CameronUluvara

Formless is a child

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A theory about Formless based on psychology.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called multiple personality syndrome) is a reaction to trauma that is intended to keep difficult memories at bay by becoming a different person.

It's often theorized that this disorder affects Shallan and combines with her powers to form Veil, Radiant, and most recently Formless.

Most of those with DID don't have more than three or four separate personalities. Shallan only has one more Ideal. Therefore, I think it's safe to assume, both from the Radiant Ideals perspective and from the psychology perspective that Formless is the last new personality.

Because of the way DID begins, the interesting thing about those who suffer from DID is that no matter how many personalities they have, from two to twenty, there is usually a dominant personality and ALWAYS a child personality. We already have the dominant-Shallan-but we don't have the child personality from when the disorder first started (because DID almost always starts in children)

Brandon Sanderson does his research, and I think he'll try to make Shallan's disorder as real as possible by making Formless the child personality.

Also, what else could be the purpose of Formless? There's been a lot of debate about what usefulness Formless is supposed to have to Shallan; and really, there can't be anything useful about another personality, except that she needs to confront the child she was to move forward.

And that's why I think Formless is a childhood Shallan.

 

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Its certainly one option, although I would argue that pShallan is the child persona. She tends to be the most "silly" of the three, and is the least inclined to face difficult situations. She is the personality that has changed the least since the books started and she passes many of her "adult" responsibilities to Veil and Radiant. For example, she passes the HighPrincess duties to Radiant and most of the Ghostblood stuff to Veil. In contrast, pShallan is the one that goes back to her brothers (she even talks about wanting to run to Adolin because she doesn't like being the adult in the room). She also is the one who wants "adult" approval from Mraize as a father figure. 

I would argue that Formless is the protector personality. It may be non-verbal or have limited vocabulary. It may be masculine. I believe it is the primal drive to survive and is only allowed out when all other coping mechanisms (which have been divided between the alters) have failed. The alters fear it because it is instinctive rather than logical and it cannot be reasoned with. It also may be the alter that killed her mother, and killed Tyn, suggesting it is capable of very extreme acts . Arguably, it may have been bleeding through when Shallan killed her father *if* we assume that her feeling "cold" (usually during very stressful moments) is a sense phenomenon of Formless stirring (eg like a psychic sensation she describes as cold because she has no better mental descriptor of losing control over it). 

She needs this part of her personality - we all have it, but it is scary to her because it lacks the context of the rest of her personality. It is a useful part of her personality because it is her protector. If we assume it is a protector personality, then it makes sense that she would fear it, I am less certain that she would fear it if it were a child persona, even with the memories being a problem. She could have attached those memories to Formless if it was the only one among them able to contain those memories because it has lower intelligence/understading.

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I have been thinking that Formless might possibly be the “real” Shallan. My reasoning for this is that she is scared of Formless and obviously scared to confront whatever caused her DID to start. Two fears that she doesn’t realize are one and the same has a nice symmetry from a story telling perspective. And there’s nothing in this theory to rule out that Formless is also a child... maybe the Shallan that was abandoned at the time of the trauma? Which would obviously still be a child. This also opens up the possibility that Shallan isn’t scared of Formless because it’s evil or another personality to contend with... but she could be scared of Formless because Formless is a wounded, scared and powerless child and returning to that... well who wouldn’t be terrified. These theories are definitely not mutually exclusive. 

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Well I would agree that my theory is that Formless was "formed" when Shallan was a child... Whether or not that means that identity has been locked in at that stage, I couldn't say. It's a very interesting prospect, though.

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On Wednesday, November 11, 2020 at 1:49 PM, Stormfather's Beard said:

Its certainly one option, although I would argue that pShallan is the child persona. She tends to be the most "silly" of the three, and is the least inclined to face difficult situations. She is the personality that has changed the least since the books started and she passes many of her "adult" responsibilities to Veil and Radiant. For example, she passes the HighPrincess duties to Radiant and most of the Ghostblood stuff to Veil. In contrast, pShallan is the one that goes back to her brothers (she even talks about wanting to run to Adolin because she doesn't like being the adult in the room). She also is the one who wants "adult" approval from Mraize as a father figure. 

I would argue that Formless is the protector personality. It may be non-verbal or have limited vocabulary. It may be masculine. I believe it is the primal drive to survive and is only allowed out when all other coping mechanisms (which have been divided between the alters) have failed. The alters fear it because it is instinctive rather than logical and it cannot be reasoned with. It also may be the alter that killed her mother, and killed Tyn, suggesting it is capable of very extreme acts . Arguably, it may have been bleeding through when Shallan killed her father *if* we assume that her feeling "cold" (usually during very stressful moments) is a sense phenomenon of Formless stirring (eg like a psychic sensation she describes as cold because she has no better mental descriptor of losing control over it). 

