacher and my neuroscience professor at the university.


(GAS: So, how was the last session?)

I: Well, it was mess a bit, difficult, but I think it was very good. I was visiting this family I know for a long time…

(GAS: What? You went to their home?)

I: Yes, in our team we do, and we have very good experience with that, but this is a special context where I go alone because I worked firstly individually with the daughter…

(GAS: Ufff.. so you have an individual client and then you switch to family therapy and you go to their home? Alone???)

I: …. And there is another thing that the mother is someone I know for a very long time, she is not a close friend but at least friend of friend and I also supervised her…

(GAS: Are you serious? So you work with a client and then you invite her mother who is almost your friend or at least a former supervisee?)

I: …Well, at this specific moment, neither the daughter nor the mother are in the center of concern… It is the youngest son, 16 years old, who ran out of home some time ago, had a suicidal attempt and now he lives back home but he drinks a lot. And today, he came drunk…

(GAS: Stop! He came drunk? And you worked with him?)

I: …We discussed it. It was quite clear that both the mother and daughter are very angry about the fact he came late and drunk and they were not sure whether they wanted the meeting. But the boy did. So I stayed in the kitchen only with him (I found out that we can have very good conversation even if he drunk a bottle of wine) and they both went to another room. I promised them that we will invite them at least at the end of the meeting.

(GAS: You know what could happen? How easily a drunk person goes into agression?)

I: ….I was quite careful about the topics we were to discuss. For example, when he mentioned his potential traumatic experiences in his 13 year of age, I expressed my compassion but also assured him that I don´t need to know the details. Instead, I was asking about his way of coping. And this was the point he started to talk about alcohol. How he uses alcohol to calm himself down, to deal with the unpleasant emotions. For me, this was really important part of our whole collaboration.

(GAS: I guess he was manipulating you to gain your support againts his mother...)

I: I made sure that it is clear that situations like these need to be discussed but not at this time. When we were all together at the end of the meeting, I just mentioned some of my reflections that he already agreed upon and then I proposed that we meet soon again to discuss the situation properly, ideally to get some joint agreements. I explicitly said that today it was more for him but the next time, I will help the voices of the mother and daughter to be heard more. We also agreed that all of us would be sober at the meeting.


This inner dialogue could go on and on and the general authoritative supervisor would try to show me that I really have NO BORDERS AT ALL! But this time, I satisfied him with one borderline that I drew. I was clear about my time limitations and I finished the visit quite sharply after 60 minutes.


It was because outside, in a park, my daughters and my mother was waiting for me. While the kids played in the playground, I sat at the bench next to my mum and she started telling me a story about her clash with my brother´s daughter who just turned 14. I realized that while listening to her, I am also remembering her despair when she tried to talk to me in my 16 when I came home drunk. Through this memory, my decisions in today´s session made quite sense to me.


My daughters wanted me to carry them on my back. I carried the first one and then the older one said:

"Daddy, I want you to carry me as long as you carried Jolanka."

"But, Dorotka, it is hard to tell how long I carried her," I replied.

"I will set you the borders," she said and stood still at one place.

I stopped exactly at the spot she pointed to. I was happy that I have the borders.


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Guest
Jun 07, 2023

A lot of things people write in blogs do not have a great deal of meaning or resonance for me. what you say here really does. And not just in therapy. But in my everyday life. Every day. The GAS is, I sense, a concept with profound potential. Please keep it coming Pavel. Richard.

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