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Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


What Is the Feelings Wheel + How to Use It

PUBLISHED Apr 27th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Nov 29th, 2022

You might have read the title and thought, “What the heck is a feelings wheel?” Sadly, it’s not part of a game where you spin an arrow and then act out the feeling that it lands on. That does sound like a fun version of charades, though.

The feelings wheel is a wheel used to help people describe what emotions they’re experiencing in greater detail. This can be used by writers to help them express a character’s emotions more elegantly, or more commonly, it is used by therapists and teachers to help children learn how to label and understand their emotions.

It doesn’t just have to be used by kids, though! Some adults could use some help labelling and understanding their emotional experience too.

A person can feel soooo many different kinds of emotions, sometimes all at once. It can be hard to navigate because these feelings can become extremely overwhelming and they can get lost in the turbulent sea.

 This feelings wheel becomes a really powerful tool in moments like these because it helps you identify your emotions and then understand what you need to do in order to process them.

But how does the feelings wheel work?

How to Use It

It’s really intuitive once you take a closer look at it! Start at the centre of the circle, where you will find six primary emotions. These are the feelings that serve as a jumping-off point:

  • Peaceful
  • Sad
  • Mad
  • Scared
  • Joyful
  • Powerful

Each one of the core emotions has even more feelings attached to each of them. For example, rejected, confused, helpless and anxious all stem from the core emotion of scared. 

Then, from each of those secondary emotions, there are even MORE emotions! It’s awesome! We won’t break down every category because that would just be a headache for you to read. We’ll just include a picture of it!

Colourful week divided into sections and tiers to show all 78 emotions.

This wheel was created by Dr. Gloria Wilcox to help people recognize what is going on under the surface of an emotion. This can help you solve a problem that you’re facing and develop deeper self-awareness.

When to Use It

This is often used in therapy to help people understand what they’re feeling. It helps get to the true reason and cause behind their emotions.

For example, a kid might seem to be mad as they run to their room and slam their door! But mad is that core emotion. What is underneath it? The initial reaction of slamming the door might be because they’re feeling angry but it could also be because they’re feeling hurt. It’s that initial anger that parents & children may respond to but anger just happens to be the way that other feelings are being expressed. 

If the parent understands that there is another emotion “underneath” the anger, they can guide the child to that emotion. They can both cope and address the situation appropriately. This also helps the parent respond most empathetically to the deeper emotion(s).

When people identify more specific emotions, they can then understand how to deal with that emotion more effectively. The term psychologists use to talk about this is emotional granularity. Fancy, we know!

The feelings wheel is also awesome in classrooms to help teach kids how to become more emotionally aware and understanding. It helps kids grow their emotional intelligence for both themselves and others. They can be more empathetic, kind, and understanding of what they or someone else is working through. 

You can also just send it to your friends and family if you think that they can use it too! They might find it surprisingly useful. Or you will. Someone will!

The feelings wheel is an awesome way to help you sort out… well, your feelings! That shit is complicated, so we hope that it helps you break down what you’re feeling into smaller parts. That way you can dive thru what you’re going thru a little bit easier.


Read More: Online Therapy 101, How to Get the Most Value From Your Therapy Appointments,