The Emotion Wheel: How do you use the Emotion Wheel to Understand your Feelings?

Whenever people go through something new or challenging, they can experience complex and overwhelming feelings. Sometimes it can be hard to comprehend what’s going on inside you and how you’re feeling and even harder to determine the right reaction one must have.

The emotion wheel is the answer if you’re looking for a way to improve your emotional literacy and learn how to handle difficult emotions.


wheel of emotions
wheel of emotions

What is the Emotion Wheel?

It is a psychological tool that helps people understand and articulate their complex emotions. Eight primary emotions are identified in the wheel. These primary emotions can be described on different, more nuanced levels.

A primary emotion is a natural emotion that a human is born with and has been wired into their brains. Low-intensity emotions like boredom, acceptance, distraction, etc can be found on the outer edges of the emotion wheel. 

On the emotion wheel, the color deepens as you move toward the center. As you move toward the center, milder emotions become your basic emotions.


Based on Robinson’s emotional experience research, here are the foundational, primary emotions and their reactions:

SadnessIncludes feelings of lethargy, sorrow, apathy, hopelessness, loneliness, depression, discontentment, etc.  Sometimes it can result in distressing emotions like crying. A primary source of the issue is infant “separation distress” and suggests a need for emotional support for survival. Joy is a contrasting emotion.
AngerSubjectively unpleasant mental experience elicited by the real or imagined harm caused to someone or something they value. A feeling of dissatisfaction may be mixed with feelings of rage, hostility, and aggression, leading to aggressive behavior, such as fighting. It’s a genetically programmed defense mechanism.Fear is a contrasting emotion.
DisgustDisgust is characterized by feelings of revulsion, aversion, and a refusal to accept contact or contact seeking. Its biological significance is to promote reproductive success and protect against life-threatening objects and surroundings.Trust is the contrasting emotion. 
JoyThere is a sense of elation, euphoria, triumph, jubilation, and a deep sense of contentment with this emotion. The behavior is life-sustaining, affirming the continuation of repetitively successful behaviors. In simple words defined by Happiness.Sadness is the contrasting emotion.
SurpriseSurprise occurs when a mismatch occurs between an experience anticipated and the actual experience. The resulting feeling may be amusement, wonderment, shock, or utter disbelief. Besides stimulating interest, it can also induce caution to give time for cognitive appraisal to take place.Anticipation is the contrasting emotion.
TrustCharacterized by a feeling of hopefulness, positivity, security, belief in others. This is the first phase of the psychosocial development process, and it affects people’s perception of the world. Disgust is the contrasting emotion.
AnticipationA feeling characterized by enthusiasm, excitement, pleasure, uncertainty, and awaiting. Feelings of anticipation are often associated with awareness and adaptation to a future situation.Surprise is the contrasting emotion.
FearPrimitive feeling characterized by frankness, anxiety, uncertainty, nervousness, worry, fear, and apprehension. Through prior associative learning, it helps us avoid danger. Anger is the contrasting emotion.
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Much like the color wheel, a variety of emotions can be articulated by mixing emotions together. When emotions are complex, they can take on different forms as they are expressed in various intensities. Similarly, fear and surprise can be mixed together to bring alarm or trust and submission. 


understand your emotions
understand your emotions

Components of Emotion?

  • Emotion component
  • Appraisal component
  • Motor component
  • Action tendency component
  • Physiological component


Benefits of the Emotion Wheel

  • Overthinking and downward spirals can be avoided by knowing oneself.
  • Conflict management improves as one becomes emotionally mature.
  • Fostering empathy enables one to connect more deeply with themselves and others.
  • Embracing the fact that all emotions provide important context.


Use The Emotion Wheel To Understand Your Feelings

Using the emotion wheel can serve one well as one strives to become more open, honest, curious, and mindful about themselves. The more one develops emotional self-awareness, the more clear-headed and confident one feels. 

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By learning and understanding one’s emotions, one can gain insight into any triggers that may occur in their life, improving and maintaining the relationships in their life in a positive and uplifting way. Everyone can learn to tune into their emotions with some practice

When we don’t face down our feelings or acknowledge them, the intensity of our emotions can increase. When we don’t name our emotions, we run the risk of intensifying them. By identifying one’s feelings and feeling their emotions, the emotion wheel helps one become comfortable with themselves.

Stay Happy

Stay Healthy

Dr. Amanda
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