Over at the TLC Counselling Hub we love a bit of colour. Is it any wonder why we are very drawn to Plutchik’s 1980 Wheel of Emotions.
Walking around with a mind full of confusion and uncertainty can make anyone feel sad or overwhelmed. This is especially true of individuals who want to understand themselves or a stressful situation, but don’t know where to start. With a wheel of emotions, the individual can view the various emotions and pinpoint the specific ones they’re experiencing in the moment. This fits very well with our Gestalt theory, in that is predominantly about awareness.
Emotions influence our health, performance, well-being, motivation, sense of fulfillment, and decision-making skills. It’s important to understand and manage them. When people don’t understand their current emotion, they may panic as their internal locus of control leaves them in disillusionment. When our emotions are triggered, they are done so to elicit one of our basic survival behaviors. This happens on a subconscious level, i.e out of our awareness.
Psychologist Robert Plutchik states that there are 8 basic emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust. Plutchik’s wheel of emotions illustrates these 8 basic emotions and the various ways they relate to one another, including which ones are opposites and which ones can easily turn into another one. This framework helps bring clarity to emotions, which can sometimes feel mysterious and overwhelming.
Opposites: Each primary emotion has a polar opposite, so that:
- Joy is the opposite of sadness.
- Fear is the opposite of anger.
- Anticipation is the opposite of surprise.
- Disgust is the opposite of trust.
Combinations: The emotions with no color represent an emotion that is a mix of the 2 primary emotions. For example, anticipation and joy combine to be optimism. Joy and trust combine to be love. Emotions are often complex, and being able to recognize when a feeling is actually a combination of two or more distinct feelings is a helpful skill.
Intensity: The cone’s vertical dimension represents intensity – emotions intensify as they move from the outside to the center of the wheel, which is also indicated by the color: The darker the shade, the more intense the emotion. For example, anger at its least level of intensity is annoyance. At its highest level of intensity, anger becomes rage. Or, a feeling of boredom can intensify to loathing if left unchecked, which is dark purple.
Being attuned with what one is feeling (and therefore doing) can be very empowering. Instead of trying to suppress, reject, or ignore emotions, people learn how to express and share them in a constructive way, as well as analyse the role they play in one’s life.
Gaining awareness in this area can give clients a chance to align themselves with the things they want, the outcomes that interest them, and the emotional states that help them work towards their goals despite imminent challenges. Being in awareness can bring about great change for individuals.