What is the Emotion Wheel and How to use it to Understand Yourself Better? 

What is the Emotion Wheel and How to use it to Understand Yourself Better? 

Have you ever struggled to identify and articulate your emotions accurately? Understanding and expressing our feelings can be challenging at times, but the Emotion Wheel offers a unique solution to this common dilemma. Designed as a visual representation of emotions, the Emotion Wheel provides a comprehensive and intuitive framework for recognizing and describing various emotional states. It allows us to delve deeper into our feelings and gain insights into our emotional experiences.

The Emotion Wheel consists of a central circle that represents primary emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. Surrounding this circle are secondary emotions that stem from the primary ones, creating a spectrum of emotional nuances. Each emotion is connected to others through a series of concentric circles, highlighting the complex interplay between our feelings.

Using the Emotion Wheel, you can pinpoint emotions that might be difficult to label with simple words. For example, if you are feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness before an important event, the Emotion Wheel can help you identify that you are experiencing a blend of enthusiasm and anxiety.

Moreover, the Emotion Wheel serves as a valuable tool for enhancing emotional intelligence and communication. By recognizing and understanding our emotions more accurately, we can express ourselves effectively to others, fostering stronger connections and empathy. It also allows us to be more empathetic towards others, as we can better comprehend the intricacies of their emotional experiences.

Let’s explore how the Emotion Wheel can be applied in everyday situations. Imagine you receive the unexpected news that impacts you emotionally. Using the Emotion Wheel, you can identify the primary emotion you are feeling, whether it is joy, sadness, surprise, or anger. Then, by examining the secondary emotions around it, you can uncover more specific feelings and gain a deeper understanding of your emotional response.

In this blog, 

What is Plutchik’s emotion wheel? 

The 8 Core Emotions 

How does an emotional wheel work?

Benefits of the emotional wheel 

How to use the emotion wheel in real life? 

Real Life Situations where the wheel can be helpful. 

Tips For How to Use the Emotion Wheel 

What is Plutchik’s emotion wheel?

Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel is a visual representation of human emotions, designed by psychologist Robert Plutchik. It categorizes emotions into eight primary emotions: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, anticipation, and surprise. Each primary emotion is further divided into intensity levels, creating a spectrum of emotions.

The wheel is based on the idea that emotions are complex and can be combinations of different feelings. Plutchik’s Wheel Of Emotions illustrates how emotions can blend and interact, leading to the formation of more complex emotional states.

For example, combining joy and trust results in a feeling of love, while combining fear and surprise gives rise to astonishment. The wheel allows individuals to identify and understand the nuances of their emotional experiences.

Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel has been widely used in various fields, including psychology, counseling, and education, to help individuals explore and express their emotions. It provides a valuable framework for understanding the rich tapestry of human feelings and how they influence our behaviors and interactions with others. The wheel serves as a helpful tool for developing emotional intelligence and enhancing communication, fostering a deeper connection with our emotions and those of others.

The 8 Core Emotions 

The 8 core emotions, as represented in Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel, are fundamental human feelings that form the basis of our emotional experiences. These primary emotions are:


A positive emotion associated with feelings of happiness, pleasure, and contentment. It is often expressed through smiles, laughter, and a sense of well-being.


A negative emotion characterized by feelings of sorrow, grief, and unhappiness. It is typically expressed through tears, withdrawal, and a subdued demeanor.


A positive emotion related to feelings of confidence, reliability, and faith in others. Trust fosters a sense of security and promotes healthy relationships.


A negative emotion triggered by aversion to something unpleasant, offensive, or repulsive. It can lead to feelings of revulsion and a desire to avoid the source of disgust.


A negative emotion associated with feelings of apprehension, anxiety, and concern for potential threats. Fear activates the body’s fight-or-flight response to protect from danger.


A negative emotion characterized by feelings of frustration, irritation, and hostility. It can manifest in various intensities, from annoyance to rage.


A positive emotion related to feelings of excitement and eagerness for future events or experiences. Anticipation fuels motivation and expectation.


A neutral emotion triggered by unexpected events or situations. Surprise can be pleasant or unpleasant and often leads to heightened awareness.

