The Wheel of Emotions: Use This To Better Understand Your Emotions

A closer look at how men can improve their emotional intelligence using the Wheel of Emotions: the most useful tools a man can use to manage his emotions.

“If you don’t manage your emotions, then your emotions will manage you.” – Deborah Rozman.


As men, we’re taught not to express our emotions. We’re told from a young age that “boys don’t cry” and that we need to be tough. 

The result of this messaging is less than favorable. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to put up emotional walls and fight off every emotion we experience that doesn’t come off as ‘manly’ or ‘strong.’ 

We don’t know who to turn to talk about how we feel. Our partners might want us to open up, but we feel at a loss for words. Or maybe we’d like to talk about how we’re feeling, but we’re apprehensive about doing so out of fear that we won’t be viewed as the strong, stoic man we need to be. We can’t express how we feel because we were never taught to do so.

But knowing which emotion(s) we feel is paramount to our health and happiness. Talking about how we feel with someone we trust builds a connection. Acting in accordance with our emotions helps us feel aligned with how we feel. Managing our emotions allows us to feel in control and good about our decisions.

How do we determine which emotion we’re feeling? Just take a look at the Wheel of Emotions by the late psychologist Robert Plutchik:

Wheel of Emotions

Pultick’s Wheel of Emotions is an awesome illustration that gives us a visual of the wide range of emotions we feel. It’s accessible and easy to comprehend. And for something as complex as our emotions, having an easy-to-use guide is essential.

When you take a look at the Wheel, you’ll notice the 8 basic emotions we experience: joy, sadness, anger, fear, anticipation, surprise, trust, and disgust are at the center, and then more emotions stem off from there into the second and third layer of the Wheel. The further away from the center, primary emotion, the more specific the expression of that emotion is.

When you’re unsure of how you’re feeling, take a look at the Wheel. It’s an awesome guide that helps us understand exactly which emotion (and its intensity) we’re feeling.

Emotions are powerful

Our emotions are powerful. So powerful in fact that they can alter the course of your life. 

Have you ever made a decision you later regret because you felt so angry at the time and weren’t thinking clearly?

Have you ever felt really lonely, so much so that you don’t put in an effort to make new friends and connections?

Or have you ever been in such a positive mood that you see everyone and everything around you in a good light? You start more conversations with people simply because you want to chat and hear about their day. You smile at strangers. You sign up for a weight loss program (and stick with it) because you have the confidence that you can do it.

These scenarios are ones I’m sure we’re all familiar with. As is making the decision whether or not to:

– apply for a job that’s a step above our experience level,

– start eating healthier, 

– cut back our alcohol intake, or

– say ‘no’ to things we don’t want to do instead of ‘yes’ out of obligation

Underlying Feeling of Sadness

These decisions are all largely influenced by our emotions. How we feel determines our behavior. Yet, we feel lost so often and unsure of which emotion(s) we’re feeling and why we feel that way. 

On the other hand, you might want to read our article “Fear is an Illusion: Knocking Down your Fears with Frank Shamrock.”

Let’s say you’re feeling sad, but you’re not quite sure why. Everything’s going great at work, you have a loving partner, a good group of friends, and you enjoy doing various awesome activities. You decide to go out with your friends to feel a bit more cheerful, and it works temporarily, but you still have an underlying feeling of sadness. 

Perhaps what you’re really feeling is guilt, which is an expression of the basic emotion, sadness. Maybe you haven’t made time to connect with your parents in a long while, and you’re subconsciously feeling guilty about it. You’ve been screening their calls because you’ve been busy with work, with your friends, with your partner, and doing the activities you enjoy. You’re not trying to disconnect from your parents, but your actions say otherwise. 

If you try to combat your sadness by spending more time with your friends, you might feel a bit happier at the moment, but the underlying feeling of sadness will still be there. This is because you’re not acting in a way that aligns with your emotion. 

If you’re unsure of your emotions — if you know you feel sadness, but you don’t know exactly why — then you’ll continue to exhibit the emotion of sadness. It will keep growing and manifest into other areas of your life until you’re able to label it, understand it, and manage it effectively.

Label the emotions

However, if you understand that what you’re really feeling is guilt and that you need to carve out the time to connect with your parents by putting in the effort to call them regularly, you’ll feel a lot better after doing so, and your feelings of sadness will start to let up.

“There is always a reason why we do what we do: actions do not just spring up, completely without cause. The causes are our feelings and emotions, and our thoughts and beliefs.” Jeremy Marchant

When we label the emotion(s), we feel, we feel more at ease. Let’s say you’re feeling anxious quite often, but you’re not sure why.

If you take a look at the Wheel, you might discover that what you’re really feeling is overwhelmed. Maybe you’ve taken on more work than you can handle, or perhaps you’re not putting up enough emotional boundaries for those around you and saying ‘yes’ to everyone to people please and feel accepted.

The result isn’t so great. Instead of feeling confident, happy, and included like you thought you would, you feel worried and on edge — emotions that all stem from the basic emotion, fear.

One awesome way to help gain some clarity on how we’re feeling (after determining our emotions by looking at the Wheel) is by writing it down. 

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Writing down how we feel provides space for that emotion. We free up mental space and energy by writing down how we feel instead of keeping it all in our minds.

Journaling our emotions allows us to track how we’re feeling, which gives us a big picture of how we feel — how long we’ve been feeling a certain emotion and what happened throughout the day to feel that way.

On the other hand, you might want to read our article “Vulnerability“.

From there, we’ll start to understand our emotional triggers, behaviors, and thought patterns, and we can start to make decisions that align with how we really feel and how we want to feel.

Having a grasp on our emotions — labeling them and understanding which category under the 8 basic emotions they fall under — provides us with a sense of ease. We won’t feel confused about which emotion we feel because we’ll know exactly which one it is, and we’ll be able to make decisions in accordance with how we really feel.

Having a grasp on our emotions

Knowing the different emotions, we experience increases our level of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. We’ll find communicating with others a lot easier when we’re aware of how we’re feeling, and the quality of our interpersonal relationships will improve. We’ll gain more confidence about our decisions because we’ll know that we’re acting in accordance with how we feel.

Please take a look at Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions next time you’re unsure of how you feel, and reference it often. 

Not sure who to talk to about how you feel? Longing for a sense of connection with other guys to chat about the daily struggles we all experience? Join a Men’s Group where we talk about our emotions and how we can best manage them. We’re here to help!