Wheel of emotions (How it helps)

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In this article we will discuss what the wheel of emotions is and it’s development. 

We will closely discuss what emotions are, what are the elements of the wheel of emotions as well as some variations of the wheel of emotion.

What is the Wheel of emotions?

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 Robert Pluchik emotions theory stems from the following ten postulates:

  • Humans and animals experience similar emotions.
  • Emotions are part of the evolutionary process. 
  • Emotions are necessary for survival,
  • Emotions share 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 primary emotions will produce new ones such as: love = (joy+ trust)
  • Emotions 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 differences from the primary emotion. Example- 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,

What Are the Eight Core Emotions of the Emotion Wheel?

As described by Plutchik, the eight core emotions are anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust.

Each of these 8 core emotions contains two other different degrees- three in total, which are:

  • Anger: annoyance and rage
  • Anticipation : interest and vigilance
  • Disgust: boredom and loathing
  • Fear : apprehension and terror
  • Joy : serenity and ecstasy
  • Sadness : pensiveness and grief
  • Surprise: distraction and amazement
  • Trust: acceptance and admiration (Berlinsky-Schine, FairyGodBoss)

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. 

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

The reason why Plutchik ‘s wheel of emotions was an important development is because of it’s clinical and therapeutic use to help individuals learn about emotions. 

It became an effective tool that helps individuals simplify the emotions that they are overwhelmed with by identifying them as well as identifying how their many emotions interact and manifest. 

The wheel also allows individuals to understand how their emotions influence their thoughts and actions and by paying attention and developing an awareness of this sequence, one can use this tool to reflect on their patterns and change them to more helpful ones. 

The tool allows people to share- to start a conversation around their emotions. It encourages self-disclosure about an individual’s relationship  with their feelings. 

This particular tool also empowers individuals to take control of their emotions instead of being afraid of them. 

It helps people to become familiar and comfortable with their difficult emotions and hence understand the patterns of behaviours and thoughts that they engage in and by doing so, it makes them more comfortable and in control of the choices they make based on rationality and not just emotionality. 

What are the uses of the Wheels of Emotions?

The various applications and uses of this wheel include:

  • Clinical and therapeutic use where clients are educated on how to use this tool and with this tool the conversation around their emotions are explored. The wheel helps individuals to understand their emotions, get familiar with them, and can help them learn how to manage their emotions.
  • Professionally it can be used to facilitate team-building and encourage members to understand each other’s perspectives, and further develop self-awareness. It helps leaders and team mates to become more emotionally aware and attuned with that of other people within the workplace. 
  • Parenting can also be aided with this tool to help parents and children become more emotionally literate and aware of the ways their emotions impact their thoughts and behaviours and as a result their relationship. 
  • Educational settings where students- young and older- are also given this tool to become more emotionally literate. 

Gloria Willcox Feeling Wheel PDF

The Gloria Willcox 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. 

The Geneva wheel

The Geneva wheel divides emotions into four main quadrants and also allows the options of choosing ‘no emotions’ to express emotional numbness versus ‘other emotions’.

This wheel separates emotions into two categories:

  • unpleasant
  • Pleasant

Then further divides into high and low control or power over one’s emotions or the situations that trigger these emotions. 

Examining the control one has over emotions can help validate difficult feelings you don’t have much control over as well as help individuals understand what they do have control over and how they can manage emotions. 

The Junto wheel

The Junto wheel  provides a wider array of emotions and is more simple in formulation. This wheel is divided into six colour-coded wedges.

The basic feelings are stated in the middle

  • love
  • fear
  • anger
  • sadness
  • surprise
  • Joy

As you move outward, the wheel consists of more specific feelings- from love to romantic, for example, then on to enamoured- which allows people to be more specific with expressing their feelings so that they are able to better manage them. 


In this article we have discussed what the wheel of emotions is and it’s development. 

We have closely discussed what emotions are, what are the elements of the wheel of emotions as well as some variations of the wheel of emotion.

FAQs: Wheel of Emotions

How do the feelings wheel work?

The Feeling Wheel (FW) is a useful instrument to utilise 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.


The Feelings Wheel. All the feels. Retrieved on 20th January 2022. https://allthefeelz.app/feeling-wheel/

Hokuma. K. The Emotion Wheel: What It Is and How to Use It. Positive Psychology. 20th may 2021. Retrieved on 20th January 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/emotion-wheel/

Laura Berlinsky-Schine.How to Check In With Yourself (in 2 Minutes or Less) Using an Emotion Wheel. Fairygodboss. Retrieved on 20th January 2022. https://fairygodboss.com/career-topics/emotion-wheel

Raypole.C. How to Use an Emotion Wheel to Get in Touch with All Your Feels. Healthline. 30th September 2020. Retrieved on 20th January 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/emotion-wheel#how-to-use-it

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