Emotions Wheel

It is no secret that emotions are confusing. These emotions can be explored through the emotion wheel with a list of simply powerful feelings that explain emotions logically. The emotion wheel is a circular graphical representation of emotions divided into sections and subsections. It enables better identification and comprehension of emotional experiences, regardless of the time or circumstances.

The emotion wheel consists of eight basic emotions (joy, surprise, sadness, anticipation, trust, fear, anger, and disgust) at the center. Each emotion has a spectrum of intensity, plus the relationships between them.

The emotional wheel can be a great starting point for gaining a better understanding of emotions. 

Here’s how you can use the emotional wheel. 

Identifying the core emotion

You can start narrowing down the nuances and layers of what’s making you feel by finding an approximation of them on the wheel.

Emotions are arranged in layers on color-coordinated spokes.

There are low-intensity emotions like apprehension, annoyance, acceptance, pensiveness, distraction, and so on.

Approaching towards the center, the color deepens and milder emotions become the basic emotions like surprise, sadness, joy, trust, surprise, disgust, and so on. 

Within the center circle, the strongest emotions can be found, including terror, grief, admiration, amazement, rage, and so on.

Between each colored spoke, there are mixed emotions.  For example, aggressiveness is a result of a combination of anger and anticipation.

For example, person X is aware of their vague sense of aggression. Looking at the wheel, he/she might detect two emotions that resonate with him/her — anger and anticipation.

Taking into account possible causes

Person X now has a few words to describe how he/she feels, which can be used as a stepping-stone to grasping a deeper understanding of emotions. 

It is not a single feeling that causes us to feel emotion, but rather a series of events that lead to them. Emotions can be triggered by events outside of ourselves even without our realization. 

Tracking emotions out of sequence can be beneficial for individuals who suppress their emotions.

Begin by identifying the emotion, then retrace its steps back to its initial cause. Getting to the bottom of what’s bothering you isn’t easy. However, one can untangle the thoughts by taking a few moments for themselves.

Let’s take the example of contempt which is a combination of anger and disgust. Say, for instance, person Y identified an emotion. Although person Y has no obligations at the moment, he/she feels restless and annoyed, even distracted, and cannot concentrate on one particular work/activity. 

Person Y knows exactly what caused that mood. Earlier that afternoon, his/her spouse sent a message saying, “Will you be home from work by 10 pm? We need to discuss something as a couple.”

Creating connections

Person Y is apprehensive about not knowing what his/her spouse wants to talk about. In his/her mind, person Y hasn’t done anything to sabotage the marriage, nor has he/she said anytime that would upset the spouse.

Person Y can get worried and saddened over potentially worst-case scenarios and difficult conversations ahead and get irritated about how their spouse left them worrying.

In most cases, identifying and understanding emotions with an emotion wheel makes it easier to handle them in a constructive way. But this does not mean they are going to disappear.

Assume that person Y accepts he/she will not hear back from their spouse until 10 pm. Since acceptance is the opposite of boredom on the emotion wheel, this is actually quite fitting.

Y realizes that exploring their feelings has already started to calm their trepidation and make them feel calmer, allowing them to accept their feelings with ease.

So, rather than ruminate on what the spouse might say, he/she spends the evening doing the regular activity or work. Additionally, Person Y can resolve to discuss the stress to their spouse and suggest that they try a less nerve-wracking method of communication from now onwards. 


By identifying feelings, one can gain insight into two things: first, the cause of the emotion, and second, what improves the feeling or helps it be managed.

The emotions wheel might sound simple, but it can give you lots of guidance when you’re struggling with your emotions or spiraling in your feelings. It might help you realize you have more emotional depth and nuance than you thought, and the result can be incredibly validating.

By Caitlyn

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