The emotion wheel
Image Description: A rainbow-colored, watercolor "emotion wheel"-- a circle divided into six pie-like wedges. Each wedge has a core emotion written in the center and related emotions written in a middle and outer layer. The top wedge is yellow with "joy" at the center. Moving clockwise, the next wedge is orange with "genius" at the center-- then red with "anger" at the center-- the bottom wedge is blue with "sad" at the center-- then purple with "fear at the center" and finally green with "disgust" at the center.
These images are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.
In non-lawyery language... You are more than welcome to use this image for educational and personal purposes, but please do not resell it or put it on/in items that you are selling without my permission. My main request is that the image is properly credited, not altered or copied and bonus points if you're able to give it a shout out on the internet and/or make a donation or purchase. Please reach out if you would like to use any of these resources as apart of a larger work, request a custom edition or have any other questions regarding usage. If you see this work being used improperly out in the world, please let me know. Thanks team <3
My Goal for this wheel is that it helps you to:
1. Give yourself permission to feel any of the words on it
2. Build your emotional vocabulary and develop language to describe how you feel
3. Slow down and notice how your emotions show up in and around your body
ORDER PRINTS & Wipeable worksheets
(The links below will take you to my Etsy shop)
Emotion Wheel Print
6x6" | 8.5x8.5" | 11x11"
*Wipeable* Feelings Check in Worksheet
*Wipeable* Emotion Wheel
6x6" | 8.5x8.5" | 11x11"
Emotion Wheel Cards
6x6" | Pack of 6
Top Left ID: The Emotion Wheel in a light wood frame on a shelf with a little potted plant to the right of it. Top Right ID: A laminated worksheet titled "How am I doing today?" with the emotion wheel in the center and a black dry erase marker laying on top. Bottom Left ID: A laminated emotion wheel with several words circled in black. A left hand holding a black dry erase marker is presumably doing the circling... Bottom Right ID: An emotion wheel printed on a square card with a brown envelope underneath it-- they are both resting on a wooden surface.
Please reach out to me directly if the cost of this print is too high to allow you to purchase it. I am happy to discuss a discounted rate or free print. I also have a supply of *lightly* damaged products available for free pickup from my studio or reduced price if shipped.
How do I use this Emotion Wheel?
Please please use this emotion wheel however you are inspired to. Here's how I use it if you need a place to start:
Find a quiet moment. Take a breath— drink some water or tea.
Start wherever you’re drawn to. Make your way around the wheel— reading or having someone else read each word. As you go through, write down any words that resonate with the experience you're having in the current moment. (*Try to write down or circle at least 5-10 words)
Look up the definition of any words you don't know. You can also draw/paint the colors associated with the words (whether the ones on this wheel, or your own color associations), circle the words if you have the wipeable version of the wheel or use the clickable wheel on my website (https://www.avanmuijen.com/watercolor-emotion-wheel)
Reflect on this visual representation of “how you're feeling"-- what do you notice? Can you notice where certain feelings show up in your body? Are there any feelings you’d like to pay special attention to or to cultivate as you move forward in your day?
If you feel comfortable, share what you circled or drew- with a loved one, a teacher, a mental health professional, the internet, or hey, you can always send me what you made, I would love to see it :)
A few other versions of the wheel:
About this Emotion Wheel
This is an emotion wheel that I designed in 2020 (the year of all the feelings...) for use in my own therapy and healing work. When I began to engage with existing versions of the emotion wheel, they overwhelmed me more than helped me... the colors felt wrong, there weren't rules for which words went in which categories and every wheel I could find looked like it had been designed in ClipArt in the 90's. My therapist joked that I should make my own wheel...
This is the 27th version... I am currently making updates as I receive feedback from folks using it out in the world (please reach out if you have any notes to share!). Someday, I will write more about the thought process behind the colors, the core emotions, the watercolor medium and the decision-making logic behind which words go where, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy spending time with it.
My hope is that this wheel and the framework with which it was designed inspire you think about your emotional experiences in a more complex and nuanced way. I hope it gives you some tools and language to better understand how you're feeling and how to communicate those feelings to others.
Please note that I am not a mental health professional and this wheel and the worksheets above are more rooted in artistic exploration, personal research/study and my own self-reflection than they are in science or in-depth scientific research. (for now!)
Image Description: A notebook resting on a wooden surface. There are 9 circular diagrams with various combinations of emotion words and colors (that reference the colors on the emotion wheel) painted in watercolor on each one. The circles are labeled with days of the week.
More about the Wheel Design
Visual Description: A video of a hand circling various emotions on the emotion wheel with a dry erase marker. Then, a hand comes in and sprays cleaner spray and wipes the wheel clean.
