Recognizing Emotions

Strong emotions can sometimes be difficult to handle and strong emotions that are not handled well often can lead to big problems. Many times we mislabel our underlying strong emotion as “ANGER.” It is vital to figure out what emotion or emotions one is feeling to be able to resolve a problem situation.

The following steps will help you handle painful emotions much more successfully:

  • Dig deep enough to discover what “triggered” your strong emotion
  • Usually underneath anger are other more hidden feelings
  • Feelings oftentimes occur together and may be difficult to separate
  • To deal with the problem, you need to know what exact feelings are going on for you at a particular moment
    • “What am I feeling right now? When and where did this start?
    • “What was going on at the time? Was anyone else involved?”

Choose a strategy or strategies that will help you feel better:

  • Talk with a close friend, family member, R.A., Hall Director, or counselor for emotional support
  • Write out feelings and thoughts in a journal
  • Use positive self-talk to get through the feelings
  • Use distraction to take attention to something else
  • Notice the feeling… and let it go
  • Have a conversation with the person who was involved
  • Remember that you are in charge of what you feel; no one can “make” you feel a certain way – you control yourself and your reactions
  • Feelings can come and go quickly
  • Let go of a bad mood quickly; hang on to a good mood for a long time
  • Do something to cheer yourself up
  • In your mind, forgive the person who made the hurtful comment
  • Make yourself as resilient as possible

Directions for Using the Emotions Wheel or Table

This tool is meant to expand your emotional awareness and sensitivity.  It gives you language to identify and communicate about your emotions.  We have provided the tool in two different chart formats, one in a table and one in a wheel diagram. It is used by starting with general terms in the top/center and working your way down the list/out to the perimeter to land on the most accurate descriptor of your emotional state.  

The Table Version is divided into six columns.  The most general emotional term is listed at the top of each column in bold (similar to the central circle above).  The bullets below represent terms that would be more specific (the second circle in the wheel version).  The dashes under the bullets represent even more precise terms (the outermost circle in the Emotions Wheel). 

Emotions Table:

  • Startled
    • Shocked
    • Dismayed
  • Confused
    • Disillusioned
    • Perplexed
  • Amazed
    • Astonished
    • Awe
  • Excited
    • Eager
    • Energetic
  • Humiliated
    • Disrespected
    • Ridiculed
  • Rejected
    • Alienated
    • Inadequate
  • Submissive
    • Insignificant
    • Worthless
  • Insecure
    • Inferior
    • Inadequate
  • Anxious
    • Worried
    • Overwhelmed
  • Scared
    • Frightened
    • Terrified

  • Hurt
    • Devastated
    • Embarrassed
  • Threatened
    • Jealous
    • Insecure
  • Hateful
    • Violated
    • Resentful
  • Mad
    • Enraged
    • Furious
  • Aggressive
    • Provoked
    • Hostile
  • Frustrated
    • Infuriated
    • Irritated
  • Distant
    • Withdrawn
    • Suspicious
  • Critical
    • Skeptical
    • Sarcastic

  • Disapproval
    • Judgmental
    • Loathing
  • Disappointed
    • Repugnant
    • Revolted
  • Awful
    • Revulsion
    • Detestable
  • Avoidance
    • Aversion
    • Hesitant

  • Guilty
    • Remorseful
    • Ashamed
  • Abandoned
    • Ignored
    • Victimized
  • Despair
    • Powerless
    • Vulnerable
  • Depressed
    • Inferior
    • Empty
  • Lonely
    • Abandoned
    • Isolated
  • Bored
    • Apathetic
    • Indifferent

  • Optimistic
    • Inspired
    • Open
  • Intimate
    • Playful
    • Sensitive
  • Peaceful
    • Hopeful
    • Loving
  • Powerful
    • Provocative
    • Courageous
  • Accepted
    • Respected
    • Fulfilled
  • Proud
    • Important
    • Confident
  • Interested
    • Amused
    • Inquisitive
  • Joyful
    • Liberated
    • Ecstatic

Emotions Wheel

The Wheel is divided into three concentric circles- the innermost circle comprised of general emotional terms, the outermost comprised of more specific terms. 

  • Six basic emotions – “Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sad, Happy, Surprise” – are listed in the center circle, and they are separated like slices of a pie.
  • If you move out from the center to the second level, following the lines of the “pie slice,” you will find various forms of that emotion more specifically listed.  For example, if you start with “Anger” in the center circle and then move to the next level, you find a range of adjectives that may describe anger more specifically: “Hurt, Threatened, Hateful, Mad, Aggressive, Frustrated, Distant, Critical.” 
  • If you move even further out within the expanding pie slice, you find even more adjectives to sharpen the distinction some more: “Embarrassed, Devastated, Insecure, Jealous, etc.” 
  • In order to precisely identify your emotional states, you will need to pay attention to the subtle sensations in your body, their quality, location and intensity.  For example you might notice the heat in your face, the lump in your throat, the tears welling in your eyes, the sweat on your palms, your heart rate increasing, etc.
  • It is possible to have more than one emotion at the same time, so be willing to consider the full range you are experiencing.
Recognizing Emotions Wheel


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