She needs this part of her personality - we all have it, but it is scary to her because it lacks the context of the rest of her personality. It is a useful part of her personality because it is her protector. If we assume it is a protector personality, then it makes sense that she would fear it, I am less certain that she would fear it if it were a child persona, even with the memories being a problem. She could have attached those memories to Formless if it was the only one among them able to contain those memories because it has lower intelligence/understading.

That's a great argument but the 'child persona' isn't just childish but should also have the mannerisms and vocabulary of a child. Shallan's not as mature maybe, but she doesn't still act like the nine year old (or however old she was) when she killed her mother.

I do like your theory of the protector personality, (but that does make it sound like the 'id' from Sigmund Freud's crazy theories of the personality; the id is the unformed part that houses all of the instinctual drives and I've never liked Freud)  and you've got great examples for it. The one flaw is that when we first see Formless named, its not in a life-or-death situation. All the other personalities we've first seen in the part of her that it eventually took control of. Veil when she first went to meet the Ghostbloods, and Radiant to handle her sword and other radiant abilities. Formless showed up kinda randomly when she was talking to Adolin about the mission, but not when she was alone with the murderer Ialai Sadeas.

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On 12/11/2020 at 2:35 PM, RazeU said:

I have been thinking that Formless might possibly be the “real” Shallan. My reasoning for this is that she is scared of Formless and obviously scared to confront whatever caused her DID to start. Two fears that she doesn’t realize are one and the same has a nice symmetry from a story telling perspective. And there’s nothing in this theory to rule out that Formless is also a child... maybe the Shallan that was abandoned at the time of the trauma? Which would obviously still be a child. This also opens up the possibility that Shallan isn’t scared of Formless because it’s evil or another personality to contend with... but she could be scared of Formless because Formless is a wounded, scared and powerless child and returning to that... well who wouldn’t be terrified. These theories are definitely not mutually exclusive. 

This is not how DID works. In DID, the real personality is *all* the personas put together. Think of it like this. When we are small, our personalities are like clay. Over time and with appropriate and healthy attachment to others (parents being crucial in this) the personality hardens into a single form which has multiple facets, like a crystal (indeed we call it crystallisation of personality). So we have lots of "sides" to us, because in different situations we can show a different side to our personality as we need to. In DID, something traumatic smashes the clay and splits it into loads of little pieces. Usually a single biggest piece becomes the main personality (for Shallan, this is the alter I call pShallan - it has red hair and is the one with the skill in drawing etc). However there are still loads of elements of the personality that are in little pieces. Over time, those lumps coalesce and can be put together into other alters, in this case Veil and Radiant. It is unclear how defined Formless is, but I suspect more formed than pShallan wants to admit. The point is that pShallan *is* Shallan, Veil *is* Shallan, Radiant *is* Shallan and, and Formless *is Shallan. But Shallan is not *only* one of these, she is *all* of them.

23 hours ago, CameronUluvara said:

That's a great argument but the 'child persona' isn't just childish but should also have the mannerisms and vocabulary of a child. Shallan's not as mature maybe, but she doesn't still act like the nine year old (or however old she was) when she killed her mother.

I do like your theory of the protector personality, (but that does make it sound like the 'id' from Sigmund Freud's crazy theories of the personality; the id is the unformed part that houses all of the instinctual drives and I've never liked Freud)  and you've got great examples for it. The one flaw is that when we first see Formless named, its not in a life-or-death situation. All the other personalities we've first seen in the part of her that it eventually took control of. Veil when she first went to meet the Ghostbloods, and Radiant to handle her sword and other radiant abilities. Formless showed up kinda randomly when she was talking to Adolin about the mission, but not when she was alone with the murderer Ialai Sadeas.

We see formless type feelings even in tWoK - its trademark is her "feeling cold" and becoming emotionless/emotionally stunted. We see it manifest when she kills her father (age 16/17 and when she kills Tyn (age 17). It may not have existed as a discrete thing before that, but it almost certainly existed in a discrete form (albeit unrecognised) before Veil because Shallan blacks out when it manifests. She blacks out a lot, and it is likely dissociating to another alter - one that presumably has limited communication because it leaves her drawings, not explanations. Arguably, a child persona would not be able to communicate this way - it would lack the skills and understanding to attempt this. I'd expect to see childish drawings or other evidence of play if this were the case, even if Shallan had no memory of those moments. It stirs whenever pShallan or the other alters are afraid to confront something. pShallan isn't afraid of Ialai Sadeas, so she doesn't need it. She *is* afraid of memories though, and she is afraid of confronting them. 

