A powerful visualisation method for living apart – With Bruna Toubia


Today my guest is Bruna Toubia. She is multicultural, multilingual. She has lived in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. And she is trained in  impressive array of holistic, process-orientated and goal-orientated methods. First she is going introduce systemic constellations and then she will help us see how they can be a powerful tool in situations where you are geographically separated from your spouse.

In this Episode:

  1. Bruna explains constellations.
  2. How can constellations help for someone who has a partner who is often absent with some examples of scenarios.
  3. How constellations can help decide on a posting away from the family or help when time apart
  4. Can a parent use it if there is a situation with a child?
  5. How can someone set up a constellation with Bruna
  6. Bruna shares with us a life or parenting resource

Resources mentioned in the episode:

Contact Bruna:



Tel Number: +41 76 406 53 55


Rhoda (00:08):

Welcome to Holding the Fort Podcast, the podcast for expats with travelling partners. My name is Rhoda Bangerter, I am a certified coach and the author of the book Holding the Fort Abroad. In this podcast, I interview men and women who live abroad and have travelling partners so that we can all benefit from their wisdom and experience, I also invite relationship experts to apply their expertise to this topic.

Today my guest is Bruna Toubia. She is multicultural, multilingual. She has lived in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. And she is trained in an impressive array of holistic, process-orientated and goal-orientated methods. First, she is going introduce systemic constellations and then she will help us see how they can be a powerful tool in situations where you are geographically separated from your spouse. Bruna, thank you so much for being with us today.

Bruna Toubia (01:12):

You're welcome, Rhoda.

Rhoda (01:15):

So first I'd love you to explain to our listeners what systemic constellations are. It's something that I hadn't heard of before and it just sounds like a very powerful way of figuring things out, but you'll explain it much better. So I'll leave to you.

Bruna Toubia (01:37):

Okay. So a constellation is actually kind of a spatial translation of an image of a situation that you might have, and that keeps us stuck somewhere. It can also be like any kind of issue that keeps us stuck. It's a simulation method actually. We can do it individually or we can do it in groups. If it's in groups, it's also a group simulation method to try to understand what is actually the hidden dynamic in the relationship, for instance. If the issue is about relationships, and we can try to understand better the whole problem or the whole issue that is here.

Usually people would come to a constellation after they had already tried many things. So maybe they went to a coach or maybe it's something that is recurring. And they have tried to solve the issue by themselves, but they're stuck somehow. Now, we call it systemic constellations also, because we understand that the reason or the cause of the issue is not a linear one, but it is something that is in the system.

Rhoda (03:09):


Bruna Toubia (03:09):

It's the whole system that is creating some kind of imbalance. Okay. And so that is actually what we understand under, well, systemic constellations. Usually we would have a main issue holder, so it's the client, and if it's group constellations, we have other participants who are going to be here and represent parts of the system of the issue holder.

Rhoda (03:46):

So for example, if I have an issue with my older sister, how would the constellation work?

Bruna Toubia (03:59):

If you come and say you have an issue with your older sister, most probably you have already tried to solve that by yourself. And here we have a chance that you are in the group, you come, here you are, you tell me ‘Well I would like to improve my relationship to my sister’, or ‘I would like to understand what's going on, why it's not working’, and I would say, ‘Okay, good, now you can sit down for a moment and you're going to select someone in the group who is going to represent you and who is going to represent your sister’. Obviously before…

Rhoda (04:36):

So different people? One who represents you, one who represents your sister.

Bruna Toubia (04:41):

Obviously before that, I will ask you just a couple of questions maybe just to find out like, maybe the age difference between you and your sister, and whether there are other siblings in the family, or just a couple of questions. Not much. Something that's going to last maybe only two or three minutes. And then depending on what you tell me, I might decide, ‘Okay, well I'm also going to take your parents, right? So I will take also your parents in the system. So I will ask you to select representatives for your parents. And the idea also here, so that actually all the representatives, they come into the constellation. You place them according to your inner image. You just place them. So if it's a face-to-face constellation, the moment they are placed by you, they are actually in the constellation.

