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identity wheel

Humans are very complex creatures with complex emotions. The way we feel things and identify ourselves is a never-ending process that might require a lot of deep contemplation and reflection. No matter how you define yourself and your emotions, explaining your emotions and identity can be a tricky process that often requires a lot of help from different tools and people. The two of the most useful tools experts use are identity and emotion wheels. What are they and what are their differences?

What is an identity wheel?

Various learning environments (schools, universities, etc.), as well as companies and therapists, often use a visual tool called an identity wheel to highlight different experiences humans can experience and define in their existence. Identity is a complicated thing full of variations and subjective perspectives that concern age, sex, gender, race, religion, sexuality, class, education, etc. All of the factors we just mentioned create an entity people call “me”. Our own experiences in life leave many blind spots and we might not be aware of how different life outside of “me” can be. 

With an identity wheel, people can practice an activity that allows personal reflection and opens up different group discussions on heavy subjects and diversity. The identity wheel does not have an author, but it has still become a crucial tool in companies, schools and therapy all around the world. It is believed that the identity wheel sparked from social identity theory in the 1970s. According to this theory, people have a tendency to divide the world, themselves and other people into different categories and give them different labels that separate “us” from “them”, often in ways that are far from positive. Whether we are aware of it or not, each and every one of us is included in social identity labeling every day. 

Thanks to the identity wheel, humans can start and carry out discussions necessary for diversity awareness. It pushes people to take into consideration other people’s experiences and reexamine their beliefs and prejudices. Every day, this tool is used for good in different settings and situations. 

What is an emotion wheel?

What do you think, how many different emotions can people experience? Twenty? How about fifty? Well, according to research, that number is much closer to 34,000! With such a variety, it’s naturally hard to keep up with managing all the emotions without struggling. But there’s a tool that can help us—an emotion wheel. With an emotion wheel, individuals can easily learn how to identify their primary emotions and how to react better to them. In moments of extreme emotions that can cloud your judgment and block your abilities, this tool can be especially useful. 

Robert Plutchik, the creator of the emotion wheel, names eight emotions as basic emotions of human beings—anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust. As its name states, the emotion wheel is circular but divided into different sections, each one containing a degree of emotion. When we’re talking about anger as the central emotion, for instance, the lesser degrees are annoyance and resentment and the greater degree is rage. The original model had a flower shape with petals representing emotions, but a modern emotion wheel is a circle. 

In what situations does one use identity and emotion wheels?

Having emotional intelligence and being aware of one’s identity (and other people’s identities) is crucial for a successful life, especially when it comes to your relationships and career since they require communication and teamwork. When people understand their emotions and know how to control them, it does wonders for communication, productivity and problem-solving. Many companies use identity and emotion wheels during HR events and team-building exercises in order to develop employees’ self-awareness and bring the team together. The emotional wheel can also be used in career orientation because certain careers require certain emotional stability and personality types. For instance, construction workers like concrete pavers need to be trustworthy, trusting, reliable, stable and social. Since they work closely with other people and try their best to make their homes safe and beautiful, it’s necessary for them to possess good emotional intelligence. 

Filling out, sharing and creating emotion and identity wheels is a great activity for training employees because it provides insight into workers’ lives. Another way one can use emotion and identity wheels is in therapy. When you’re under distress, it can be hard to put a name to your emotions or your identity, and with these tools, the process can be much less stressful and give the therapist a better understanding of what their patients are going through. 

How to use an emotion and identity wheel?

The two aforementioned wheels are created for people to identify, describe and verbalize their identities and emotions, which is a very important component of emotional and social intelligence. To use emotional and identity wheels, people need to find themselves in a safe and peaceful setting, surrounded by supporting people. The best use of these wheels comes in settings that support discussions and open communication. 

Difference between identity and emotion wheel

Identity and emotion wheels are both tools used in different settings to help users ease the process of opening up and starting discussions on important subjects like identity and emotion. Besides one handling identity issues and one handling emotion issues, these two wheels have other differences. For instance, while the emotion wheel is universal, the identity wheel can be tailored to one’s specific needs. If gender, sexuality or race is the biggest issue that requires attention in a discussion. Being able to adjust the identity wheel is great for different settings and different uses. 


Emotion and identity wheels are created for people to put complex notions and processes into words. They can help individuals explain what they are experiencing and feeling, as well as help them explore those experiences. When used as tools, they can make various things much clearer and allow people to come to terms with who they are today and how that can change in the future. 

Bio: Eliana Davison is a Writer/Marketing Specialist with a high interest in wellness and healthy lifestyle. A writer with a sole purpose to inspire people with her work.