Interview on Systemic Work with Brendan O’Brien

ISCA interview with Brendan O'Brien

In preparation of this year's gathering of the International Systemic Constellations Association, I'm doing short interviews with systemic coaches, trainers, presenters, and frontrunners in the constellations field.


No time to watch the full video? No worries, we've typed it out. Enjoy!

So I'm here with Brendan O'Brien. He has been involved in constellations for about 20 years. So, you're from?

I'm from Cork in Ireland. I was born in Limerick in Ireland. My family is from the West Coast of Clare, overlooking the Atlantic. And I like being Irish and I like my country and my people.

The first thing a lot of constellators and people who work in the field have in common is that they often have a hard time explaining the work –what constellations is about. So, if there would be one thing that you would say "This is for me constellations" or "This is what it means to me" I would be curious to hear.

I suppose for me I would think first of all as myself as part of a family over generations. And I think people have a really good understanding of that when it's well presented. I think everybody has some knowledge of "me as part of a family" –my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents. For me as well, I often explain it through songs about where we came from. Certainly in Ireland, singing is part of the tradition and that helps people as well. So, in terms of explaining, sometimes I give talks to people just to explain. I do presentations at conferences every now and then. Just to give an idea of the field.

Talking about the field...for a lot of people who first get to know constellations work, it seems like that there's one sort of community of constellators, coaches and trainers. So how do you feel connected to that wider field?

I suppose at one level, I think of myself [as that] I do my own work in Ireland. I do it quietly and gently. I have tried to trust my own unfolding in that. I have been connected internationally. I have been on the board of ISCA. I have been at the intensive in Bernried for a long time, and here in Kochel. So I suppose, through that, I know a lot of the people involved internationally. And then when I go back to my training, I trained first with the Hellinger Institute of Britain, so with a lot of the first generation facilitators Judith Hemming, Richard Wallstein, Jutta ten Herkel. Then I trained with Vivian Broughton in England. And what I liked there [is that] she brought in people like Albrecht Mahr, Ursula Franke and others. Franz Ruppert, I followed him for a long time. So, I suppose, in my development, I like to think I followed different people and learned from all of them, all the time, trying to develop my own particular style. And for me, that also has been a journey, because I have a realisation that I'm Irish and that I do the constellations in my own, Irish way. We take sometimes more time at telling the story, at attunement, at just teasing out what's happening. And it has worked for me. So, in terms of your question on the international community, I know a lot of people involved in the work.

And so, if there would be one invitation you could make to other constellators maybe? If you look at the field, it has been around for a few decades so to say. What would you say? What movement do you say that we should maybe support?

I think the most important thing is for anybody that is involved in the work to work very hard at their own self-reflection, at their own training, at their qualifications, at their style of working, because this is a deeply spiritual journey. It's not something that should be taken lightly. I don't think people should go out there very lightly and quickly start doing constellations. I'm really pleased [with] myself. I took the best part of 10 years training before I actually started facilitating constellations. I was a psychotherapist since 2001. I've got my qualifications in psychotherapy. I'm an accredited psychotherapist, but the point I'm making really is: This is a deeply spiritual journey and we have a duty to those we work with, that our quality of work is very, very high. That there is a really good standard, that we know what we're about. That we're under supervision. So that would be the biggest request I'd have. I also like that there are young people coming into the field, but again, to them I would be saying: Make sure you do your own personal journey. It's so important –your own personal development, your own presence, your own ability to be present to yourself and the other in the moment, to be present to the field. All of those things are incredibly important.

And so, if there's one thing you're very, particularly excited about –the field is evolving [after all]. I was once involved in a poem someone wrote. It's called "Evolving anyways". And so, what do you see? What kind of trend do you see that you get particularly excited about, that you say "Ah, I think that's really like[able], I like that direction we're taking, one of them"?

I'm not sure because there are so many directions. So even when you tell me that, I think Hunter Beaumont spoke to us yesterday, about the dark side of constellations work. If you like, what I'm excited about is the unfolding of the work is actually the unfolding of our humanity. This is us in our humanity. And we struggle. We struggle as constellators, facilitators –whatever words we choose to use– but it's an unfolding journey, and every part of it and in every country, it does it's own unfolding. Sometimes there's competition. Sometimes there are ego's. And I think somewhere, what I do like to see younger people coming into the work. I do like that there's that there's that spirituality –in the broadest sense– because it's tied to our deepest humanity. And I think, as I watched even people here at the intensive, people are trying to connect with themselves, with their humanity, and I think constellations work offers that in a wonderful, wonderful way.

Yes. Right, so thanks Brendan. We're done.

Do you want me to say anything about suicide?

Do you want [to]?

I do!


Because I just think it's important. So, for the last five years I've been doing research on suicide using a family constellations lens. I didn't know when I started, in fact I did, at a soulful level I knew, but my aunt had taken her own life in America when I was a boy, but I was never told. But I was asked about three years ago. I rang my sister, an older sister, that night, and I said, I asked her: "My aunt had taken her own life, [right]?" and she said she had. I've worked with a lot of young people who have taken their own lives. So I have run about ten workshops for people particularly bereaved by suicide and with suicidal intent. I've written a thesis on suicide trauma and family constellations, and I'm hoping to bring out a book –I'm hoping I'm finishing it this year– but it has been a really interesting journey, and even this week, we did some work around it. I did a presentation on it here in Bernried and –I think again– it's part of our exploration of this wonderful human story. I think, the more and if we get insights into suicide, we will get insights in mental health, we will get insights into life, I suppose really, and I'm excited by that. Yeah, thank you!

Allright, thanks Brendan!

I couldn't hold that to come up, but anyways, thank you for listening. Thank you!


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