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Finally putting complex emotions into words with the feeling wheel

Reading time 5 minutes
Finally putting complex emotions into words with the feeling wheel

Feelings are a complex matter. They are often so intense or even mixed in nature that we find it difficult to put them into words. We have only a limited vocabulary at our disposal and it is not always sufficient to describe all the facets of the emotions we are feeling. So we have to make do with simplified or imprecise language.

Unfortunately, this is not helpful if we want to open up to others. It is difficult for our fellow human beings to understand how we are really doing. As a result, they are only able to help us effectively in difficult situations to a limited extent.

But how can we manage to describe as accurately as possible how we are feeling right now, despite these limited possibilities of expression? The feeling wheel makes it possible! Let's take a look at what exactly it's all about and how you can use it.

What is a feeling wheel?

The emotion wheel is a communication tool that originated in the USA. Dr. Gloria Willcox created it as a way of recognizing and classifying your own emotional state and putting it into words. With it, you will be able to accurately capture your feelings and process them better.

What is the structure of an emotion wheel?

The emotion wheel consists of three rings. The innermost ring is divided into six parts, each of which contains a core emotion:

  1. sad
  2. surprised
  3. anxious
  4. happy
  5. disapproving
  6. annoying

In this first ring you arrange the Emotionthat you are feeling at the moment, first of all roughly. Then it's on to the second ring. This divides each of the core feelings into somewhat more specific emotions. For example, if you chose happy in the first step, you now have the choice between:

  • happy
  • happy
  • joyful
  • optimistic
  • carefree
  • expectant
  • proud
  • facilitates

We then continue with the third wheel. Additional specifications take place here as well. Each feeling from the second wheel is once again divided into two subcategories at this point. For example, if you have just chosen optimistic, you are now faced with the question: Are you more confident or hopeful?

What exactly does that do for you?

The emotion wheel is a popular tool in psychology, because patients often find it difficult to become aware of their true feelings. Those who seek therapy for depression, for example, often only talk about sadness. However, this crude approach is not enough to hold effective therapy sessions. Often, disappointment or even Loneliness behind the sadness - points at which therapists can clearly target more effectively.

What is a feeling wheel

How do I use a feeling wheel?

You can imagine the feeling wheel like a kind of game board. Coins, small stones or whatever you have at hand serve as game pieces. You place your piece on the segment in the inner ring that best describes your emotions and work your way forward. In this way, the wheel invites you to get to the bottom of your emotions and develop a better awareness of them.

You are conducting an emotional inventory all to yourself, so to speak. Note down your results. If you often feel emotionally agitated, it may help you to keep a kind of emotional diary with the help of the wheel.

It is also helpful to use the feeling wheel whenever you feel a mental burden on you. It supports you in finding out exactly what this burden is based on. Are you disappointed, do you feel helpless or even abandoned? In this way, you will be able to find exactly the approach that points you in the direction of solving the problem.

How to use the feeling wheel in pairs or groups

The feeling wheel is not only a great tool to become aware of your own feelings. It also allows you to communicate with others on an emotional level. If you dare to talk about your feelings in this way, you will be able to communicate in a particularly open and honest way.

So sit down together with your conversation partner at the feeling wheel. Place your stones on the corresponding fields without talking to each other. Only then do you begin your conversation, in which you exchange information about the feelings you have just marked. If one of you doesn't want to say anything more about this particular emotion or doesn't want to hear anything more about it because it's just getting too much, then the corresponding stone simply moves to the center of the emotion wheel - to the so-called quiet zone. As long as it is there, you are no longer allowed to talk about this emotion.

Alternative approaches to the emotional wheel

You can also approach the matter in a completely different way and place the stones not on your own emotions, but on those you assume the other person is feeling. This will show you whether you can really interpret the other person's feelings correctly and offers a valuable opportunity to clear up misunderstandings that are getting in your way.

For example, do you feel all the time that your partner would be unhappyIf you are not sure, it may turn out that he simply feels insecure or sometimes just likes to withdraw. Such findings offer you the optimal breeding ground to work on your interpersonal relationships. Relationship to work.

Authentic communication

Another possibility would be to lay on the feelings that you would like the other person to feel for you in the current situation. For example, these can be emotions such as happy and carefree, but also curious or perhaps even humble. Your counterpart does not feel at all as you hope? Then the feeling wheel has just opened up the possibility for you to talk about it quite openly and find out what the reasons are behind it.

No matter which variant you choose: It is important that you let each other talk and listen carefully to what the other person has to say. Don't be afraid to reveal your true emotions, because only then can you work together on the situation. If the conversation becomes too intense and one of you feels uncomfortable and puts the stone in the quiet zone, then the other person must accept this. If you break off the conversation in a quarrel without coming to a result, the whole thing was in vain.

What can a feeling wheel help with?

The emotion wheel supports you in recognizing your true emotions. Its use is the first important step so that you can correctly classify and also process them. It is a tool that helps you to find the right words and that in turn leads to the fact that you can perceive your emotions in an orderly and clear way.

Many therapists share the opinion that healing is only possible when the right words have been found to describe the problem. And this is exactly where the feeling wheel supports you. Often its users feel better after just using the wheel, simply because they feel heard - whether by themselves or by other people with whom they have shared the feeling wheel.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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