Positive and negative unless you are a robot your emotions fit somewhere in between. As I get older I am constantly checking in asking myself why I feel one way or another.
I truly feel before you can address your emotions, you first need to understand them. That’s exactly what the emotional wheel is designed to do. Using the emotion wheel as a starting point to understand the nature of emotions so what we are gonna get started with today!
Do you ever feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster?
One minute you’re floating on top of the world. The next minute you’re anxious, sad, or angry. While our monthly cycle does have a part to play in our emotional state, that’s not the end of the story.
Health concerns, financial problems, and family issues all factor into our emotions too. A busy working mom may struggle to balance her work and family life, while the death of a loved one throws our minds and hearts into turmoil.
The good news is there’s a way to easily identify and understand what you’re feeling. Plutchik’s wheel of emotions (also called an emotion wheel) can give you the clarity you seek.
What is this mysterious emotion wheel, and how can it help you in your everyday life? Read on to learn the answers!
Why Do We Struggle With Our Emotions?
Experts tell us we experience 27 distinct emotions, with infinite levels of overlap and intensity.
Some of these emotions are easy to recognize. We don’t need someone to tell us when we’re ecstatic or furious.
But what about those times when we feel something strongly but we don’t know how to explain it? What if there’s an overlap of emotions and we can’t articulate how we feel?
Maybe you’re going through a difficult breakup or divorce. You may feel a swarm of anger, resentment, sadness, and frustration. Or maybe you’re excited about a new opportunity, but you also feel anxious (or even scared).
Sometimes you may feel so overwhelmed by a situation that you can’t even begin to understand how you’re feeling. This is where an emotion wheel comes to the rescue.
How Does an Emotion Wheel Work?
Psychologist Robert Plutchik developed the emotion wheel (or wheel of emotions) as a visual way to display our emotions.
The wheel focuses on 8 fundamental emotions:
Each of these emotions is placed on a round, color-coded “wheel.” Each section is divided into three different categories representing three different degrees of emotion.
As an example, joy is considered a base, or primary emotion. A more intense form of joy is “ecstasy,” which is located in the center of the wheel. The less intense form of joy, “serenity,” is located on the outer part of the wheel.
As you might expect, the more intense emotions are located inside the center of the wheel. As the emotions become milder, they’re placed farther to the outside of the wheel.
Understanding the Wheel of Emotions
This all sounds interesting, but how can you use the wheel to understand what you’re feeling?
Here are 3 ways.
- Understanding Emotional Intensity
- The darkest, most intense color shades are located in the center of the wheel.
- These correspond to the most intense forms of each emotion.
- rage (anger)
- vigilance (anticipation)
- ecstasy (joy)
- admiration (trust)
- terror (fear)
- amazement (surprise)
- grief (sadness)
- loathing (disgust)
Of course, not every emotion we feel is intense. Sometimes we may have a “background” feeling that lingers in our subconscious.
These less-intense emotions are:
- annoyance (anger)
- interest (anticipation)
- serenity (joy)
- acceptance (trust)
- apprehension (fear)
- distraction (surprise)
- pensiveness (sadness)
- boredom (disgust)
Using the color wheel, you can put a name to what you’re feeling. Are you disgusted by a situation, or do you loathe it? Are you simply interested in something, or are you vigilantly pursuing it?
When you can put your feelings into context, you’ll gain a sense of control and direction. This can help you formulate a plan and keep your life moving forward.
Understanding Emotional Opposites
Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Did you know the same is true of your emotions?
Each of these basic emotions on the color wheel has a polar opposite emotion.
- Sadness is the opposite of joy.
- Anger is the opposite of fear.
- Surprise is the opposite of anticipation.
- Trust is the opposite of disgust.
How can you use this knowledge to help you understand your emotions? It allows you to better understand your actions and reactions to certain situations.
For example, fear and anger have a direct impact on how much risk we’re willing to take. Someone may take a huge risk in an angry, volatile state, while fear could make someone else shrink back from danger.
Understanding Emotional Combinations
At the intersection of each emotion, you’ll find a combination, or “dyad” of emotions. These are the behaviors that result from the union of two related emotions.
The combinations on the wheel are:
- aggressiveness (anger + anticipation)
- optimism (anticipation + joy)
- love (joy + trust)
- submission (trust + fear)
- awe (fear + surprise)
- disapproval (surprise + sadness)
- remorse (sadness + disgust)
- contempt (disgust + anger)
Can you see how this can help you to identify those complex emotions where your feelings overlap? Once you’ve identified them, you can begin to understand them.
With understanding comes the ability to empathize with yourself. And once you’ve done that, you can channel your energy and focus on the emotions you want to feel.
How Will the Emotional Color Wheel Help You?
Before you can address your emotions, you first need to understand them. That’s exactly what the emotional wheel is designed to do.
You can use it to understand your core emotions and emotional triggers. It can help you verbalize what you’re feeling and identify its intensity.