And the difference between a constellation and another therapy method is that it’s not cognitive. People who are here, they don't have to know anything. They don't have to think much, they just have to feel what is happening with themselves in their body.

While they're standing, they might say, for instance, ‘She's not looking at me’, or maybe, ‘I can't see her’, or ‘I don't want to see her’, or ‘I feel bad, I have maybe some ache in my arm’, or ‘I want to turn around’, or anything like this. So they would come into resonance with the people they represent.

Rhoda (06:27):


Bruna Toubia (06:27):

And the issue is always here. And usually it's a very intense moment for the issue holder. Very often for the issue holder that he or she recognizes that, well, what he could not see before or what wants to be heard now, what wants to be seen at this moment, and what maybe he didn't want or she didn't want to see for a long time, for whatever reasons, for survival reasons, for whatever. So that is actually the point with constellation. So it's an experiential method.

Rhoda (07:13):

I'm just getting emotional, just hearing you explain it. Because I can visualize it. So you are placing people in a room, so you are the issue holder. So you say, for example, ‘I'm coming with the issue that I wanna present’, and then I place people representing different people in my life. And people can also represent the issue itself. Is that right?

Bruna Toubia (07:38):

Right, of course. So it can be also, it can, people can represent a person or they can also represent something abstract. I can also take someone who's going to represent the obstacle.

Rhoda (07:51):


Bruna Toubia (07:52):

Right. And also, some people can come to the constellation as a client, they don't want to say much. Maybe they're famous people. Or maybe they are married to people don't want any private things that will go away. So they won't say anything. They will say, maybe ‘I have an issue with my sister’, but that's it. They wouldn't give me any other information. Usually they would tell me beforehand, they don't want to give any additional information. And then I would just make it more simplistic, more basic, and maybe then I would take someone who would represent the obstacle.

Rhoda (08:38):

But something would come out?

Bruna Toubia (08:40):

Oh, definitely.

Rhoda (08:41):

Something would come out. That is extraordinary. So just by placing people in a room, and then the people that you place, they get to talk?

Bruna Toubia (08:52):

Oh, yes. Well, I facilitate that. So I ask questions. I ask them, for instance, like what do they feel at the moment? Whether they feel cold, warm, whether they feel any pain, whether they can focus, whether they can see the other well, the other representatives here in the constellation, the other members of the constellation, let's say if they have any impulses, if there's something they want to do. And sometimes if it's a face-to-face constellation, sometimes you see everything. You see people shaking sometimes they want to sit or they, they don't have enough energy. I also do online constellation, of course, and that also works with online constellation. It's a bit different, of course, but it works very well also with online constellation. So people are just like you and me in front of their screen, and they feel exactly the same.

Rhoda (09:55):

That's incredible. So you can also come with an issue just within yourself, right? It doesn't have to be with another person?

Bruna Toubia (10:03):

Yes, of course. So you can come with a an issue that is about any personal development issue. So you can say, well ‘I'm a very jealous person and I want to work on that.’ That could be something like this, right? People who come with an issue, for instance a relationship issue. You can also come with an issue that is about like, you know a symptom that you have…

Rhoda (10:32):

Say a back pain or a knee pain or something?

Bruna Toubia (10:34):

For instance, you have always back pain and it’s always recurring. You have already seen some doctors but can't find anything. And you know, it comes and goes. So you can come and you have a constellation for your symptom.

Rhoda (10:48):

That is incredible.

Bruna Toubia (10:50):

Right? And you can have a constellation also about like a choice or a decision that you want to make, for instance, like, you have two job offers and you can't make up your mind and you would like to what you prefer. Of course, you have tried yourself to understand what you want and so on. But sometimes people are so stuck that they need not to think anymore. And that's the advantage of the constellation, is that you don't have to think.

Rhoda (11:27):

It's not in your head, right? It's out of your head.

Bruna Toubia (11:30):

And it's your body telling you all the clues, everything, you know. It's also, there is a heart intelligence there as well, right? So usually we say that when we do a constellation, actually you are working with a soul.

Rhoda (11:50):

With a soul.

