feelings circle chart

Putting words to our feelings can be a struggle — especially when those words are exchanged with someone we care about on issues packed with emotional complexity.

Emotional complexity is what navigating relationships is all about, according to Erica Chidi in her book, Nurture. We spied ‘The Feeling Circle’ in the pages of the new book — an invaluable tool for emotional communication across the board.

The Feelings Circle was originally developed by psychotherapist, Dr. Gloria Willcox to facilitate better verbalization of emotions by her clients. Erica is co-founder and CEO of LOOM, a well-being brand empowering women through sexual and reproductive health. Her book, Nurture is full of helpful emotional communication tools for us all.

How To Use The Feelings Circle

Using intellectual language — words that are not connected to your direct experience — can distance you from your emotions and make it more difficult to know what you are truly feeling.

To avoid this, try using simpler, more self-expressive words (emotional language) to explain what you feel. The circle provides some more emotional words you can say in place of intellectual ones.

Feeling the thing: When a feeling starts to arise, look at the wheel.

Get to the core feeling first: Start with the inner-most wheel and move outward, moving from the core feelings toward any associated feelings that might be coming up for you.

How do you feel? If a core emotion is not clear, you can move from the outside in, identifying the associated feeling first and then making your way toward the core emotion. Don’t necessarily “hunt” for the right word. Rather, as you look, notice which words resonate with you.

compare feelings: Another way to use the chart is to compare how you’re feeling today with how you felt earlier today or even yesterday. For example:

“I’m feeling _________ today, but yesterday I felt  _______ and ________. “

Typically you might find that two or even four different emotions apply.

What are your techniques for effective emotional communication?
Get more emotional health tools in one of our favorite books, The Emotion Code HERE. 

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  1. Great chart to use with adolescents… or husbands/ life partners.. 2 grps who traditionally experience difficulty in identifying, expressing & articulating their feelings.

    Michelle | 04.16.2018 | Reply
  2. How does that wheel work? Do you spin it like the wheel of fortune?

    RevT | 05.04.2020 | Reply
  3. How can I find a bigger chart to use? I work with addicts. I know from myself I would be dead if it wasnt for Claudia black and her books about “adult children of alchoholics” i literally owe my life to that person who took the time to write that book. I think this chart is another life changer. But I know it is too complicated for my clients, these are third generation addicts. Most are illiterate and live with no care no hope no life. But I would still love to find a way to make a giant copy to put in my office. I use the feeling chart for little kids with the faces and feelings. And the shock so many feel over being able to get a name a word to put to the jumble inside is heartbreaking. All have been involved with the prison systems etc. I often wonder what the hell these so called professionals do with their captive audiences? How do they not see the angry little kid with no words staring at them out of those eyes? Is this dangerous? Yes. None of these folks have much self control. But after four years in my self funded housing and rehab program I do see some successes. About 1 in 5 turn it around. Get some insight. Become a little better at functioning with 3 months of no worry about housing, food, cigs if I must, pot if needed, a vehicle to use or rides. Someone who cares, that is absolutely important, but its a mad, mad, mad world. I must be grandma but also dad for it to work.

    michele ring carr | 06.26.2020 | Reply
  4. I’ve seen some better ones online. “Bad” isn’t really an emotion…

    Aaran Secor | 08.18.2020 | Reply
    • “bad” isn’t a great descriptor. That’s exactly why charts like these can help people discover what they’re really feeling if they are not accustom to searching for deeper language.

      The Chalkboard | 08.23.2020 | Reply
  5. That’s very interesting the emotions I am feeling today lead me to all of them on the middle wheel

    Jane | 10.12.2020 | Reply
  6. I like to use this chart when sorting out my stressful thoughts, using a method described in the book, “Loving What Is,” by Byron Katie. She has authored several books along these lines, having created a method of inquiring into our stressful thoughts in a way that leads us to the truth about them and about what we are believing that gives us the stressful emotions. When I can point to a stressful emotion on the chart and connect it to my thoughts of another person or story, it’s easy to start sorting out the truth from what I am imagining, which is often quite different and stressful.

    Gary Jesch | 11.19.2020 | Reply
  7. This seems like an incomplete chart there are more negative emotions the positive, which makes this unbalanced representation of all possible emotions

  8. I just saw the wheel on the TV show Married at First Sight tonite and was very intrigued. I also wish I could find a bigger version. Suggestions ?

    Cianne McGinnis | 09.01.2022 | Reply
  9. … When I left my name it specifically stated it would not be posted, and then it immediately became posted. What’s up with that?

    Cianne McGinnis | 09.01.2022 | Reply
    • Hi Cianne! Our comment field reads that your email address only is not published. Hope that clarifies.

      The Chalkboard Editorial Team | 09.02.2022 | Reply

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