In the early ‘90’s, I accidentally reinvented Robert Plutchik’s “Wheel of Emotions”.
At the time I was employed as a Human Resources manager. I had taken the position in what turned out to be the wholly wrong assumption that the existence of HR departments within corporations was an admission by companies that they are soulless entities and that some sort of concession had to be made. Presumably, employees have souls even in the soul-crushing environment of the cube farm.
Logic dictated that any visit not involving interviews of those seeking employment would be by someone already with the company who was some shade of mad or sad. Whether we should wish to be glad at all times we do have that wish. So, I knew where visitors to my office wanted to “go” but their exact “point of origin” was too broad and vague. I do not believe that I am unique in not liking to be surprised by people. Wanting to help others as quickly as possible may be somewhat more rare.
I needed to craft a tool that would help me help the employees who came to see me. It was, I suspected, akin to a navigational problem. Beyond that, there were two ingredients to my Emotion Map, the color wheel and a quote from Spider Robinson.
“Mad, sad, glad; what else is there?”
Mad is traditionally matched to Red. Similarly, Sad is associated with Blue. That left the healthy hue of Green for Glad. Other emotions were set on the color wheel by making some estimations of triangulation.
What’s twice as far from Glad as it is from Sad? What’s the midpoint between Hope and Gratitude?
I don’t have a background in psychology and, as you might guess from any of my previous posts about Vulcans, approached emotion from an almost scientific stance. I was possibly detached. Emotion was not my field.
It shouldn’t be surprising that my map and Plutchik’s Wheel disagree in terms of placement of specific emotions. But there’s another significant difference. My map places extremes of feeling, such as rage and bliss, on the perimeter of the circle. This is the opposite of Plutchik’s illustration. In the center of his model the colors are bright, fading toward the outside. My map fades to pure white in the center.
I felt that the more confusing, mixed emotions should be in that white space. It’s difficult to tell frustration from apathy. The center of my map was part of the tool; it was the doldrums around which I hoped to help, in my HR capacity, each visitor avoid on their course back to Glad.
Although I don’t still have the original copy of the Emotion Map, and I’m no longer working in HR, I do still use this theory. More recently — within just the past year or so — I’ve begun to revisit it. I’m less detached. I’m feeling more. I am now cultivating the field of my own emotion rather than merely surveying that of others.
And I think that’s making me more effective creatively. Art and writing without emotion cannot hope make an impact, can it?