The 2020 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.
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.
Look at the wheel and follow your eye wherever it’s drawn to. From there, 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 at least 5-10 words instead of limiting the experience to one word.)
Look up the definition of any words you don't know. You can also draw/paint the colors associated with the words, circle the words if you have the wipeable version of the wheel or use the clickable wheel at the bottom of this page.
Reflect on your visual representation of “how you're feeling"-- what do you notice?
Do a quick body scan-- can you notice where certain feelings show up in your body?
If you feel comfortable, share what you made-- with a loved one, a teacher or classmate, a mental health professional, or with your social media community.
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. 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 words in the second ring contain more subtle emotional expressions and the third ring contains more embodied/noticeable expressions. 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.
- The Anger section is comprised of words that are often expressed with forward/outward/reactionary motion or a fight response. There tends to also be heat/increased blood flow in the body, furrowed eyebrows and tightening in the jaw/mouth and limbs.
- Sadness has words associated with a heaviness or numbness/lack of sensation in the body as well as downward-weighted facial expressions (frown), downward eye contact and/or head movement. Body postures communicate a disconnection, or withdrawal from others.
- Fear contains words that initiate some form of flight or freeze response.These emotions are accompanied with dilated pupils/widening eyes, quick movement of the head/neck, tightening in the muscles along the back of the body (back, glutes, hamstrings, calves) as well as heightened energy (whether subtle or high intensity) in the mind, heart, breath and limbs.
- Disgust expresses an impulse to avoid, to look away, to rid, to purge, etc. These words have strong associations with the gut/stomach/throat and are marked by uneven facial muscle expression (one side of the lip or eyebrow raised, or a slight head or vision turn/literal looking away)
- Joy contains emotions associated with lightness, centeredness, connection to others and one's self and are accompanied with upward-oriented facial expressions (smiles) and direct eye contact or gently closed eyes.
- And "Genius"-- my attempt at an addition to the core emotions, contains words that feel related to expressions of an individuals “exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability." This category also feels like it is somehow related to truth-telling/truth-seeking. The words in this section tend to contain a combination of the forward energy of Anger and the smiles/upward facial expressions & energy of Joy and are often marked by eyes looking up/to the side as if dreaming or imagining something that only that person can see.
Using the Wheel in Anti-Racism Work
This emotion wheel can be a helpful tool for navigating the emotional journey associated with anti-oppression work, particularly anti-racism work. Below is a deck with resources for folks who are leading others and engaging in their own anti-oppression work. Feel free to use any of the slides in presentation linked below (with proper credit and shoutouts please <3) Please reach out if you have feedback, questions or would like to chat about customizations to any images.
The '2020 Emotion Wheel' is 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... Please use this image! You can download the digital version and print-it out on your own or buy a print. Share it with anyone who you think could use it well. My main request is that the image is properly credited, not altered and bonus points if you're able to give me a shout out on the internet and/or make a donation or purchase. I am so appreciative of the support y'all have given to this little wheel and I hope it helps you feel whatever you are feeling and approach others who are feeling whatever they're feeling with kindness and compassion <3
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