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Resilience and Relationships

Supportive relationships help people to overcome adversity and thrive.

Courtesy of Pixabay
Source: Courtesy of Pixabay

Many people equate resilience with coping, however that is not necessarily the case. Resilience involves thriving after the experience of trauma, and the ability of people "to heal from painful experiences, take charge of their lives, and go on to live and love well” (Walsh, 2016, p. 4). Additionally, resilience "involves dynamic processes that foster positive adaptation in the context of significant adversity” (Bonnano, 2004; Luthar, 2006, as cited in Walsh, 2016).

Walsh (2016) notes that most early research on resilience involves the search to identify individual traits. This work has shown that an easy temperament and high intelligence, though not necessary for one to be resilient, can certainly help. In addition, high self-esteem, self-efficacy, and a sense of hope and personal control have been shown to be beneficial (Rutter, 1987, as cited in Walsh, 2016).

Being that many of the aforementioned traits rest within the individual, it would suggest that people either have the ability to be resilient or not, ignoring the importance of a support system. In addition, this view doesn’t allow for the idea of change; however, we can be resilient at some points and not in others.

Resilience and Relationships

Supportive networks help people to overcome adversity and thrive. Having at least one other person there for you is likely to help in overcoming the difficulties you have faced. Hartling (2008) has challenged the view of resilience as individual "toughness" and instead notes that it involves relationships. She believes that Western ideals have focused on the need to tap into the self in overcoming hardships, and as such have ignored the power of social support.

Hartling cites the Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) of psychological development, which suggests that well-being and healthy development involve relationships. According to this view, not only can our relationships help us to be resilient, but they enable us to strengthen the skills associated with resilience. Relationships that foster growth can strengthen resilience through connection.

Walsh (2016) has also looked at resilience from a relational perspective and notes that a family is resilient when the entire system has the ability to rebound. Families that hold a positive outlook such as hope and are spiritual, connective, and supportive are more likely to be resilient. In addition, resilient families are involved in collaborative problem-solving and share resources (Walsh, 2016).

Hopefully, the road ahead will be pleasant and fulfilling. However, if it is paved with difficulties, rest assured you don’t need some inborn skill or trait to handle them alone. Leaning on your support system and your close connections will enable you not only to survive, but to thrive.


Hartling, L. M. (2008). Strengthening resilience in a risky world: It's all about relationships. Women & Therapy, 31(2-4), 51-70.

Walsh, F. (2016). Foundations of a family resilience approach. In Strengthening family resilience (3rd ed.). (pp. 3–21). New York: Guilford.

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