Fun fact: I have spent many years working as a storyboard artist for animation and the first time I ever used an emotion wheel was in a storyboarding class. Our assignment was "draw yourself eating breakfast feeling five different emotions on the feelings wheel."
That assignment led me down a path of spending a great deal of time thinking about/observing/drawing which body postures and facial expressions humans use to communicate which emotions.
This wheel adapted from Robert Plutchik's initial 'Wheel of Emotions" design and inspired by Paul Ekman's work, research and the notion that there are 5-7 universal "macro" expressions of emotion, which humans use (largely through body language and facial expressions) to communicate our needs. I have landed on these six core emotions (although I have replaced his "surprise" with "genius") and determined which words go in which wedges based on my lived and observed experience of how each word's somatic expression aligns with the way the center emotion is expressed in the face/body and the core need it relates most to. The second and third rings of words are comprised of "micro-expressions" and "subtle expressions," which occur when we are just starting to feel an emotion. The outermost ring of words are potential outcomes of experience when the emotions in that section are felt over long periods of time or very intensely.
- Joy contains words associated with a feeling of lightness, centeredness, calmness of energy/breath and limbs, upward-oriented facial expressions (smiles), soft eye contact or gently closed eyes. Energy is directed towards one’s center or the center of another. A feeling of joy indicates a satisfied need in a given moment.
- Disgust: These words have strong associations with swirly or balled up energy in the gut/stomach/throat and uneven facial muscle expression (one side of the lip or eyebrow raised, or a slight head or vision turn/literal looking away) Disgust indicates a need to avoid, to purge, to get something out.
- Fear contains words aligned with some form of flight or freeze response-- dilated pupils/widening eyes, tightening in the chest as well as in the muscles and/or limbs one would use to move elsewhere. Rapid, shallow energy moving quickly in the mind, heart, breath and limbs. Fear indicates a need for more information or a greater sense of safety.
- Sadness has words associated with a heaviness or numbness/lack of sensation in the limbs or torso as well as downward-weighted lower lip (frown/pout), downward eye contact/gaze and/or head movement. Crying, sobbing and clenching of the center body. Slow, heavy energy moving through the body. Sadness indicates a need for connection-- either with another or with one's self.
- The Anger section is comprised of words that are often expressed in a fight response--heat/increased blood flow in the limbs/face, furrowed eyebrows and tightening in the jaw/mouth/lips. Energy has a forward/outward/through another directionality to it. Anger indicates a need for something to move or change.
- And "Genius"-- is my addition to the core emotions and contains words that feel related to expressions of an individuals “exceptional intellectual or creative power or natural ability." This category also feels like it is somehow related to truth-telling/truth-seeking and falls between the centered energy of joy and the through/forward/"no" energy of anger. Marked by whatever your body does when it’s imagining, dreaming, feeling the brilliance of itself, Genius indicates a need for authentic self expression.
No one feeling or need exists in isolation. Our emotions and needs are complex, ever-emerging and always bleeding into one another.
Using the Wheel to uproot white supremacy in white bodies and white culture
I have found this emotion wheel to be a helpful tool as I navigate my journey as a light skinned person engaged in anti-racism work. Below is a deck with some drawings that I hope can help people who benefit from whiteness (myself included) to interrogate and disrupt disembodied moments of performative allyship and move towards the work of embodied anti-racism and active loyalty to the full dignity of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian and All bodies of culture.
Please reach out if you have feedback, questions or would be interested in a conversation about how this work could be improved or expanded upon. It is a forever work in progress and am grateful for the interactions it has sparked <3
Using the Wheel with groups (teams, families, etc.)
The wheel can be a great tool to use with a group. I've linked a group check in exercise in the jamboard below where you can fill out the wheel anonymously, together, to get a visual representation of which emotions the collective group may be carrying in that moment.
This exercise can be helpful with:
- getting a pulse on a group in a virtual space
- showing that emotions are indeed in the room
- allowing folks to express their more vulnerable emotions in an anonymous format-- this can give better data in conversations around psychological safety and emotional labor
- creating something concrete and visual to show our collective humanity and messiness <3
Page 1: blank template, Page 2: Suggested instructions, Page 3: sample completed page
TEST OUT THE VERY UNFINISHED
Clickable EMOTION WHEEL!
This project is still in its early stages and we are working on updates and improvements. In the meantime, we would love for you to test out this first version! This is a free resource that you can use on your own, in remote therapy, for distance learning or for anything else you can think of. Don't worry, it doesn't collect any data about you :) Click the link below to check it out.
Two pro-tips for using the digital wheel:
- Refresh your browser if you'd like to clear the wheel and start over or fill it out again
Please reach out if you have feedback!
(It may take a minute or two to load)
This digital wheel was created by Valerie Ernst, Margo Smith, Michelle McGhee and Abby VanMuijen and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License