• Susie Bower

Feelings Wheel

Updated: Aug 30

"Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming, but we can choose which ones to surf." - Jonatan Mårtensson When I first heard this quote, it really hit me. I have spent much of my adult life in some type of therapy. Before you even ask, I love my mom and dad. They are two very important people in my life, who raised me to be the woman I am today. My issues I was in therapy for did not come from any abuse or neglect on their part. My issues were created from my own mind, how I chose to view the world and my part in it and we're self inflicted. Now, on to our learning lesson 😉


Throughout my therapy sessions, I don't feel like I got much help or resolution. Maybe the therapist (which there were many) or maybe it was me not ready to open up. I mean, I had to eventually face the fact that I was the common denominator in ALL of these "failed" therapy sessions from multiple therapists. Sometimes the truth hurts. However, I will say that it wasn't a complete fail. By virtue of me thinking they weren't working, it cause me to look deeper and finally open up to myself to get to the root cause of my pain and anger. So I'd call that a win! I also have two very important things I live by:

  1. Find the silver lining in EVERY event or circumstance.

  2. Everything happens for a reason, even if that reason is not immediately clear.


In my search for my truth, I discovered these tools I want to share with you and that I found to be so powerful, I also use with my clients AND our two kids. They really help to get to the deeper understanding of our emotions so we can begin to take some type of action.


An emotion wheel is a tool to help individuals learn to recognize and communicate their feelings. There are two: one by Dr. Gloria Willcox, which we will refer to as the Willcox Wheel, and the other by Dr. Robert Plutchik, which we will refer to as the Plutchik Wheel. We will examine both.

Dr. Gloria Willcox Emotion Wheel



The Willcox Wheel has six primary emotions; they are surprised, fear, anger, disgust, sad, and happy. The wheel starts on the inside with the underlying emotions then breaks down the feelings as you move outwards. There are two ways to use it. Willcox Wheel can be used to identify what you are currently feeling, by using what's called "drill down." Drill down refers to starting at the center of the wheel and working outwards to a specific emotion. It's to understand better what you are feeling. For example, if you are trying to identify how you are feeling about your promotion at work, you might pinpoint the feeling as surprised, but it's more than surprised. If you follow the wheel, you could be excited about the promotion. Maybe even eager to start your new role. Willcox Wheel can also be used to reverse the emotion you are feeling by going to the opposite side of the wheel. If you are feeling surprised, excited, and eager, the exact opposite of those emotions is on the reverse side of the circle. So those emotions are disgust, disapproval, and loathing. If you are feeling jealous, you want to feel sensitive. If you are feeling hesitant, you want to replace it with shock. Using the wheel, you can find which emotion you want to embrace. The Willcox Wheel can't tell you how to make your feelings do a 180, but it can help identify elusive feelings.

Robert Plutchik Emotion Wheel


The Plutchik Wheel has eight primary emotions; they are vigilance, ecstasy, admiration, terror, amazement, grief, loathing, and rage. Same principle as Willcox Wheel, the emotions across from each other are opposite. Joy is the opposite of sadness, trust is the opposite of disgust, fear is the opposite of anger, and surprise is the opposite of anticipation. The same principle as Willcox Wheel, the emotions are arranged from inside out, but the Plutchik Wheel arranged the emotions by intensity. The different shades of the colors indicate the strength of the feelings. The darker the tone, the more intense. For example, the highest level of boredom is loathing. This wheel does a better job of showing how emotions relate to each other. The part of the wheel with no colors represents the mixing of two primary emotions. For example, mixing trust and fear results in submission, combining disgust and anger results in contempt.

How to use it?

Plutchik's wheel breaks down complicated concepts. It helps individuals discover what primary emotion they are feeling. It can also help the user identify the intensity of their feelings. Plutchik took the wheel one step further with the theory of defense mechanism. Defense mechanism states that a stimulus creates an emotion that creates an action. Plutchik used the eight primary emotions to explain those stimuli and responses. For example, a threat will create fear and cause the individual to escape to safety. It means that every emotion intends to produce an action. When a feeling is activated, it is to survive.

© 2020 by Susie Bower - for Soul Powered Life, OptimizHer and Soul Powered Dynasty