Emotion Wheels & Needs Wheel

HS Emotion Wheels & Needs Wheels

Below, you will find three different kinds of HS Emotion Wheels and two HS Needs Wheels. You can also purchase HS Emotions Wheels and Needs Wheels in various formats in the HS Shop. For an interactive emotion and need identification experience, try the HS Virtual Emotion Wheel and the HS Virtual Needs Wheel. The Human Systems Emotion Wheels and Needs Wheels are protected by U.S. copyright law. Please see the Human Systems Fair Use Policy for guidelines around acceptable use of the HS Wheels, as well as licensing information. Please contact Human Systems with questions or for more information. Human Systems has several other free tools that you might find useful; you can see them in this PDF document.

About the HS Emotion Wheels

I did not invent the concept of an emotion wheel – they have been around for decades. I created the HS Emotion Wheels based on scientific research on emotions from the time of Aristotle (c. 350 B.C.) to current day in order to capture both the latest thinking on the subject as well as trends over time. I used a qualitative research method to build the HS Emotion Wheel III (see a YouTube video where I describe the process).

Later, based on feedback from collaborators and customers, I created the HS Emotion Wheel I for beginners and the HS Emotion Wheel II, an intermediate option. If you’d like, you can try the HS Virtual Emotion Wheel (VEW), a tool I created to guide users through the process of choosing an emotion to fit their experience. The VEW is based on the HS Emotion Wheel III and includes definitions of all the emotions, which may support building emotion vocabulary (research shows that the bigger our emotion vocabulary is, the more effectively and efficiently we can process our emotions). 

Suggestions for Use

1) For HS Emotion Wheels I and II, start in the middle and determine if you are on the “uncomfortable emotion” or the “comfortable emotion” side. For the HS Emotion Wheel III, choose the wheel – comfortable or uncomfortable –  that reflects how you feel. You may have both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions – that’s fine too (I usually have a mix).

2) In HS Emotion Wheels I and II, choose one of the emotions in the middle ring on the half of the circle that matches how you feel (comfortable or uncomfortable). In the HS Emotion Wheel III, choose one of the emotions in the center of the wheel you chose (comfortable or uncomfortable) that fits how you are feeling.

3) In HS Emotion Wheels I and II, you can look in the outermost ring for a more specific emotion related to the one you chose. In the HS Emotion Wheel III, the middle ring contains more specific emotions related to the one you chose, and the outermost ring contains even more specific emotions.

4) I’ve noticed that some people prefer to start in the outermost ring of a wheel and “browse” the emotions until they find one that resonates – you can do that too.

If you are interested in learning more about the research behind the HS Emotion Wheels and best practices for use, I offer the HS Emotion Wheel Learning Module.

Averill, J. R., Catlin, G., & Chon, K. K. (1990). Rules of hope. Springer Verlag.

Barrett, L. F. (2017). The theory of constructed emotion: an active inference account of interoception and categorization. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 12(1), 1-23.

Barrett, L. F., Gross, J., Christensen, T. C., & Benvenuto, M. (2001). Knowing what you’re feeling and knowing what to do about it: Mapping the relation between emotion differentiation and emotion regulation. Cognition & Emotion, 15(6), 713-724.

Cabrera, L., Sokolow, J., & Cabrera, D. (2021). Developing and validating a measurement of systems thinking: The systems thinking and metacognitive inventory (STMI). Routledge handbook of systems thinking, 1-42.

Damasio, A. R. (1996). The somatic marker hypothesis and the possible functions of the prefrontal cortex. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 351(1346), 1413-1420.

Ekman, P. (Ed.) (1982). Emotion in the human face (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gendron, M., & Feldman Barrett, L. (2009). Reconstructing the past: A century of ideas about emotion in psychology. Emotion review, 1(4), 316-339.

Grabovac, A. D., Lau, M. A., & Willett, B. R. (2011). Mechanisms of mindfulness: A Buddhist psychological model. Mindfulness, 2(3), 154-166.

Kashdan, T. B., Barrett, L. F., & McKnight, P. E. (2015). Unpacking emotion differentiation: Transforming unpleasant experience by perceiving distinctions in negativity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(1), 10-16.

Kazanas, S. A., & Altarriba, J. (2016). Emotion word processing: Effects of word type and valence in Spanish–English bilinguals. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 45, 395-406.

Kramsch, C. (2014). Language and culture. AILA review, 27(1), 30-55.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.

Maia, B., & Santos, D. (2018). Language, emotion, and the emotions: The multidisciplinary and linguistic background. Language and Linguistics compass, 12(6), e12280.

Plutchik, R. (1980). Emotion: Theory, research, and experience: Vol. 1. Theories of emotion. New York: Academic.

Reali, F., & Arciniegas, C. (2015). Metaphorical conceptualization of emotion in Spanish: Two studies on the role of framing. Metaphor and the Social World, 5(1), 20-41.

Scherer, K. R. (2005). What are emotions? And how can they be measured?. Social science information, 44(4), 695-729.

Solomon, R.C. (2003). What is an Emotion? Oxford University Press.

Solomon, R.C. (2007). True to our feelings: What our emotions are really telling us. Oxford University Press.

About the HS Needs Wheels

My experience, as well as scientific research, indicates that behind every comfortable emotion there is a met need, and behind every uncomfortable emotion there is an unmet need. I created the HS Needs Wheel II (see a YouTube video where I describe the process) to help others (and myself) identify met and unmet needs. Later, in response to customer and collaborator feedback, I created the HS Needs Wheel I for beginners.

Aside from physiological needs, which are not included in HS Needs Wheels, my experience and research indicates that humans require a flexible balance of feelings of individuality and relationship, as well as a balance of safety and growth. After a lot of growth, I tend to have some safety needs emerge. After I spend a lot of time expressing my individuality, I will probably have some relationship needs emerge. I believe that one of the most difficult parts about being a human is that I can never have all of my individuality, relationship, safety, and growth needs met fully and all the time.

Suggestions for Use

The HS Needs Wheels work similarly to the HS Emotion Wheels. You start at the center to determine which set of needs feel most pressing to you (it could be more than one)  – individuality, safety, relationship, or growth – and then explore the more specific needs in that quarter. You can also try the Virtual Needs Wheel (VEW) (based on HS Needs Wheel II), which, like the Virtual Emotion Wheel, guides you through the process of choosing the best word for your particular need and includes definitions for each need.

If you are interested in learning about the research behind the HS Needs Wheel and the best way to use it, I offer a HS Needs Wheel Learning Module that includes the HS Model of Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation.

Bacon, I., McKay, E., Reynolds, F., & McIntyre, A. (2020). The lived experience of codependency: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 18, 754-771.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The” what” and” why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.

Fischer, J. L., & Spann, L. (1991). Measuring codependency. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 8(1), 87-100.

Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of general psychology, 10(4), 302-317.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review, 50(4), 370.

van der Kaap-Deeder, J., Brenning, K., & Neyrinck, B. (2021). Emotion regulation and borderline personality features: The mediating role of basic psychological need frustration. Personality and Individual Differences, 168, 110365.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top

Subscribe to Idea Drop

Enjoy a brief twice-a-month email from Human Systems with one practical tool or idea you can use to improve:

  • Organizational health
  • The health of your relationships
  • Your own mental and emotional health

This is totally optional – feel free to enjoy everything on the HS site whether you sign up or not :)

If you want to sign up later, just go to the “Get In Touch” menu option and choose “HS Newsletter“.