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Sunday, November 14, 2021

How to Use the Wheel of Emotions

The Wheel of Emotions was developed by Dr. Robert Plutchik, who was a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an adjunct professor at the University of Florida.  His research included the study of emotions (see my articles: Learning to Sense Your Emotions and How Experiential Psychotherapy Can Enhance Emotional Development in Adults).

The 8 Primary Emotions
According to Dr. Plutchik, there are eight primary emotions:
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Surprise
  • Anticipation
  • Trust 
  • Joy
These emotions are considered primary, according to Dr. Plutchik, because they have survival value (see my article: Understanding Primary Emotions).

For instance, fear has survival value because when this emotion is triggered, it can save your life due to the flight-fight response.

What is the Wheel of Emotion?

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Plutchik's Concepts:
  • Limbic System/Midbrain: The midbrain (or limbic system) of humans is similar to the midbrain of other mammals.  Humans and other mammals experience the same emotions.
  • Evolutionary History: Emotions developed long before humans existed.  They have evolutionary value as part of survival.
  • Survival Role: Survival is the primary evolutionary role of emotions.
  • Combinations of Emotions: Combining primary emotions will create new emotions.  For example, joy and trust = love.
  • Opposites: As can be seen from the Wheel of Emotions, each emotion has its opposites.  For instance, sadness is the opposite of joy, and so on.
  • Intensity of Emotions: The change in the intensity of emotions can be seen on the Wheel of Emotions: Trust goes from acceptance to admiration, joy goes from serenity to ecstasy, and so on.
Characteristics of the Wheel of Emotions (click on image to make it larger):
  • Color: The eight emotions are arranged by colors for similar emotions.  
  • Layers: Moving to the center of the circle intensifies the emotions.
  • Relationships of Emotions: Emotions are arranged on the Wheel of Emotions with regard to their relationship to each other.  For instance, note the position of polar opposite emotions.
How to Use the Wheel of Emotions
Many people have problems identifying their emotions.  They might have a sense that they feel "off" or "bad," but they don't know what emotions are causing them to feel this way.

The Wheel of Emotions:
  • Provides an image or visual tool to get curious about yourself.
  • Helps you to be attuned to yourself.
  • Normalizes your emotions.
  • Increases your self awareness.
  • Helps you to stop judging yourself.
  • Helps you to identify your emotions.
  • Helps you to verbalize the emotions you are experiencing.  
  • Helps you to feel empowered.
  • Helps you to gain self confidence.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're having problems identifying and expressing your emotions, you're not alone.

Working with an experiential psychotherapist can help you to develop and enhance your ability to identify your feelings for your own self awareness as well as to improve your communication with others (see my article: Psychotherapy Can Help You to Stop Sweeping Uncomfortable Emotions Under the Rug).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in experiential therapy (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy).

About Me
I am an experiential psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.

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