These core emotions are at the heart of human experiences, shaping our perceptions, reactions, and interactions with the world around us.

How does an emotional wheel work? 

A feelings wheel, such as Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel, is a psychological tool used to visualize and categorize human emotions based on their relationships and intensities. It provides a structured framework for understanding the complexities of emotions and how they interact with one another. Here’s how an emotional wheel works:

  • Categorization: The feelings wheel is divided into primary emotions, which are the basic and distinct feelings that serve as the foundation for other emotions. These primary emotions are typically represented as wedges or sections of the wheel.
  • Opposing Pairs: The emotional wheel also includes opposing pairs of emotions. Each primary emotion has an opposite or contrasting emotion on the wheel. For example, joy is the opposite of sadness, trust is the opposite of disgust, and fear is the opposite of anger. These opposing pairs represent the range of emotional experiences and how they can shift from positive to negative.
  • Gradations of Intensity: The emotional wheel further breaks down emotions into varying degrees of intensity. Moving outwards from the center of the wheel, emotions become more intense or complex. For instance, joy can range from simple contentment to ecstatic happiness, while sadness can vary from mild disappointment to deep grief.
  • Blending Emotions: Emotions are not always distinct and can often blend together to form more nuanced feelings. The emotional wheel accounts for this by showing how different emotions can mix and create secondary emotions. For example, blending joy and trust might result in feelings of optimism or hopefulness.
  • Understanding Interactions: The emotional wheel highlights how emotions interact and influence one another. For instance, fear can lead to anticipation as a person prepares for potential threats, and surprise can trigger a combination of joy and fear in unexpected situations.
  • Self-Reflection and Emotional Intelligence: By using the emotional wheel, individuals can gain insight into their emotional experiences and patterns. It fosters self-awareness and emotional intelligence, allowing individuals to better understand their feelings, reactions, and behaviors.
  • Communication and Empathy: The emotional wheel can also improve communication and empathy between individuals. It provides a common language to describe emotions, making it easier to express feelings and relate to others’ emotional experiences.

Benefits of the emotional wheel 

The emotional wheel, like Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel, offers several valuable benefits that contribute to a better understanding of emotions and emotional intelligence:

  • Enhanced Self-Awareness: The feelings wheel helps individuals recognize and label their emotions accurately. By identifying emotions with greater precision, people can understand their feelings better, leading to increased self-awareness and improved emotional regulation.
  • Improved Communication: Using a common emotional language provided by the emotional wheel facilitates better communication. When people can express their emotions effectively, it fosters more empathetic and supportive interactions with others.
  • Conflict Resolution: Understanding emotions through the feelings wheel aids in conflict resolution. It allows individuals to navigate challenging situations with a clearer grasp of their emotions and the emotions of others, leading to more constructive problem-solving.
  • Stress Reduction: By becoming more aware of their emotions and finding ways to cope with them, individuals can reduce stress and anxiety. The emotional wheel promotes healthier emotional responses, which positively impacts mental well-being.
  • Emotional Intelligence Development: Regular use of the emotional wheel helps develop emotional intelligence, which involves recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions effectively. This skill is valuable in both personal and professional relationships.
  • Empathy Building: The emotional wheel encourages empathy as people gain insight into the emotions of others. It fosters a deeper connection and understanding of the feelings and experiences of those around us.
  • Emotional Resilience: Through the emotional wheel, individuals can explore a wide range of emotions and learn to bounce back from challenging situations. Building emotional resilience enables individuals to cope with adversity more effectively.
  • Positive Decision Making: When individuals are in touch with their emotions and can assess their intensity and impact accurately, they make more informed and balanced decisions.
  • Personal Growth: Utilizing the emotional wheel for self-reflection and understanding emotions contributes to personal growth and self-improvement. It allows individuals to address emotional patterns and develop healthier ways of coping.
  • Better Relationships: By using the emotional wheel to understand emotions within relationships, individuals can cultivate deeper connections, build trust, and foster more meaningful bonds with others.

How to use the emotion wheel in real life? 

