Buckle up! We are going to talk about emotions. Most people struggle talking about “the feels” for a couple of reasons:
- Sharing emotions requires vulnerability, often at a time when we feel uncomfortable, confused and overwhelmed
- Most of us were not really taught a robust language of emotions
The bottom line: emotions are complex and challenging to navigate. For those seeking support in therapy, expressing and understanding these emotions is a crucial step towards healing and growth. Enter the feelings wheel: a simple yet powerful tool that can make the journey through the emotional maze a bit more manageable.
What is the Feelings Wheel?
Imagine a colour wheel, but instead of colours, it’s filled with emotions. The feelings wheel is a visual representation of a wide spectrum of emotions, neatly organized into categories. It’s like having a map that helps you pinpoint exactly what you’re feeling in the vast landscape of emotions. It was developed by therapist Dr. Gloria Willcox in 1982 and has been a foundational piece of therapy sessions ever since.
Why is it Important?
Precision in Expression:
One of the reasons why many struggle with emotions is because they have never developed a language of emotions, short of those we learned in kindergarten: sad, mad, happy…These emotions are at the centre of the feelings wheel, offering us a base upon which to start naming them. However, as we move out of the wheel, you can see a language that more accurately expresses what you feel. The feelings wheel acts as a guide, offering precise words to describe your emotions. Instead of a generic “I feel sad,” you can pinpoint whether you’re really feeling lonely, ashamed or inadequate to name a few.
Enhanced Emotional Awareness:
Many of us have a handful of go-to emotions we easily recognize, but the feelings wheel introduces us to a more extensive emotional vocabulary. This expanded awareness allows for a deeper understanding of oneself and the nuances within each emotion.
Supports Effective Communication:
For therapists and clients alike, the feelings wheel acts as a common language. It bridges the gap between the sometimes abstract world of emotions and the need for clear, effective communication in therapy sessions. It’s a tool that promotes a shared understanding in your sessions. As a bonus, once you develop your “feelings language”, it will spill over into your day to day communications, giving you the tools to help others understand and meet your needs.
Navigating Emotional Patterns:
The wheel isn’t just about identifying emotions; it’s also about recognizing patterns. By regularly using the feelings wheel, you can start noticing trends in your emotional experiences. Are certain situations triggering specific emotions? Are there patterns in how you respond to certain feelings? Once you have that “a-ha moment”, you can’t unsee what you have recognized and the changes you have been looking for start to fall into place.
How Does it Work in Therapy?
Therapists often integrate the feelings wheel into sessions by encouraging clients to explore their emotions by using the wheel as a reference. It becomes a starting point for deeper conversations, helping clients articulate their feelings and dive into the underlying issues.
In conclusion, the feelings wheel is more than just a colourful chart – it’s a practical and insightful tool that empowers individuals on their emotional journey. It transforms the abstract into the concrete, making the process of understanding and expressing emotions a bit more tangible and a lot more empowering. So, the next time you find yourself lost in the maze of feelings, consider turning to the feelings wheel as your guide toward clarity and understanding.
Reach out and find out how our therapists use the Feelings Wheel to help our clients learn more about themselves so that they can improve relationships, feel stronger and live the life they deserve to live. And check out our RESOURCES tab for a copy of the Feelings Wheel that you can start using now!Learn More
Our ability to regulate ourselves as adults comes down to two basic, yet challenging, abilities: attention and emotion regulation. These abilities are less developed in children; so why is co-regulation so difficult for us parents?
When we talk about self-regulation, it speaks to our ability to manage our own emotions and thoughts. This regulation is not just about our own intentions. It is also influenced by many things around us including our families, friends, jobs or other environments we may have both negative and positive interactions.
Co-regulation means we are able to regulate our own emotions as parents. This allows us to model and reflect appropriate emotions to our children, encouraging them to explore their own feelings. Becoming a parent, however, can bring up a lot of new and old feelings that make it difficult to get on our child’s level. This is really normal. And when we notice these red flags, it can allow us to address those emotions and experiences, further showing our kids we can show up for ourselves and make changes too.
Coregulation can be age-specific, but the foundations are applicable for parents raising children at any age:
- Unconditional positive regard – regardless of your child’s age, warmth and responsiveness is key to providing and modelling a trusting relationship. This allows your child to recognize that in a time of need, their caregiver will commit to respectful communication and investment into the child’s interests and challenges. Essentially, unconditional love fosters long-standing commitment and understanding.
- Pave the path – our environment can be stressful, and so can our children’s. With a degree of structure and predictability, coregulation allows overwhelming stressors to take less of a toll on our children’s well-being. Feelings of authentic security provide our children with an understanding of the expectations of the parent-child relationship and its associated consequences. We as parents model what our children can expect from future relationships and how to connect with others.
- Modelling is key – this step is integral to how we approach coregulation. It goes without saying that leading the way gives children the opportunity for growth.
It is important to remember that children will make mistakes throughout the learning process, as will parents. If you are a parent that struggles with co-regulation, you’re not alone. This is a challenging experience in which we feel unprepared. Help is available if you aim to gain new skills to help you with self-regulation or co-regulation.
Our therapists are available to support you through this journey and are skilled in assisting individuals at their level of growth.
Murray, D. W., & Rosanbalm, K. (2017). Promoting Self-Regulation in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Practice Brief. OPRE Report 2015-82. Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation from https://fpg.unc.edu/sites/fpg.unc.edu/files/resources/reports-and-policy-briefs/Co-RegulationFromBirthThroughYoungAdulthood.pdfLearn More