How to interpret your emotions

How to interpret your emotions

I came across an article recently that said we as humans can experience around 34 000 emotions.

Hard to comprehend, right? If I think about it quickly, I struggle to name more than 10.

I would hazard a guess that we have all gone through the ringer in some way with our emotions over the past year or so. It has been turbulent and tough. Just yesterday I heard a few people discussing how stretched they were financially, and they had reached a point of being “dried out”.

The stress was palpable, and I could feel the anxiety and worry. At least in my experience that is how I would name the emotions, perhaps they were feeling something different.

When it comes to emotions, most people tend to not have a particularly established vocabulary; it can seem impossible to describe exactly how you’re feeling.  It’s easy to categorize them into large, nonspecific categories. You think, “I’m either good or bad, happy or sad.” 

In terms of our mental health, diversifying our emotional vocabulary is important.

So how do you figure out what you’re really feeling — and once you do, what do you do with that information? 

Enter: the wheel of emotions. 

American psychologist Dr. Robert Plutchik proposed that there are eight primary emotions that serve as the foundation for all others: joy, sadness, acceptance, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, and anticipation. 

So, while it’s hard to understand all 34,000 distinct emotions, we can learn how to identify the primary emotions and act accordingly. 

The wheel of emotions helps you to visualize your emotions and understand which combinations of emotions created your particular outcome.



How to Use the Wheel of Emotions

Pick a category.

Start by identifying the general category, and then drilling down. Look at the centre of the wheel and work your way to the outer circle to more accurately describe how you are feeling.

Or look at the whole chart.

If you feel like you just haven’t been yourself lately (and honestly, who hasn’t felt that way in the past year or so?), then look at a longer list of emotions and see if there’s one that more accurately captures how you’ve felt.

Once You’ve Identified Your Feelings

So, now what?

For starters, don’t pack it all away.

Experts suggest journaling and making a list to dig into your feelings.

Once you can identify your feelings, it may be helpful to understand two things: first, what caused them, and second, what can make them better.

Being attuned to what you are feeling can be empowering. Instead of suppressing, rejecting, or ignoring your emotions you learn how to express and share them in a constructive way. 

For many years I felt emotionally stunted because I didn’t know how to express my feelings. I couldn’t identify whether I was depressed, sad or angry and it affected my personal relationships in a negative way. 

Learning to sit in my emotions, feel them and identify them has helped me fully express myself, given me confidence to speak up, to feel valued and to create boundaries with people.

Gaining awareness of our emotions gives us a chance to align ourselves with the things we really want in life and the confidence to go after them. 

I hope this helps you in some way.

Please note that the wheel of emotions is not a replacement for therapy, it is a tool to help you identify your emotions and can be used in conjunction with therapy.

Available to download and print below.

Wheel of Emotion

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