From my (albeit limited) research into DID and OSDD, separate personas don't really manifest until late adolescence (ie Shallan's age in tWoK).  This is because the "main" personality is newly unable to cope with the additional pressures of adulthood because it doesn't have many coping mechanisms - so "new" personas manifest as the facets of personality coalesce into discrete personas to allow the person to use multiple coping mechanisms. Thus the "child" persona may become much less childish because *if* it is also an apparently normal persona it might be the main persona and thus can grow and change. Child personas that remain more childish are generally found in individuals who use an adult persona as their "main" persona early on. Shallan's best option in her household was to remain childish - it was the safest option for her, in part *because* she killed her mother, although realistically she likely had this fragment of personality in place before her mother attacked her based on the natural history of DID. Additionally,we don't know what her original trauma was, so perhaps her remaining childlike was a better bet than becoming more worldly in that context.. In many households IRL, a child persona is risky, so they tend to manifest later in life as a coping mechanism (often as an escape mechanism) to avoid stress or responsibility than another alter is ill suited to handle. In those settings, the "child" persona would, of course, remain much more childish because it won't have matured in any meaningful way. 

As to the id, while this does feel very id-like, it is more complex than that. Like lots of things that relate to Freud, there are elements that are useful, many that are oversimplified, and yet more that are wrong. In this case, the reason I am assuming it is more basic is because it definitely doesn't communicate well. Its drawings are too complex for an id in Freud's understanding. It manifests in the places, and for similar reasons, but unlike Freud's id, we aren't talking about a straightforward lizard-brain that exists independently in all people (which of course doesn't exist). In Shallan's case, it is capable of some limited rationalisation because it draws things like the Thrill long before pShallan has seen them. There are many id-like qualities in the concept of a protector persona - but only because Freud was recognising something true, even if his theories of personality were flawed. We *do* all have a side to us that is capable of anything in the right situation - eg to kill in self defence, it is just that I believe this part of Shallan's personality is  separated from her other alters in a way that simply isn't true for people with a fully crystallised personality.

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Wait, hold y’all’s horses a minute-where are all these arguments about ‘feeling cold’ coming from? Durkon’s paradox, that can’t be right! The first example you gave can’t be formless/id  personality because that was Re-Shephir. The cold feeling, the feeling of wrongness, the strange drawings, that was all caused by the Midnight Mother. Renarin felt it too- remember the blanket?- and the weird drawings and cold sensation went away after they drove her away from the pillar. That’s not related to Formless. The second examples aren’t right either. That‘a Durkon’s Paradox. (Not everything is related to her disorder.) When she killed her father, and when she killed Tyn, the description of the ‘cold feeling’ is different and matches the symptoms of shock. She was in shock; that’s a normal reaction and has nothing to do with DID. And the few other times she describes something like a ‘cold feeling’ the situation and description match anxiety. Something in the present reminded her of something in her past that she didn’t want to think about because she was afraid of others finding out about it. She got that anxious feeling about all of her secrets: the one that created Veil and the one that created Radiant but she mentions no kind of ‘cold feeling’ when Formless stirs in her in Rhythm of war! How can any of this be related Formless?

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My point with the drawings is that *she* did them but had no memory of them. That means it was an alter operating without the knowledge of any of the named alters. This is the likely to be the alter she calls formless.  There is no reason to think that she didn't do those drawings herself. She also feels cold multiple times in other stressful moments before blacking out (don;t we see her find other drawings in this context in WoR?)- where she loses time because the persona is no longer in control. This is seen *multiple times* when she faces things that frighten her in tWoK and WoR. Once Veil and Radiant come along she fades out less because one of them takes over instead. Why it happened now is presumably because she was afraid of what was going on in Urithiru. Clearly Reshepir was making the radiants uneasy - hence Renarin also feeling her *but* I think it is Shallan's particular situation that has her draw things out unconsciously - if it were something Re-Shepir was doing, Renarin would also have strange drawings, but that isn't what he is describing. They share the feeling of wrongness, but their responses to that are different because they are different people.

