The Feeling Wheel

The Feeling Wheel. Yellow circle intersected by two black lines. Blue to yellow gradient background.

The feeling wheel is also known as the affective circumplex. My image is adapted from the work of Posner, Russel, and Peterson (2005), who described a way to categorise broadly how you feel from moment to moment.

Feeling Wheel - a circle with four quadrants and a line drawing of a ladder in the middle.

This feeling wheel is slightly different to the wheel of emotions that you might find online because I have used the bottom to top of the feeling wheel to help plot how activated we feel right now, as well as just labelling an emotion.

The Feeling Wheel I have created is intended to offer a way for you to identify two things:

  1. How activated you feel right now, and
  2. What quality you would give to the way you feel (pleasant/unpleasant)

Of course, emotions shift from moment to moment, which can change depending on what you are experiencing. If you are driving and feeling good, someone might cut in front of you or tailgate you, and you might find the activation in your nervous system rising, and with this, your feeling state might change to annoyance or even anger. But after this event, if you allow your nervous system to calm down, you can return to baseline quickly. If you instead start thinking about other things that anger you, you might find the activation, and anger stays with you for a while.

Plotting how you feel before and after an event

I often use the feeling wheel to plot how I feel before and after I carry out The Weekly Process expressive writing session. In the above example, I plotted how I felt before I started (1), which was a little flat and demotivated. After the session I found I felt a bit clearer about how to move forward with something I was stuck on, so the No. 2 is where I put myself after the session, I was feeling more motivated and positive.

Download the Feeling Wheel

You could draw your version of the feeling wheel above or download this PDF, which offers some suggestions for the labels you could have in the different sections of the circle.

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