The Feelings wheel pdf (+3 tips)

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This article explores the origin, development, and variations of the feelings wheel or originally known as the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.

What is the feelings wheel?

The feelings wheel or originally known as the Wheel of emotions was developed by Robert Pluchik, a psychologist who introduced the psycho-evolutionary theory of emotions. 

The Wheel of emotions or the feelings wheel was developed based on his own theory that there are eight basic/primary emotions that serve as the foundation for all others. 

These emotions are: joy, sadness, acceptance, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, and anticipation which branch out into more emotions which were grouped into polar opposites:

  • joy and sadness
  • acceptance and disgust
  • fear and anger
  • surprise and anticipation

What are emotions?

Let us first understand what emotions are before discussing the wheel of emotions. In the simplest words, emotions are physiological reactions to stimuli that are either internal or external.

Emotions, according to various researchers, understand it as an episode of various interrelated changes in response to one’s evaluation of an external or internal stimuli.

Emotions have five major components

  • Emotion Component which is simply the experience of feelings. 
  • Action tendency component which involves our behavioural reaction to the stimuli.
  • Appraisal component which involves cognitively analysing the stimuli causing the emotion. 
  • Motor Component which involves how we express what we are experiencing
  • Physiological Component involves the chemical reaction that our body experiences as a result of the stimuli. 

While the components of the emotions we feel are present in all individuals, the intensity and expression of these emotions differ from one person to another. 

What is the theoretical basis of the Wheel of emotions?

The foundation of his emotions theory stems from the following ten postulates:

  • The limbic system of a human is similar to that of other mammals thus, both humans and animals experience similar emotions.
  • Emotions are part of the evolutionary process beyond apes and humans. 
  • Emotions are necessary for survival,
  • Emotions share identifiable common patterns and elements with each other. 
  • The basic emotions are the primary ones: trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, anticipation and joy.
  • The adding up of primary emotions will produce new ones such as: love = (joy+ trust)
  • Emotions are constructs that help describe human experiences.
  • There is a duality with emotions, each primary one has its opposite
  • Emotions are related based on the degree of similarity
  • The diversity of emotions are based on the intensity changes from the basic or primary emotion. Example- trust goes from acceptance to admiration or fear goes from timidity to terror

What are the elements of the Wheel of emotion?

There are three major elements to the wheel of emotion. These elements include:

  • Colors

The eight emotions are arranged by colors where primary emotions are located in the second circle and the emotions with pastel colors are a mix of the two primary emotions.

  • Layers

There are layers to the wheel where the more we move to the center the more intense the emotions are, so are the colours.  For instance, at the center of the wheel, the primary emotions change from: anger to rage. Similarly, moving to the outer layers, the colors become less intense, and the intensity of the emotions decreases as well.

  • Relations

The spaces between the emotions show the combinations of emotions that are a result of mixing primary emotions- so the wheel also indicates how emotions can interact and relate to each other to form newer emotions. 

What is the Importance of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions?

Plutchik ‘s wheel of emotions was an important development  because it was very effective in helping people identify their emotions while also learning about how their emotions interact. 

It became an effective tool to be used with adult and younger clients in helping them learn about their own emotions or to increase emotional literacy. The wheel also enabled the user to visualize their emotions, and understand combinations of emotions created their distressing experiences. 

How to Use the Feelings Wheel?

There are two ways to use the wheel, either as a two-dimensional circle or a three-dimensional ellipse. 

To use the wheel of emotions as a two-dimensional circle allows the individual to understand what they are feeling- what primary emotions they are feeling and also helps them learn what emotions are combining to give result to the secondary emotions. 

By developing an awareness of the various combinations of emotions, it can help a person to take a closer look at their own thoughts and emotions that affect their behaviour and the way they react to the world around them.

As a three-dimensional form, the individual can learn not only about what they are feeling but also the emotional intensity of the primary and secondary emotions. How these emotions impact them differently and how they react to it based on their intensity. 

To use the feelings wheel, you need to get either a feelings wheel pdf, or a printout of a feelings wheel, or even a feelings wheel app. 

Consider what you might be feeling by looking at the inner ring of emotions to find the one that applies to you most, and then the secondary emotions from the outer ring that apply as well.

Taking a moment to understand how the primary and secondary emotions relate to each other and what are the thoughts and behaviours surrounding these emotions can be an effective way to develop self awareness and emotional awareness. 

Variations of the Feelings wheel

Gloria Willcox Feeling Wheel PDF

The Gloria Willcox feeling wheel was born out of the necessity to help clients describe their emotional state better, and to enable them to express as much as they can about what they are feeling or experiencing. 

The wheel has been inspired by Plutchik’s wheel of emotions and it is created with various colour codes that correspond to various feelings and emotions with six primary emotions and an outer ring of various secondary feelings that arise out of the primary ones. 

Suggested uses of this wheel of feelings include:

  • Use the blank spaces provided in the outer circle to add your own feeling words.
  • Use it in a small group setting to facilitate creative play.
  • Color the wheel using colors representing how you feel 
  • Change unwanted feelings into desirable ones 

You can access the Gloria Willcox Feeling Wheel here

Feelings Wheel for Kids

Feelings wheel for kids is designed to help develop emotional literacy in children and  includes pictures with faces with different feelings to help them learn and identify emotions. 

You can access the PDF version of this feeling wheel for kids here

This worksheet also provides group activities that children can do together to help them learn in the midst of peers. 


This article explored the origin, development, and variations of the feelings wheel or originally known as the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.


The Feelings Wheel. All the feelz. Retrieved on 18th Nov, 2021

Hokuma. K. The Emotion Wheel: What It Is and How to Use It. Positivepsychology. 20th may 2021. Retrieved on 18th November 2021.

FAQs: Feelings Wheel PDF

How do the feelings wheel work?

The Feeling Wheel (FW) is a useful instrument to utilize while focusing on cognitive efficacy. The FW is split down into several parts.

The six basic emotions are Sad, Angry, Scared, Calm, Strong, Joyful. These reflect the most readily recognizable emotions. Such feelings are considered supplementary.

What are the 8 core emotions?

According to Robert Plutchik, the 8 basic emotions are joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust.

What are the primary feelings?

Primary emotions are the first response of the body, and they are usually very easy to identify as being so strong.

The primary emotions most common are fear, happiness, sadness, and anger.

There can also be secondary feelings despite various conditions, but it is typically with one of the above that we respond first.

What is the difference between feelings and emotions?

A basic distinction between feelings and emotions is that emotions are physiological reactions to stimuli whereas feelings are a result of our evaluation of these stimuli based on past experiences.

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