Wheel of emotions

feelings wheel.JPG

The 'wheel of emotions' is one of my favourite counselling resources. 

Often, we can identify feelings like sadness and anger fairly easily - but other feelings are much more complicated and harder to name.

As children, we're (hopefully) taught to name and understand our feelings by our primary caregivers - usually our parents. But if they didn't learn the language of feelings themselves, from their parents, it's hard for them to teach them to us, their children. As a result, we can experience emotions as scary and confusing. 

The wheel of emotions can help us to identify and name our feelings. Try this exercise: Think of something that's happened recently, that you have strong feelings about. Try to pick a word from the inner circle - happy, sad, angry etc. Then work your way out, and see how many of the emotions you can relate to in the outer circles. Do they still fall into the same slice of pie as the initial feeling? For example, you might have said 'anger' at first, but on closer inspection, it might also be sadness or disgust. Are there any feelings on the wheel that are familiar? Does a feeling you're experiencing right now remind you of a different time when you felt something similar?

At first, sitting with difficult feelings like powerlessness or isolation or frustration might feel uncomfortable - so uncomfortable that we want to run, screaming, in the opposite direction - or bury those feelings with unhelpful coping strategies like distraction or drink & drugs. Being gently encouraged to sit with our feelings in a safe and supported way can help us to process and metabolise them, and to make sense of them.

Counselling can help us to sit with and process our feelings in a safe space, without feeling so alone.