When Self-Help Tools Become Destructive

Self-help tools are a great support to anyone walking the path of self-improvement and inner work.

And while there are many and you will learn plenty different kinds, they can become destructive and be of disservice to you.

Used mindfully, though, they will be one of your biggest support team on this beautiful journey of becoming (again) the best version of you.

What are self-help tools?

There are various types of self-help tools: exercises & activities and objects & symbols. Whereas exercises & activities often require a bit more time to do, objects & symbols require little to no time.

Typical exercises are deep breathing, journaling, meditation, tarot & oracle cards. Frequent objects that are used for self-help are crystal stones and smudge sticks.

There are many others, of course, and everyone should find the ones that work best for him and her.

Also, not in every situation will the same tool be effective, so it is good to have a little kit of self-help tools available.

How and why can self-help tools become destructive?

Self-help tools help you in situations of stress – emotional, mental and/or physical – to become calm, clear your mind and be able to focus and act again.

When you use these tools, you make a conscious choice of using the most appropriate one in that certain moment and situation. Once you become calmer and have experienced relief, you put that tool back into your “box of self-help tools”.

These tools are strategies or mechanisms that help you to cope with a certain situation. You could call them coping mechanisms, as well , as they do in psychology.

However, here comes the tricky part where you walk a very thin line between helpful and destructive.

Let’s have a look at the definition of coping mechanism:

noun Psychology –

“an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort.”

Like mentioned above, self-help tools require conscious choice making of which one to use in that certain situation.

Coping mechanisms, however, when used in an unconscious way, can be very destructive for your health in the long-term.

When used in an unconscious way, you basically override that uncomfortable feeling and situation; you suppress it and push it away. Hoping that you don’t have to deal with it.

Though it may work in that moment, after a while you will become dependent of this coping mechanism and create even more stress. 

Instead of providing you relief this self-help tool has now turned into a coping mechanism which is activated automatically and made you dependent.

Like a drug.

If you then do not have or use that coping mechanism when you feel or think you need it, you create even more stress in that already stressful situation. Which then leads you to use that coping mechanism even more. You become more dependent and are trapped in a vicious cycle.

Instead of bringing you relief, this self-help tool has now become destructive.

Examples of healthy and unhealthy use of self-help tools


Meditation, journaling, deep-breathing

These self-help tools require you to consciously make time to do them and typically are less likely to become destructive coping mechanisms.

Yes, you can possibly meditate or journal yourself into a state of well-being and then remain inactive in that situation of stress allowing for it to happen over and over again.

Most often, though, these tools are being used to become still and calm the mind. And then take action to change the outer and inner circumstances that created the stressful situation.

Tarot & Oracle Cards

These cards are used to get an insight on or an answer to a situation that you find yourself in. There are many different types and themes, but they basically all work the same way.

Some people prefer to do detailed, in-depth readings whereas others prefer drawing one or two cards only.

Tarot & Oracle Cards can be “spooky” sometimes, especially, if they show you the answer that you already knew deep inside and that you did not want to admit to yourself and speak out loud.

Or your mind was just too busy, with too many thoughts running around that you couldn’t hear your inner voice anymore.

In this case, the cards are very supportive.

If, however, you start turning to the cards every single time you need to make a decision or like to get a better understanding of something, they become destructive.

You become dependent on them and instead of listening to your inner voice and heart, you listen to the cards.

 Smudge Sticks

These are often made out of dried, white sage which is burnt inside of the house to clear negative vibes & emotions and neutralize and harmonize the air.

Other herbs can be used as well, which have a similar effect.

It is said to light these sticks after a fight at home, a stressful day that was filled with lots of tension and where you carried these energies back home, or when you feel heavy and down, etc.

Especially if you are sensitive to energies you will notice the difference. And there may be times when you want to burn a smudge stick daily or several times a day.

If it feels good and you are truly drawn to it, do it.

However, do check-in from time to time if it is truly needed or if you start becoming dependent on it. 

For example, wanting to use the smudge stick to clear the negativity within you instead of looking at the feelings and emotions and work through them is a sign of the self-help tool having turned into a destructive coping mechanism.

Crystal Stones

There is a huge variety of crystal stones in all shapes, sizes and forms.

Tumbled stones, raw stones, pendants, earrings, bracelets, figurines, etc. You can wear them, infuse your water with their supportive qualities, place them in your house and office and so much more.

Rose quartz, black onyx, aventurine, tiger eye, citrine are some of the most popular ones to only name a few.

They are said to attract love, nurture your heart, protect against bad energy, to harmonize, strengthen your intuition, to ground you, and many other supportive qualities.

Crystals are a great tool that you can pick up in the morning, before leaving the house, when you know you will need some extra support. Or when you are going through a rough time or have uncovered some hidden parts of you doing your inner work that need healing.

Or even when you feel you like wanting a little extra dose of nurturing and love with you.

However, when you start filling your pockets and bra with crystals before leaving to work or you feel incomplete when you accidentally forgot them at home, you want to be cautious. Ask yourself if you really need them or have become dependent on them.

Again, there are times when having them around more often and working with them is very helpful and good.

At the same time, it is important to be able to leave them at home and be comfortable without having them with you, too.

How do you know if a self-help tool has become destructive?

Like it is said above: when you start becoming dependent on it and you cannot function properly without using that tool there is a great chance that it is not as supportive as before anymore.

And that it might be destructive.

If you are in a stressful situation – emotional, mental and/or physical – and you unconsciously use that tool like an anchor without which you would drown, you might want to revisit your relation with it and your use of the tool.

This is true especially if you need to use the tool more and more every time and you still don’t find relief.

Self-help tools are there to support you to cope with a certain situation. To calm yourself, get a clear mind and then take action.

You make a deliberate choice to use that tool.

If the use of them becomes automated and is there to only cover up the unpleasant feelings and suppress them or the user has become dependent on them, the self-help tools have then become destructive.

What do you do when a self-help tool has become destructive?

As soon as you become aware of the fact that your self-help tool has become destructive, you are already one step closer to a healthier relationship with it.

If the dependency has to do with objects & symbols, just ask yourself every time you reach for them, if you really need them.

If it is too hard to leave all your crystals at home at once, start taking fewer crystals with you. The same goes for the smudge stick and oracle cards: use them less frequently.

Gradually, you will become more aware of the use of them again.

If you have noticed you use meditation and journaling only to remain inactive afterwards, start taking small actions to change the circumstances that cause these situations over and over again.

Be kind and loving with yourself should you become aware of the destructive use of any self-help tool. Becoming aware is the first step to a healthier and constructive relationship with them.

And remember there might be stressful or hard times during which you will reach to these tools more often than usual and this is perfectly fine.

Just remain conscious of the use of them so that you can really profit from their support and move towards a healthier and stronger you.

Which self-help tools do you use and which had the most impact on your self-improvement journey? Share with us below in the comment section.

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