Bruna Toubia (11:52):

Yes. So it's something that's a little bit beyond. And usually at the end, like if you like the example you took with your sister, for instance, at the end, the outcome of the constellation is usually beneficial for both.

Rhoda (12:08):


Bruna Toubia (12:09):

So for you, and for your sister. It's not like ‘Oh, I want my…’, and obviously you can't come and say, ‘I want my sister to change this.’ This is not going to work. So here I would have to help formulate that in a way that would be also acceptable for the person who is absent.

Rhoda (12:29):

Yeah. So for example, this could be useful for preparing time apart, for example, or for deciding. For example ‘My wife has got a job offer in Dubai. And we're considering going, but I have a career in say, France, and I wanna stay in France. So for the next year or two, we'll do back and forth. But we're trying to decide, is this going to work for family?’ That would work, right? I could bring that? Maybe we wouldn't come as a couple, one of you would come?

Bruna Toubia (13:19):

You can come as a couple as well. But it's not absolutely necessary. Cause very often what happens is that maybe one person would like to do that. And maybe the other person doesn't have the time, doesn't want to. So it's possible to come with your partner. Of course, that's totally possible, right?

Rhoda (13:45):


Bruna Toubia (13:45):

Both are possible. You know, you can come by yourself, or you can also convince your partner to come as well. And then of course, your partner can see also by himself, right?

Rhoda (13:55):

So you could present a future scenario. You could say, ‘Okay, if we do this, and you are in Dubai, and I'm in France, we have kids, what potential obstacles could we find? What could potentially go wrong?’ So could you project a future situation?

Bruna Toubia (14:16):

Of course, that's why it's a simulation method, right? So we can say that extra constellation is a snapshot of reality of, this moment, right? You don't have the whole reality, but you have this snapshot. Now, if it's something about the future, I can simulate that as well.

Rhoda (14:37):


Bruna Toubia (14:37):

I can see that. And if it doesn't work, then we can try to find why. You know? So actually constellation is actually ideal to find out the needs of the others and the needs of whatever situation you are so that you know everything is going to work.

Rhoda (15:02):

Yeah, Yeah. Or any fears coming out or any hidden fears. Like, if we're pushing down any subconscious that could be disagreements or anything like that. I mean, it's scary because it might bring them all out.

Bruna Toubia (15:20):

Yes, yes. But usually it helps if people really want to improve things. Obviously it'll help because, as a facilitator, I would help people to find a solution for themselves. Something that can really help them, obviously. Well, a constellation is not going to solve all problems in your life, but if you come for one issue, it'll help you move faster, much faster to the next step.

Rhoda (16:04):

Okay. And it's revealing what's already there. It’s not creating something new, it's revealing what potentially could show up in six months’ time or you might end up pushing down for a long time or so in the end, it's valuable because it's catching things earlier. It's helping you figure things out in terms of decision making and repairing things. And then as you support the issue holder, and then going to the next phase, presumably then there's follow ups and things like that with the person. So could someone bring an issue with a child, for example? So for example, again, say my partner is traveling a lot. They're often absent and my child is displaying anxiety or behavior issue or something like that. Could I bring that?

Bruna Toubia (17:06):

Yes, you can. If it's your own child. You cannot do that for your nephew or your niece.

Rhoda (17:14):


Bruna Toubia (17:15):

Except if they're currently living with you and you are currently responsible for them. That is a different issue. But if it's your own children, you can do that. You don't have to bring them with you. What you cannot do is maybe ’Okay, my brother has an issue with his children, and I want to see that…’

Rhoda (17:42):

Okay, that's not gonna work. Because you don't see the placements, I suppose.

Bruna Toubia (17:47):

No, it's not because of that. Because he is in charge.

Rhoda (17:51):


Bruna Toubia (17:52):

So you can just see in that situation, you can see how can I help him? But you cannot see how can he solve this issue or what can be done. So you have to be very careful because you cannot do a constellation for someone else. And usually if it's like someone who is under age it has to be your own children.

Rhoda (18:20):

Okay? So can it work for anxiety?

