The emotion colour wheel 


Many of us will be finding it difficult to know what we should be feeling right now. But experiencing mixed emotions is not necessarily a bad thing; and once we objectively understand our emotions in this way, we can empathise with ourselves and channel our focus in the direction of the emotions we actually want to feel.  

Mixing the primary colours of red, blue and yellow at different intensities produces a myriad of secondary colours which populate the artist’s palette. In the same way out of our primary emotions such as fear, anger and joy, we can produce secondary emotions such as awe, pride, optimism and love. Here’s how:  


Becoming truly Awe-some 

It could be argued that the most dominant emotion we have felt over the last year is fear. Fear at the everchanging nature of the pandemic we are facing and the frightening statistics that accompany it. And on a daily basis this feeling has gone hand-in-hand with the emotion of surprise. Everywhere we turn there’s a new government announcement surprising us into new ways of living. Fear and surprise when taken together like this can cause alarm. But with a slightly different intensity and slightly more emphasis placed on the more positive of the two emotions, surprise, this mixture can lead to awe instead. And truly experiencing the emotion of awe at this particular moment in history is not such a bad thing.  


No Pride without Anger 

It is highly likely by now that we are well and truly fed up of all the rules and regulations that are dominating our lives. And it is probable that for many of us this might be boiling over into anger. This emotion might also be laced with disgust at the mishandling of this crisis by politicians and policy makers. Anger and disgust when combined like this can create resentment. However, if we attempt to blend our anger instead with the satisfaction that we are all in this together, it can lead to the emotion of pride. There is no pride without a certain amount of anger at perceived injustice, but mixed with the satisfaction of overcoming this injustice through common effort. 


Just the right amount of Optimism

We might be experiencing a lot of what could be called dread right now. Thoughts and feelings turn to life after lockdown, the so-called ‘new normal’. But could not these thoughts be perceived as the emotion of anticipation instead – in that we are trying to foresee what is going to happen and attuning our expectations accordingly. Behind this there may also be lurking the more positive emotion of serenity in the knowledge that we have all been through this before and as such we have a greater understanding of what we are up against, in addition to the good news surrounding the vaccine roll-out. This mixture of anticipation and serenity can produce just the right amount of optimism we need right now to take our lives forward.  


Love – a cocktail to savour 

As lockdown begins to ease, we may notice a new-found joy in our soul. This could be explained by the fact that being lockdowned for so long has attuned us to the important things in life like for example the natural world around us – the birds in the sky and the trees in the distance. At the same time a new acceptance of things may have been drummed into us by the seeming lack of control we have over everything at present. While acceptance on its own might feel like fatalism or submission, when mixed with feelings of joy, it can blossom into love. Now that’s a cocktail to savour. Long live happy hour. 


This article is inspired by Robert Plutchik’s emotion colour wheel theory.