A catagorization system for different types of getting upset

As someone with a chronic mental illness, I have developed a habit of fact checking my reactions to things rather than just accepting them. When trying to explain to a friend why he wasn’t responsible if I get surly or even burst into tears on low mood days, we eventually came up with a cool little grid thing:

Reasonable / Unreasonable

Predictable / Unpredictable

If his actions provoked a strong emotional response, identifying which quadrant it fit into would help a lot with knowing how to handle it, and what to do in the future.

Reasonable + Predictable

Typical human response. Examples include being angry at someone who is obviously insulting you, being happy when you win a prize or get good news, being sad and maybe crying when a pet dies.

Reasonable + Unpredictable

This usually has to do with moods, or associations. If a relative is ill, mentioning that relative might make you very upset because it remind you of all the negative feelings of stress and worry that are associated with that subject. But without knowing the details of your life and circumstances, the person talking would really have no way to predict that that particular thing would set you off.

Unreasonable + Predictable

Unreasonable isn’t meant as a judgement here. If the term strikes you as too judgemental, you can mentally swap it for something along the lines of “feelings or reactions that do not accurately reflect or have to potential to usefully alter the state of the outside world”, which is the idea I’m trying to get at when I say “unreasonable”.

An example of an unreasonable but predictable negative reaction from my life: I pretty much hate centipedes. I have never been (and never expect to be) harmed by one of these bugs in any way. I can’t think of even one semi-realistic situation where my fear of centipedes could be a useful or positive reaction or improve my life in any way. Seems pretty unreasonable to me. And it’s extremely predictable: show me a picture, or worse yet a live one, and I will react badly, more or less every time.

Another type of unreasonable but predictable reactions is based on some specific factor, like hunger. Hungry grumpiness is pretty common, and pretty easy to predict, but usually doesn’t have much to do with anything in the real world, aside from the hungry person’s need for a sandwich.

Unreasonable + Unpredictable

If I’m having a low mood day, and something just happens to set me off, that’s the kind of thing I mean. Or if I’m thinking about something that makes me upset, and then someone says something innocuous that I react badly to.


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