Bruna Toubia (18:23):

Yes, of course. Of course. It can work for anxiety, because…

Rhoda (18:27):

How does it work?

Bruna Toubia (18:29):

Well you have to place people, right? And then you can decide, depending on the anxiety, I can also place someone for the anxiety itself. I mean, anxiety, you're trying to protect something that you have, right? Because you're afraid of losing something. Obviously there are people who have like well, maybe anxiety

Rhoda (19:01):


Bruna Toubia (19:01):

Yeah. Anxiety disorders. And even for this, you can have that, right? Well, especially, let's say it's a child who has anxiety disorders. So obviously then you would need both parents who presented in the constellation, so they don't have to come both. But in the constellations, I would have of course, both parents who would be represented here, and of course, the child. And then we can see the dynamic in the relationship, sometimes you will see maybe it's an issue more with the mother or maybe it's much more with the father. And sometimes, of course, this is also possible, sometimes you have issues that are not just from the family. Sometimes maybe the child is having an issue that is not his. It's out of loyalty for someone else in the system.

Rhoda (20:00):


Bruna Toubia (20:01):

See, it's protecting someone in the system and so we can see…

Rhoda (20:06):


Bruna Toubia (20:06):

And somehow, he is a symptom, right? For something else that is not working within the system. And it doesn't have to be something between the parents. It can be something maybe, let’s say for the father in his own childhood. So there could be many things, but we can't tell like this. It's not like one answer for all. And the system is different, and every situation is different.

Rhoda (20:43):

Okay. And I'm just bombarding questions here. If we think we know the answer, can we test it out? So for example –

Bruna Toubia (20:56):

As a facilitator or the client?

Rhoda (20:59):

For the client, for example, I'm thinking my partner works for an organization, and they are posted abroad in a non-family duty station. So we as a family cannot live with them. And I know that it's the organization's fault. I'm thinking to myself, ah, it's the organization's fault. They're not allowing my partner to come home enough, or there's something going on. The organization isn't supporting us. And so I'm not very happy with the organization. And the organization is creating the issue, let's say, or is not helping with the issue that our family is experiencing. Could we test that out and say, Okay, I want someone representing the organization, someone representing my partners, and test that out.

Bruna Toubia (22:00):

Of course you can do that. We can have someone who's going to represent the organization, and then you can see what are the expectations of each person here, or each party? So in the constellation, we can have the representatives here or the issue even speaking directly to the organization, saying ‘what are the expectations of a family now?’ And that is very interesting, because we can have here sometimes even for the organization, they are not in the constellation physically, but sometimes they might think, well, things might change.

And that is very strange. So we can say that, well, as much as the representatives get into resonance with those who they're representing, those who are represented do react somehow to that or something happens, something can change even for them. And you might have, of course, an organization who will say, ‘Well, this is how we see it, and that's it.’ Possibly. We don't know. In each organization it is different. Like from the organization point of view, you would have someone who is representing the organization saying, ‘Well, I was not aware of that’, for instance. Or maybe we can find a solution we don't know. But it helps a lot to simulate that and to test it out, as you said.

Rhoda (23:57):

So the issue holder obviously knows what organization they're talking about. And so maybe just by hearing what the represented organization says, then maybe it also helps, is that what you're saying? But you're also saying the represented organization who isn't aware that this is going on, <laugh> actually sometimes reacts to. That's incredible.

Bruna Toubia (24:23):

Yes, it is. Actually, it might happen that an issue holder says, ‘Yes, well, we have this issue in our couple’, blah, blah. And okay, I say, ‘Okay, take them both’. And then maybe during the constellation, one of them is going to say, ‘But it's not my fault. It's like this is what they expect me to do at work.’ And then maybe I would say, Okay, let's take the organization.

Rhoda (24:50):

Okay, Wow. Wow. This is incredible.

Bruna Toubia (24:55):

Right? It can be anything that anybody who would say like, ‘Okay, well it's not me, it's something else.’ And I can say, ‘Yes, okay.’ Or maybe, ‘Well, I have to take care of my mother.’ Like you can have a couple having some issues. And you know, at some point you have the representatives saying, ‘No, I don't not know why, but you know, I'm thinking of my mother.’ And then I would say, ‘Okay, let's take your mother.’