She regularly feels cold when afraid and then frequently does things that are out of character for the pShallan - this is indicative of another alter taking over (eg killing her father and killing Tyn). "Shock" is not defined as an emotional response in medicine - it is defined as inadequate blood supply to vital organs - usually blood loss but any critically low BP causes it (eg a heart attack or spinal shock) Your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive, trying to maintain BP so you might look the same as someone readying for a fight or flight response, but it is critically different. You are not "in shock" medically speaking if you are very scared - indeed the normal response is to raise your heart rate, resp rate and BP to be ready for a fight or flight response - and you break out in a cold sweat because blood is shunted away from the skin, exactly the physical feelings she has but she adds the emotional blunting (likely partial or complete dissociation) to it as well and *then* she acts in a way pShallan couldn't do - which suggests an alter takes over. My point is that a protector alter *would* emerge during a fight or flight response because that is it's job. I would argue that when she fights Tyn the "FIGHT" that she thinks is actually formless, not pShallan.

In medicine you use the principle of the simplest explanation that covers all the symptoms to begin diagnosis. One condition causing many symptoms is *much* more likely than many conditions each causing one symptom each. If you have left arm pain, jaw pain, cold clammy feeling, chest pain, a "sense of impending doom", abdominal pain, pallor and nausea/vomiting, it is a heart attack until proven otherwise, not a stomach bug with pneumonia and angina all combined with a panic attack . Shallan has a pattern - when she wants to avoid something unpleasant, she forces herself to not think about it and if she can't stop the thoughts, she feels cold and then goes blank. In RoW we see her let another alter take over to avoid thinking certain things - it's the same pattern, only this time, the alter that takes over is one she knows and can communicate with, and it does so before she gets the cold feeling that I think is associated with formless. Having some alters that are not communicative is not unheard of in OSDD. 

Durkon's paradox might work in the Reckoner's but it isn't the basis for a diagnosis in a real-world condition - and when identity is involved almost *everything* relates to it because it is the very basis upon which we think and behave. People don't act "out of character" except during dissociation (where the personality no longer has control in any meaningful sense), when we use this phrase, it is almost always an unusual set of circumstances that results in the person behaving differently from their "normal" behaviour - which is all about context - they are acting according to their personality but in unusual circumstances. DID is literally a dissociative state, so pShallan acts in one way, Veil acts in another, Radiant in a third etc. Durkon's paradox is most useful  when it makes you consider other alternatives if your hypothesis keeps failing to find a prediction. If I am right, I would not be surprised to see *more* of these kinds of weird drawings (like the drawings she does of the fireplace from her home in Jah Keved - which was done a year after Reshepir was banished) until she reintegrates. Eventually we will see formless act to protect her during this book or the next as Shallan reintegrates her personas and she will gain the memorises that the protector holds currently to protect the rest of the personality from them. She will stop having fade-outs or time-lapses when she reintegrates fully.

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Are you saying that Formless drew the cryptics standing around her in Way of Kings? Because chapter 13, the chapter of RoW that I think you’re referring to, is more similar to the WoK than to blacking out. And how could formless take over enough to make her draw what Formless wants her to without interfering with the artistic ability that only Shallan seems to have? She doesn’t seem to be fading out in RoW, just thinking about other things while drawing. Multi-tasking.

As for your examples of being emotionless (perhaps shock was the wrong word) the writing in the first three books is still more consistent with trauma than any other psychological disorder. A traumatic experience like being almost killed by, and then killing Tyn left Shallan unnerved, but if an argument is to made that another personality took over, it was Radiant, not Formless. The purpose, delivery, and conciseness is very Radiant like, even if she is a bit more emotional than we have seen of Radiant. But then, we haven’t seen Radiant in a situation like that. 

Your point about blanket diagnosis is excellent, but the symptoms simply do not match DID, but do match other factors like the trauma she was currently experiencing. 

At this point I’d like to bring back the argument that Sanderson would make Formless the child personality simply to be realistic and consistent with the majority of this disorder. 

(What is OSDD?)

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Looks like we were all wrong

On 16/11/2020 at 4:34 AM, CameronUluvara said:

(What is OSDD?)

Have a look at this: https://did-research.org/comorbid/dd/osdd_udd/did_osdd

 

Side point, I do not think the representation of DID in this book was very good *assuming* Shallan's description at the end is meant to be right. To be clear, it would have been better for Formless to be the child personality than what we got which seems to suggest that he hasn't understood how the personas in DID really work. 

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Shallan does mention in RoW early on that she has been researching and reaching out to other people with alters and found that her experience didn't quite match theirs. I think this is Brandon's way of saying that she isn't going to perfectly represent real world DID because magic and plot and authorly reasons. It is really interesting to read all of the opinions and thoughts on this thread though! Thanks for sharing them!

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According to a recent YouTube video, Brandon originally planned to have it be a magical malady but then ended up going the more realistic DID approach. He had to do a massive rewrite in the revision process to fix her scenes. But earlier this year I think he mentioned she'd have her own special version of DID. So, magical malady with realistic vibes.

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