The Feeling Wheel

Filed in Stress & Anxiety by on August 26, 2014 9 Comments

How to Use “The Feeling Wheel”

In my book I’m a Type A—How the Heck Will I Ever Retire? I stress the importance of Type As being aware of their feelings and emotions as a way to better being able to relax. It is often unaddressed feeling and emotions that make it difficult for Type As to quiet their minds and fully relax.

I discuss in my book the concept of the “Feeling Wheel,” which was developed by Dr. Gloria Willcox. It is very useful in identifying the specific feelings and emotions you are experiencing at any given point in time so that they can be addressed and resolved.

There are two main ways of utilizing the wheel that I have found helpful. The first is to simply use it to identify what it is you are currently feeling, and “drill down” further to discover associated feelings, so you can understand better your current state of mind and emotions. To do this, you might sit down and look at the wheel when you have a moment to rest and contemplate, like after the end of a long day. Let’s say, for instance, your first thought when you peruse the wheel is that you are feeling hopeful. Once you find hopeful on the middle band of the wheel, you can see that the associated core feeling (nearer the center) is joyful, and the more specific, nuanced feeling (on the outer band) is optimistic. Maybe you had a particularly good day at work because your boss praised you for a project that was especially well done, and you are feeling joyful, hopeful, and optimistic about life. Good for you. Savor it!


You can use this “drill down” concept to also explore deeper and longer term emotions that may be impacting you. Let’s say you have been feeling quite sad over the last several months, or even years, since the time your spouse passed on. By going to the core feeling of sad on the inner band of the wheel, you can look at the two outer bands for feelings associated with sad to try to discover the more detailed, nuanced emotions you are experiencing. You might conclude that you are more specifically feeling lonely and isolated. This is an important discovery, in that it tells you what the specific problem is. You might then decide that you could benefit from getting out more, socializing, and developing or reinvigorating friendships.

This example leads to the second key way you can use the wheel. If you are feeling sad, lonely, and isolated, the wheel provides the positive feelings you would prefer to experience, located on the exact opposite side of the wheel. You can now see that the positive core feeling that contrasts with sad is joyful. The converse feeling from lonely (which is on the middle band out from sad and 3 up) is energetic (on the middle band from joyful and 3 down). Likewise, the converse feeling from isolated (on the outer band associated with lonely) is stimulating (on the outer band associated with energetic). So, you’d like to replace the feelings of sad, lonely, and isolated with the emotions of joyful, energetic, and stimulating. As you pursue new relationships and friendships, these are the feelings you will seek to embrace.

I want to emphasize that the Feeling Wheel, and the exploration of feelings in general, should not be focused primarily on replacing negative feelings with good feelings. You should also consider simply embracing so-called “bad” feelings for what they are. They are okay, and you are okay, and human. They add texture to our lives and make the good times all the sweeter.

The last observation I’ll make about the Feeling Wheel is that there are some feelings that are missing that I’d like to see represented, such as “pissed off at my spouse” and “ready to strangle my boss.” I think these are pretty common human emotions that should be on the wheel!


About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (9)

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  1. Ric joyner says:

    Tim how are you doing now? The reason i ask is you retired so young and how did you handle it?

    • Tim McIntyre says:

      I am doing really well. It was a challenge to retire so young and with so much energy–I like to say it took some guts! My book explains in detail how I was able to cope and transition. Thanks for asking!

  2. mara says:

    Wornderful really!!

  3. mama_amni says:

    interesting topic!
    great article!

  4. Marla Keller says:

    This is so cool! We’ve been taking about this since 1995 when we were certified as coaches and facilitators for a domestic violence program. We had a very faded, ditto copy of a feeling wheel that had about 2/3rds as many feelings as the one that Gloria Wilcox came up with and was hardly legible. My husband, Jami, and I took that wheel and created one ourselves with an expanded hub in the late 90’s, and then published it in our book, “How Men Make Women Crazy (and Vice Versa): Ending the Madness” and we use it in every single Coaching session we have. We have never heard anybody else describe the wheel like we do until I came upon this post! We talk about moving from the “north side” of the wheel, through the hub that has forgiveness at the very center that helps move feelings in a powerful way (our hub has the eight modes that we get in to when triggered by the feelings you have in the wheel above–Abandoned, Fear, Controlled, Shame, Joy, Empowerment, Peace, and Love) to the south side. And we say that the idea is to live in the south side in love with peace, power and joy at your back so that when you are triggered into a north side feeling you recognize that it’s a flare to tell you something is wrong and needs to be felt, expressed and processed healthfully. Thank you for this and the work that you do! And have a fabulous day full of joy, empowerment and peace!!!

    • Tim McIntyre says:

      What an interesting story, Marla. You and Jami were way ahead of your time. Thanks to you both for all the help you give to people who are struggling emotionally. God bless!

  5. Do you know where to purchase the wheel in poster size?

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