This blog post discusses how the emotions of desire and avoidance dictate the world of a honey bee. Flowers and predators are the only things that stand out to a honey bee, and their world is mostly in greyscale. A depressed honey bee would lose the ability to see colour and would remain in the hive because there would be nothing to fly away to. An anxious honey bee, on the other hand, would see the entire world as red, including flowers, and would be paralyzed by the overwhelming redness. Alex suggests that human emotions are similar to those of a honey bee, with depression and anxiety being complicated conditions that can make the world seem gray or filled with dark red

I imagine the honey bee’s world is dictated by two emotions: desire and avoidance. When a honey bee sees a flower off in the distance, it has a strong desire to fly towards it, to rid it of its nectar. A small reward circuit lights up in its little mind whenever it comes across a flower. Similarly, whenever a honey bee sees a predator, like a bear, spider or bird an avoidance circuit lights up (or in dire situations an attack circuit).

To a honey bee, it is like their world is in greyscale, with only the flowers in green and predators in red standing proudly out against the background. A honey bee does not care about the bright blue sky, or a trickling waterfall, or a lush field of grass. Neither does it care about the mundane, like roads, bricks or trees. To a honey bee, it is as if these things don’t exist. While it sees them, knows they are there, it pays these phenomena absolutely no attention. The honey bee’s world is almost entirely determined by the green flowers and red predators.

A purely depressed honey bee would lose the ability to see colour. The flower would change from green to grey (predators too would change to grey). Flowers would have the same impact on the honey bee as an empty road. It would be as if nothing existed outside their own mind. It would simply stay in the hive and wouldn’t leave. Why would it? There would be nothing to fly away to (or away from).

A purely anxious honey bee would see the entire world as red, including flowers. Predators would take on a deeper shade of red. The greyscale world would become a sea of red. The bee would sit in the hive, paralyzed by the overwhelming redness surrounding all lines of sight. It has nowhere to escape to, everywhere is dangerous. So it sits absolutely still.

While a honey bee’s brain is much smaller and simpler than ours, I don’t believe the fundamental biochemistry is any different. We have complicated emotions and feelings, intertwined with imagination and logic. But our reality is still overlayed with a spectrum of colour between desire and avoidance, and greyscale in the background, just like the honey bee. For instance, we pay no attention to the lights above us. To us, they don’t exist until they go out.

Depression and anxiety are immensely complicated conditions and we are a very adaptable species. A person may look and sound like they are seeing the world in colour, just like you. When in fact their world could be in greyscale or filled with deep and dark red.