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Relationship Builds Resilience

October 2, 2017

I’ve been mulling around the concept of resilience lately.  Why are some children more profoundly impacted by their experiences than others?  Why are some children seemingly able to pull up and out of their trauma, get back on the proverbial horse and power through?


Are we born this way?  Is resilience in inborn temperament trait that some of us have and some of us don’t?


Can we cultivate resilience?  Intentionally grow and nurture resilience- in ourselves and in our children?

From everything I can find, it appears the answer to both of those questions is “yes.”

Yes.  Resilience is likely an intersection of our temperament and the way our environment provides nurturing care.  As we grow, we can even take matters into our own hands and deliberately grown our own resilience.

What the heck does resilience even mean?

Well, like so many things there are so many definitions.  Resilience, to me, is our “OKness” in the face of stress or even devastation.  I recently had the privilege of spending nine months with six women who  deep-dived into exploring our ability to be OK even when things around us AREN’T OK.  These amazingly resilient women used the word “buoyant” a lot.  To be able to ride the waves without falling overboard.  Even really really rough waves.  The kinds in a hurricane or tsunami.


It’s not surprising at all that in this 14 item questionnaire about resilience that 12 of the questions are directly related to relationship.

  1.  I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.
  2.  I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
  3.  When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.
  4. I’ve heard that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.
  5.  When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.
  6. When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.
  7.  When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.
  8.  Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.
  9.  My family, neighbors and friends talked often about making our lives better.
  10. We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.
  11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.
  12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
  13.  I was independent and a go-getter.
  14. I believed that life is what you make it.

(taken from

1-12 are literally about relationships we had as a child.  The strength of those relationships.  Having someone to turn to when things were hard.  Having someone who helped us see the truth about ourselves- that we are good and loveable.

Resilience is cultivated inside relationship.

When we think about our children’s earliest experiences inside relationship, this is overwhelming sad.  Children come into foster care or need to be adopted because their families didn’t have relatives, neighbors, or coaches available to help.  They didn’t know their parents loved them.  They never felt as though someone enjoyed being with them.  They had no one to turn to when they felt really bad…and they felt really bad a LOT of them time because loneliness feels realllllly bad.

Oh how I love being a therapist in the time of neuroscience because we have so much clarity around the truth that the brain is amazing and ALWAYS forming new connections.  ALWAYS.

We can cultivate resilience in our children NOW by surrounding them with relationship.  People who love and care about them.  People who enjoy being with them.  People who will be with them when they feel bad.

It’s simple but hard.

Relationship builds resilience.

PS- Faithful blog readers- are you sensing a theme here?  Relationship and connection is everything.


A new webinar is happening on October 10!!!  Come learn all about Creating Felt Safety (this will shock you- there is a heavy focus on relationship!!!).  Learn all about it by CLICKING HERE.  

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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Robert Hafetz permalink
    October 2, 2017 12:51 pm

    I would add experiences to relationships because it the limbic mind thats shaped by experiences. Relationship experiences can be destructive or constructive. They can be inadvertently destructive.

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