Rhoda (25:26):


Bruna Toubia (25:28):

But sometimes it's a representative who says that. And sometimes the issue holder while watching may say that as well.

Rhoda (25:39):


Bruna Toubia (25:39):

At the end, I will always let the issue holder come and take his own place as well. But in the beginning, most of the times I let the issue holder just watch.

Rhoda (25:54):


Bruna Toubia (25:55):

He's too mental, right? And I want someone without his resistance.

Rhoda (26:03):

Okay. So the issue holder is represented as well?

Bruna Toubia (26:08):

Most the time.

Rhoda (26:10):

Okay. Wow. Okay. So how does it work practically then, if someone wants to try this out or do this? It's probably, I'm assuming more advisable to do… You can't really set this up by yourself. You need a facilitator. So how can someone contact you? What's the first step? And then how does it go from there?

Bruna Toubia (26:35):

Either if people are in the same city or so, they can also call me, and then they can join in one of the face-to-face constellations. But other than this, I also offer online constellations. they can also contact me. And I have regular dates for online constellations. They can join ones as the issue holder, or they can join ones as a representative or just a participant to see how it is, how it feels, if they want.

So obviously they can contact me for this. But I just wanted to say something that actually the issue holder is here. You might think, what? Well, how about the other participants? You know, why do they come?

But it's very interesting that very often the people go out of the constellation in a different state. It's not that you come and are like, ‘I'm going to be a representative for another constellation just like this’. No, actually it also works on a level, very often you learn something sometimes on a non-conscious level, and very often for whatever it is, you either the issue will continue, or maybe your role in the constellation also reminds you of something. But very often, as I told you, we are working here with the souls of everybody. So it's a very deep experience for each person. And it's like you raise the consciousness level of people. They reach a collective consciousness level that before the constellation they didn't have. And it's a very deep moment that you share with others, with total strangers very often.

Rhoda (29:00):

Mm. So you could come in and say, ‘Okay, I have an issue. I just want to do one constellation.’ And then the people there are representing, and it's a one off.

Bruna Toubia (29:12):

Yeah. I have a package that people can have either one off or their own constellation, or they can come also for one off just for as participant. Or they can also have a package of two, one constellation and one participation or a package of three, one Constellation, two participations or a package of four, one constellation, three participations.

Rhoda (29:41):

Three as a representative?

Bruna Toubia:



Okay. Okay. Brilliant. Thank you so much Bruna, it's been so, so enlightening.

How can people get in touch with you?

Bruna Toubia (29:57):

I have my website, which is constellations.outstep.ch or they can contact me. My email address is bruna.toubia@gmail.com.

Rhoda (30:17):

I’ll put those in the, in the show notes. Yeah.

Bruna Toubia (30:19):

And I can give you my phone number as well.

Rhoda (30:26):

Yes. I'll put it in.

Bruna Toubia (30:28):

And people can contact me via WhatsApp, via Signal or Telegram or whatever.

Rhoda (30:38):

Brilliant. Brilliant. okay. And then lastly, normally I ask my guests if there's a life or parenting resource that they've found super helpful. It doesn't have to do with our topic, it's just something in general that they'd like to share. Do you have something

Bruna Toubia (30:58):

I've selected this book. It's called Love's Hidden Symmetry.

Rhoda (31:05):


Bruna Toubia (31:06):

And it's actually from Bert Hellinger with Gunthard Weber and Hunter Beaumont. It tells also a lot about this kind of work, but also about the possible hidden dynamics in relationships.

Rhoda (31:25):

Super. Thank you very much. Thank you so much, Bruna. I hope that people contact you and just try it out maybe, as a participant, to see. And I certainly have yet to do it. So I’ll probably be in touch to be a participant. It's something that I've been wanting to do for a while now. Thank you so much for explaining to us what it is about and how we can use it in the kind of life that we need.

Bruna Toubia (31:57):

Okay. Thank you.


Rhoda Bangerter

Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.

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