Relationship with self

  1. As a tool for labeling: Using the emotion wheel can significantly enhance your relationship with yourself and those around you. One valuable way is to utilize it as a tool for labeling emotions. Instead of suppressing feelings, labeling them allows you to better understand them. Emotions and logical thinking originate in different parts of the brain. When you label your emotions using the emotion wheel, it activates the prefrontal cortex, which aids in reasoning and problem-solving. By recognizing and labeling what you feel, you can gain better control over your responses to various emotions, whether positive or negative. Practicing this skill enables you to respond more thoughtfully and constructively to your emotions.
  2. As a tool for emotional regulation: The emotion wheel serves as a valuable tool for emotional regulation, which is the ability to remain calm and composed even in stressful situations. When individuals possess strong emotional regulation skills, they exhibit higher resilience, better team performance, increased agility, and improved overall performance. Often, when faced with discomfort or stress, many of us tend to shut down or try to minimize the emotions we are experiencing. However, instead of suppressing emotions, the emotion wheel allows us to identify the emotional need behind our feelings. For example, imagine you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed at work. By using the emotion wheel, you can pinpoint the primary emotions you are experiencing, such as anxiety and frustration. Recognizing these emotions can help you understand that your emotional need may be for support and time management strategies. This awareness enables you to address the root cause of your stress and work towards effective solutions.
  3. As a tool for self-awareness: The emotion wheel serves as a valuable tool for self-awareness, enabling us to become more in tune with our feelings and emotions. By paying attention to our inner experiences through practices like journaling or coaching, we develop a broader emotional vocabulary.For example, if feeling burned out at work, the wheel may reveal that the emotions are rooted in “helplessness,” a type of fear, or “discouragement,” under sadness. Understanding these primary emotions allows us to address triggers and respond more effectively. It’s a powerful tool for personal growth and well-being.

Relationships with others

  1. As a communication tool: When expressing emotions becomes challenging, an emotion wheel can facilitate open conversations. Understanding that secondary feelings are blends of two primary emotions is a helpful starting point. For instance, if experiencing remorse, Plutchik’s wheel classifies it as a combination of disgust and sadness. This breakdown enables discussing the root causes of each emotion, fostering deeper communication and mutual understanding. Embracing the emotion wheel empowers individuals to articulate their feelings effectively and build stronger connections with others.
  2. As a tool to understand others: Not everyone feels comfortable expressing their emotions openly. Sometimes, people’s words may not fully convey what they truly feel. For example, someone appearing angry may actually be feeling hurt or rejected. Understanding that primary emotions can mask deeper feelings helps develop emotional intelligence. For instance, a coworker’s constant irritation may hide feelings of being overwhelmed or excluded. Empathetically recognizing and acknowledging these emotions can lead to better communication and stronger relationships within a team.
  3. As a learning tool with children: Children are naturally attuned to their emotions, but they may struggle to articulate them due to limited emotional vocabulary. Mindful parenting or using an emotion wheel can aid in better understanding children’s feelings. The emotion wheel provides a wide range of emotions for children to choose from, allowing them to express themselves more effectively. For instance, if a child feels upset, the emotion wheel can help them identify if they are experiencing frustration, disappointment, or sadness. This awareness promotes emotional intelligence and strengthens parent-child communication, fostering a supportive and nurturing environment.

Real Life Situations where the wheel can be helpful. 

The emotion wheel can be highly beneficial in various real-life situations, aiding individuals in understanding and managing their emotions effectively. Let’s explore some specific examples where the emotion wheel can make a significant difference:

  1. Workplace Conflict: Imagine you are working in a team, and a conflict arises between you and a colleague over a project deadline. By using the emotion wheel, you can identify that your primary emotion is frustration, while your colleague is experiencing anxiety. Recognizing these emotions can lead to a more productive discussion and collaborative problem-solving.
  2. Stress Management: Suppose you are preparing for an important presentation at work, and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Consulting the emotion wheel reveals that your primary emotions are fear and nervousness. With this awareness, you can employ relaxation techniques or seek support from colleagues to manage your stress effectively.
  3. Family Relationships: During a family gathering, you notice that your sibling seems distant and upset. Instead of assuming their emotions, you use the emotion wheel to recognize that they are feeling a combination of sadness and disappointment. Armed with this understanding, you approach them with empathy and offer a listening ear.
  4. Goal Setting: You are setting personal goals for self-improvement. The emotion wheel helps you explore your feelings about each goal. For instance, pursuing a new hobby might bring a mix of excitement and uncertainty. Acknowledging these emotions helps you create realistic plans and stay motivated.
  5. Handling Rejection: You receive a rejection letter for a job application. The emotion wheel reveals that your primary emotion is disappointment. By understanding this, you can engage in positive self-talk, explore new opportunities, and maintain a growth mindset.
  6. Managing Anxiety: If you experience social anxiety before attending a networking event, the emotion wheel might show that your emotions are a blend of nervousness and fear of judgment. This insight allows you to challenge negative thoughts and approach the event with a more positive outlook.
  7. Parenting: As a parent, your child has a tantrum, and you feel a mix of frustration and concern. Using the emotion wheel, you identify these emotions and respond with patience and understanding, fostering a supportive environment for your child’s emotional growth.
  8. Dealing with Loss: Following the loss of a loved one, the emotion wheel helps you navigate through grief. Identifying a combination of sadness and longing allows you to seek support from friends and family while cherishing the memories.
  9. Resolving Misunderstandings: In a relationship, misunderstandings can arise. By utilizing the emotion wheel, you can unravel the emotions involved, facilitating open and honest communication to resolve conflicts constructively.
  10. Mental Health: The emotion wheel can be beneficial in therapy sessions. It enables individuals to explore and express their feelings, aiding therapists in understanding their clients better and providing targeted support.

Tips For How to Use the Emotion Wheel 

Using an emotion wheel chart can significantly enhance our understanding and management of emotions. Here are some valuable tips to effectively utilize the emotion wheel in our daily lives:

  • Identify Emotions: When faced with strong emotions, such as feeling uneasy or overwhelmed, refer to the emotion wheel chart to pinpoint the exact emotion. Giving words to our feelings empowers us to acknowledge and address them more effectively.
  • Explore Underlying Causes: Delve deeper into the root causes of your emotions. Often, emotional intensity is not the result of a single event but a culmination of experiences. Take time to reflect on your recent experiences, both positive and negative, to gain insight into why you might be feeling a certain way.
  • Develop Emotional Awareness: Regularly using the emotion wheel can help you develop a broader emotional vocabulary. As you become more aware of your emotional landscape, you’ll be better equipped to understand the complexities of your feelings and respond to them with greater clarity.
  • Choose Constructive Responses: Once you identify the reasons behind your emotions, take proactive steps to manage your reactions and cope with triggers. This may involve altering your routine, engaging in mood-boosting activities, confiding in a friend about your feelings, or expressing yourself through journaling.
  • Acceptance and Moving Forward: Clarity about your emotions enables you to embrace them without judgment. Acceptance is a powerful tool in managing emotions, allowing you to move forward with a sense of peace and understanding.
  • Integrate Mindfulness Practices: Incorporate the emotion wheel into mindfulness or meditation practices. During these moments of self-reflection, use the wheel to explore your emotional states and cultivate self-awareness.
  • Record Emotional Journey: Keep an emotion journal to record your daily emotional experiences. Note the emotions you encountered, their triggers, and how you responded. Reviewing this journal periodically can reveal patterns and provide valuable insights into your emotional growth.
  • Use Visualization Techniques: Visualize the emotion wheel during stressful or challenging situations. Imagining the wheel can help you quickly identify your emotions and respond more thoughtfully, reducing impulsive reactions.
  • Embrace Emotional Growth: Embrace the journey of emotional exploration and growth. The emotion wheel is a valuable tool in understanding ourselves better and can lead to increased self-compassion and resilience.


The emotion wheel serves as an invaluable guide in understanding and managing our emotions effectively. By using this tool, we can enhance our emotional awareness, develop a broader emotional vocabulary, and gain clarity on the underlying causes of our feelings. It empowers us to choose constructive responses to emotional challenges, leading to better emotional regulation and overall well-being. Embracing the emotion wheel encourages open communication and empathy in our relationships with others. Through regular practice and self-reflection, we can harness the power of the emotion wheel to navigate life’s emotional landscape with greater ease and authenticity.

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