How Emotion Wheels Help You Understand Your Feelings

Identifying your emotions is the first step in the healing process.

A range of emotions.

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Identifying feelings is the first step in the healing process. But often people don’t have the words to express their emotions accurately. The Emotion Wheel, designed by American psychologist Dr. Robert Plutchik is a psychological tool to help identify emotions cooking below the surface so you can feel, reveal, and heal from your emotions in a healthy way according to Positive Psychology.

Everyone experiences emotions. Yet many people never learn healthy ways to cope with feelings in healthy ways. Writing in the Huffington Post, inspirational counselor Andrea Wachter explains how most people were raised to bottle up emotions. But, feelings come out eventually, often in unhealthy ways like self-criticism.

“Depression, anxiety, addiction, and obsessive thinking are all good attempts to avoid and distract from feelings but in the long run, they don't work. Letting out our feelings in a safe manner is what helps us move through them and return to peace,” says Wachter. 

Pent up emotions don’t go away. That energy that you’re not feeling has to come out somewhere. When you push things down for too long, those emotions end up seeping out into areas they don’t belong. You need to let them out.

A study from The American Psychological Association demonstrates the incredible healing power of expressing emotions. It’s not only good for your emotional health, but boosts physical health too!

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But to break free, you need to  identify the emotions that you are experiencing. The Feeling Wheel – one of the varieties of  emotion wheels –  designed by Gloria Willcox is a psychological tool that helps to accurately name emotions so you can express what you feel and manage emotions more effectively according to mindbodygreen.

In the center of the wheel, you’ll find six primary feelings: sad, mad, scared, joyful, powerful, and peaceful. This is a good place to start when you want to work through a situation or heal from a behavior pattern.

As you move to the outer rings, you’ll find more specific emotions associated with each primary. This will help understand the nuances of what you are actually feeling so you can take appropriate steps for healing. 

Sabrina Smith is a clinical social worker who uses this tool in counseling sessions. She told Well+Good, Let’s say] someone says that they are feeling sad—when that person realizes that the feeling is actually guilt, how they would cope with the feeling of guilt would look different from someone who realized that their sadness is actually loneliness.”

You can also use the Feeling Wheel to identify a goal emotion to remedy your current state. If you feel frustrated about a relationship, look across the wheel for the opposite emotion: valuable. This gives a clue for how to nurture the relationship or take action so you feel valued and appreciated. 

You may also recognize areas of the Feeling Wheel that you find difficult, even impossible, to express. Perhaps, you shut out feelings of anger, or maybe you don’t feel comfortable in your personal power. Dive deeper and ask yourself: What circumstances in your life have caused you to shut down that part of your feelings wheel? This is a place for healing to begin. 

Emotions Wheels are the first step so you can open up about what you are experiencing and heal old emotional wounds in a healthy way.  By identifying and expressing how you feel, you’ll start to release those painful emotions and start down your path toward healing.

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