Updated: Aug 18, 2022
-Photograph by Andrew Reshetov
One Monday morning, I was in a Zoom session with my counselor. It had been a few weeks since we had our last session and I wanted to catch her up on how I had been during the "break", what I was up to the previous week, and how I was doing in the present moment. I told her that I had a lot of assignments coming up for school along with work and personal things I was needing to get done. I was in a good place mentally, and I was happy that I was able to create a 'To Do' list for myself the previous week and get a majority of those things done. Being the supportive counselor that she is, she was happy for my progress as well, but then she asked me a question that I didn't think would be so challenging; "What are some feelings or emotions that you felt last week?" My mind went blank. Feelings?
Part of me wonders why I have such a hard time saying what I am feeling. Part of me also believes it has a lot to do with my childhood and how most times I tried to talk about how I was feeling about certain things it would either get shut down, dismissed, or completely ignored. I quickly learned to keep all of that to myself and writing became my best friend. I sometimes joke to people now about how writing (right next to silence) was my first language.
I had to break the news to her. "So...I've always had a hard time like....expressing how I feel? Like I can feel what I'm feeling in my body, and understand where I feel certain sensations, but when it comes to putting words to them... especially difficult or uncomfortable feelings, I kinda get stuck sometimes". Tell me why it almost felt as if she knew I was going to say that? She immediately hit me with the, "That's okay!" and basically told me that she had a resource for me that she thought I would find helpful.
It's called the Feelings Wheel and it was created by a person named Geoffrey Roberts with the intention of helping people (like me) with limited emotional vocabulary. The wheel has 7 primary feeling word categories, which all branch off into more in-depth feeling words. The middle circle has our primary emotions. Each colored section has feeling words that also describe the primary emotion. The middle circle are the less intense emotions, and the outer circle are the more intense emotions. It's not an exhaustive list of every emotion-related vocabulary word ever created, but it is a good list of words expressing difficult emotions and a good start for anyone trying to do the same.
I still use this Feelings Wheel when I am in my counseling sessions or even when journaling outside of session. My hope for anyone reading who is also a person who struggles with putting words to feelings, is for you to be able to use this resource as a way to communicate, express, and even understand those difficult emotions that arise.
What are your thoughts on the Feelings Wheel? What are some things that help you express what you are feeling in the moment? Leave a comment down below.
*This is not my image. Use of this image is a Not for Profit resource. Created by Geoffrey Roberts https://imgur.com/tCWChf6