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I’d venture to say that you aren’t very aware of your own emotions or feelings. Pretty bold statement right out the gate, right?

Maybe it would be more palatable to say that you aren’t aware of how vast your emotions are. Because I believe we are in fact aware of our emotions, we just may not be in touch with them.

A study by The Greater Good Science Center suggests there are 27 distinct emotions – at least (Cowen & Keltner, 2017).

And that does not even include combinations of emotions.And with so many emotions, how can a person expect to navigate the variety of them all? Let me introduce you to the Feelings Wheel by Dr. Gloria Willcox.


The Feelings Wheel is a circular graph that depicts the range of human emotions and how they relate to one another.

The most basic emotions are the primary ones at the center: joyful, powerful, peaceful, sad, mad and scared. You could certainly use a synonym for these core emotions if that fits your understanding better. For example, sometimes I will use the word "fear" to replace "scared."

The outer rings of the feelings wheel describe secondary feelings that relate to the primary ones with more clarity. These outer edges are where I learn to become more specific about the feeling and emotion that is swirling inside of me.

[Access the Feelings Wheel by Dr. Gloria Willcox]

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that sounded like this:

Person: “You must be really mad that it didn’t turn out the way you wanted.”

You: “No — I’m not really mad, just frustrated.”

In some ways, what you’re expressing here is the nuance of the Feelings Wheel. You are saying that your feeling isn’t core to being mad or even angry. Instead, you’re on the outer edges of the core feeling.


Ask a few of the social workers or therapists in our Sanctuary Framily and they could list a plethora of benefits for using the feelings wheel.

What works for me?

  • It helps me to identify the feeling and give it a name. Now that I know what the feeling is, I can deal with it rather than avoid it.
  • By giving my feeling a name, I can regulate it more effectively without that feeling taking over complete control.
  • It’s improved conversations with my spouse, children, friends, church, and God. I’m learning to go beyond the surface level communication to get at a more authentic and vulnerable level of expression.

Those few reasons might scare you away. And my question to you is, “What scares you about learning how your feelings are working inside of you?”

It’s a brave move to develop a greater sense of self-awareness. The Feelings Wheel is a tool to increase our emotional vocabulary to become emotionally healthy followers of Jesus.


I use the feelings wheel at the dinner table with our family on a somewhat regular basis. If you’ve ever asked your child how their day was at school and they said, “Fine”, then I know you will be blessed by using this tool.

The Johnsons will pass this colorful circle around the table and ask each person to choose one or two words that describe their feeling and why. These tend to be very enlightening conversations and windows into their interior world that we parents would otherwise miss. Remember, repitition is foundational to developing consistent habits.

So, how will you use the Feelings Wheel this week?

Grace and Peace,