If You Have Trouble Identifying Your Feelings, An Emotion Wheel Can Help

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I think we’ve stopped being able to distinguish what our emotions are. We don’t identify them because we don’t always feel comfortable, supported, or able to truly feel all that our emotions bring with them. 

We need to learn that it’s okay to feel what we’re feeling, and it’s important that we identify those feelings (even if only to ourselves) so we can deal with them appropriately. Using an emotion wheel is something I’ve found very helpful in accomplishing this challenging task.


Why Do We Need To Name Our Emotions?


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There has to be a reason why so few people can properly express their emotions. I hate sharing my emotions. I’ve never been one to be an open book about the things in life that really matter. So when I’m tasked with opening up to anyone, I shy away at the first opportunity. 

But what if I shy away, not just because I cannot admit my emotions to others, but because I can’t admit them to myself?  

Sometimes when we’re dealing with complex, raw emotions, it’s hard to put into words what we’re feeling. Emotions run deep and hit every single part of our lives. So how can we find just one word or a grouping of words that will properly express how we’re feeling? 

Bottling up or misidentifying feelings has major repercussions. Those who don’t properly deal with their feelings might experience trouble sleeping, shortened tempers, and bad eating habits. Your emotions govern your physical state whether or not you can properly identify them, so why not explore your emotions so you can deal with them? 

What Is An Emotion Wheel?


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So, how do we find the right words to express our emotions? Robert Plutchik invented a visual guide to help people name their complex emotions. He created the emotion wheel in order to help people identify specific feelings. The wheel has six to eight primary emotions at its center — think Inside Out’s Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Anger, and Fear. While you might not necessarily feel sadness, your emotions might be closely related to sadness. The wheel helps us identify emotions that we might not have thought about if we had stayed with our limited vocabulary of go-to emotional words.

Why To Use The Wheel


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Jaz Broughton, a career coach, discussed the importance of labeling our emotions with the help of the wheel. Jaz says that emotion wheels allow people to see all the complex emotions they feel, but still keep the complex emotions simple with a diagram. Many emotion wheels are presented to children in therapy to help them understand complex emotions that might be too advanced for them to know otherwise. Jaz says, “When I use this tool with my clients, it shows them that they are allowed to take up space with their emotions — they don’t have to put a neat label on it because emotions rarely are the neat things we want them to be.”

The emotion wheel makes something difficult and vulnerable relatively easy. Tyler Woodward, CEO of Eden’s Gate and a wellness expert, says that using an emotion wheel “[S]eems like such a simple task, kind of like naming colors or shapes as a child, but it can be easy to lose touch with our own emotions in an increasingly distracting digital world.”

My Week

I am tired of not adequately expressing my emotions. I feel them and I’m affected by them, so I want to convey them. While I won’t be pulling out a wheel to everyone who asks how I’m feeling (the Waffle House cashier and I just aren’t that close), I do want to mainly be honest with myself and figure out my emotions personally. 

If I shared every emotion I had this week, this article would be very, very, very long. I’m going to spare you and give you a general overview of my strongest emotions and hopefully inspire you to become reacquainted with your own feelings.

Day One


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I think my main feeling of the day was exhaustion. I started off the day hitting the ground running and I regretted that quickly. I found a basic wheel that I used to find and identify my emotions, but I also found that there are tons of different wheels that focus on different aspects of people’s emotions. I think I’m going to explore a different wheel every day. 

So far, my favorite thing about this wheel is that it takes the crazy show that is my brain and it calms me down a bit. I’m able to slow down and sift through the feelings on the wheel and find which one resonates with me the most.

Day Two


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I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. My cat kept me up all night and I was debating murder. I was dealing with about every emotion that was on the ‘Anger’ section of this wheel, but I didn’t feel as angry as I felt helpless, moving me over to the ‘Sadness’ section and letting me face my powerlessness. 

This was an interesting part of using the wheel. I wasn’t necessarily sad or angry. I’m not angry with my cat, I’m frustrated (an ‘Anger’ emotion) with him — he’s not doing anything out of malice. I’m more overcome (‘Surprise’) than angry. I wonder whether it’s good or bad I wouldn’t define my emotions based on the core emotion. So often, we mislabel our emotions. I think acknowledging the disconnect between what I feel and what is at the core of that feeling helps me to distinguish if it’s something that needs to change or not.

Day Three


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Today was a good day. It was quick and I did feel as though a lot of it got away from me, but I had so many silent and beautiful moments. I was reflecting on my emotions this morning and how I woke up flustered and frustrated but went to bed so joyful and excited for the next day.

At church today, my partner looked over to me and kept asking if I was alright. I have a notorious RBF and I know I look like I hate everyone in the world any time I don’t consciously rearrange my face. I used the emotion wheel to correctly convey my feelings — I was hopeful, distracted, expectant, energetic, and a little stressed. Nothing was wrong, but I could see how a mixture of all of those would make Andrew concerned. Using the wheel, I was able to slow down and really process all the emotions I was feeling and properly give them the attention they needed.

Day Four


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The best way to describe today was content and confident. I had a ton of house and life things to accomplish and I did most of them. I have to admit, when I feel my best, I won’t harp on my emotions half as much as when I feel upset. I think that’s for one of two reasons. Either I don’t want to disturb the sleeping bear and get too philosophical or doubtful that I can actually be happy, or I avoid categorizing and focusing on my positive emotions as much as the negative ones.

Day Five


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Today, I woke up with a cold and everything was fuzzy. Shockingly, that is an actual emotion on the wheel. I didn’t feel great at all, but only in the way that I wasn’t fully ‘here’ today. I was dizzy, unstable, and vulnerable. There were some other feelings I was dealing with in the “Afraid” section. I hate getting sick and it always leaves me feeling small, helpless, and inferior. I was grateful for the wheel today because it was a quiet day and I was able to focus on how I really felt throughout it.

Day Six


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It’s for sure a sick day today. I haven’t been sick since I got COVID in January of 2020, so I am in rough shape. I thought about my emotion wheel last night when I called my partner to come over and be with me for a bit. I felt pathetic and weak, knowing that there was nothing I could do and I just had to ride this one out. Today, I’m a bit discouraged, as this cold is disrupting my usual routine. I also feel inferior and (still) weak. It’s a rough day for sure, but these are the days when the emotion wheel is the most helpful.

Day Seven


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It’s the last day of the cold (I hope), and it’s my weakest day. I finally relate to the core feeling in the wheel, which is “Bad.” Today I feel absent, sleepy, blurry, and tired. They all make a lot of sense for where my brain and body are. I feel so sluggish and unclear as well, which is in the “Surprise” category. 

In Conclusion

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I really enjoyed using the wheel the entire week. I realized quickly how few of these emotional words frequented my vocabulary. It’s been incredibly helpful to take this tool and use it to decode and digest my emotions that I otherwise might not have been able to realize I was even feeling. 

I’m not sure if I would use the wheel too often after this week, just because it did seem a little silly to do in casual conversation, but I did like using it in the mornings when I was reflecting on my true overall feelings.


Have you used an emotion wheel before? Did you like it? Comment below!“““““““““““““““““““`

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