A man with a past traumatic experience developed dissociates amnesia. Every time he experiences something traumatic, his id persona hiding in his unconscious mind comes out taking over his body. This persona causes the man to transform into a powerful and unrecognizable being.

His hair, eyes and his clothes completely change. How?

When the man wakes up to his normal self, his case of amnesia kicks in without knowing his secret ability.

When he's traumatized again, the id persona kicks in and transforms in an instant.

Id: The Id is the unconscious that is impulsive, a child-like behavior of the psyche that is connected with the pleasure principle, an instinctive drive to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It is expressed as a basic motivation force that reduces psychic tension. It is the force of our needs, desires, impulses, and particularly our sexual or aggressive drives. It is the dark inaccessible part of our personality it knows no values, judgments, good vs. evil, or no morality.

You can read up on the id, ego, and super-ego by Sigmund Freud if you want more information on it.

  • $\begingroup$ If you want science based, you should add the science based tag. Otherwise, the obvious answer is, 'by magic.' $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion He seems interested in something resembling science based on the research that went into this question and the science-fiction tag. Pseudoscience, perhaps, but he does want more realism than "magic". $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: I don't think Freudian psychology goes with a "science-based" tag. Maybe "pseudoscience-based"? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 5:06
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    $\begingroup$ Me Hulk! Me angry! No magic! Gamma Rays! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ Do his hair and clothes have to change instantly? Otherwise the obvious answer is some sort of split personality disorder, with each personality having a very different look and style. Neither personality really 'kicks in' until it recognises itself in the mirror, so the transition is largely unconscious (a bit like sleepwalking). So 'id' might dress completely in black and have a dishevelled hairstyle, wheres Dr Jekyll wears a suit and combs his hair. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 14:11

4 Answers 4


Human Variant

This answer does not apply to humans with their current genetic makeup, but rather to an alternate version of humans that has extremely intricate control of all parts of it's body shape via muscular hydrostats and also control of body color via chromatophores. Perhaps mutation or genetic engineering could give rise to humans with these physiological systems.

Muscular Hydrostats For Shape Shifting

Muscular hydrostats are the mechanisms enabling octopuses to quickly alter the shape of their bodies in incredible detail. An example of the extreme shape shifting control that muscular hydrostats provide is seen here in this video.

Chromatophore Layers For Color Changes

Chromatophores are pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells, or groups of cells, that allow animals such as the cuttlefish, squid and octopuses to rapidly change color through mechanisms that translocate pigment and reorient reflective plates within chromatophores. This process, often used as a type of camouflage, is called physiological color change or metachrosis. The amazing speed and complexity of chromatophore color changes can be seen here in this video.

Shape Shifting and Color Change Clothing

Academic scientists and also the US military are researching the shape shifting and camouflaging abilities of cephalopods in an attempt to make clothing capable of transforming on command. Mind-machine connection is now possible and will likely become more common and less invasive.

All Together

When taken all together, all these existing abilities and technologies could give rise to a trans-human capable of completely transforming his physical appearance and even his clothing in an instant.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer but the man in question is not aware of their own condition; I'm not so sure they'd have military-style color changing clothes $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra It's not too far fetched to imagine that in the future people may only have one suit of clothing that morphs into any style & color at will. Once that tech is developed, how will it not become common? When the dissociative amnesia starts, the unawareness of the man's physiological changes is perhaps most integral to the plot concept, with the clothing changing being of less importance. The emphasis seems to be mainly focused on the ignorance of the extreme transformations, and I think all of the scenarios I propose are scientifically possible without going into too much handwaving. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra The internet was commissioned at least in part by the US Department of Defense yet now is used by even children to play games on. That could give plausibility to military R&D giving rise to every-day civilian technology. Some more examples. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ All of this research is awesome. I wouldn't have thought about this logic. Who would have thought octopuses and squids have these unique defense mechanisms! I can definitely see something like this work but tweaked in a degree to fit into the story @Thom Blair III $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Thom Blair III Thanks for the share Thom! I honestly didn't think octopuses were that intelligent. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 1:22

Pseudoscience is the norm from here on out

There is no 100% "scientific" way to transform a person and their clothes in an instant because they experience trauma. There are conditions that could cause the distinct personalities, and it's reasonable to think that a change in personality could release the hormones needed to tell the brain to change the body. The trigger is realistic, but the actual of change is ... difficult to explain.


  • Advanced creatures are employing this man to provide the changes they want to see, so they have implemented the mechanisms to make his changes happen. They are beyond our grasp, but we can observe what happens.
  • There are laws and forces at work that we don't understand. Science doesn't decide the forces that make the world work, it just explains them. Therefore, you can handwave forces that apply to this man because of his unique characteristics and the best we can do is explain what we see.
  • Physics that scientists do understand work differently in your world. You could conceivably rewrite the physics of this world so that this sort of change is well-understood. It's just simply due to the Law of (LawNameHere). Another name for this is magic.

Less cheating

  • Paranormal "science" which some claim is "proven" to be real turns out to be accurate. This doesn't necessarily have to involve human "ghosts" - humans don't need to have an afterlife or anything like that - but it implies that there are metaphysical processes we don't understand. Metaphysical intervention (which some theorize is possible) could do the job for you.

Hopefully not cheating

  • Humans have dormant and repressed genes. Some are activated when they're needed, while others may emerge rarely at birth or via mutation. Your character could have a mechanism that expresses dormant genes to respond to trauma, just as these changes can occur in everyday life to respond to stimuli. These genes could "change" the character and potentially do something with their clothes too (?). This idea is explored in the Doctor Who episode The Lazarus Experiment, in which a scientist cycles from human to monster and back multiple times due to a failed gene treatment.
  • This character could have a unique morphology that includes a subdermal "being" layer. His skin and clothes would tear, rather violently, off of his body, revealing the form underneath; then that layer would tear off hours later, revealing another humanoid layer. This is difficult to explain biologically (genetic modification via a virus, perhaps?) but it's interesting nonetheless. A somewhat recent TV show with a werewolf (not sure what it was called) explored this idea.
  • Quantum mechanics swap out the bodies but preserve most of the mind. Entangled particles could link the tissues, and tunneling could explain how things move. Superposition is also essential for any explanation that involves switching things out.
  • $\begingroup$ I love the different options you have listed! I like to head towards realism in a sense that something magical can be explained to a degree. The options to cheat is really attractive, but I do like the idea of the dormant and repressed genes. Thank you for this well thought out response @Zxyrra $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 11:41

I have a feeling that this is just a variation of the "by magic" answer proposed by kingledion with just a bit of "scientific snake oil", but here it goes...

Parallel universes

The man has a psychic connection with his own self in a different universe. Only that in such universe, his version1 of itself has superpowers2 (and of course, he dresses using what is normal in his world).

When stressed, the adrenaline activates certain cells of the man's brain, causing them to create an electric current. That electric current estimulates the quantum entanglement, bringing the body of the "superhero self" to this universe through the wormhole.

You can decide if the man's cerebral activity (his identity) stays in the newcomer's body of it that is replaced, too.

As you see, all perfectly rational and scientific.

1Or maybe in his Universe everybody on Earth has what we would call superpowers.

2How two beings so different have become the same individual is a philosophical one. Maybe it is because of magic. Or better, quantum entanglement due to the effect of a wormhole.


Mood, by Ralph Lauren

You've heard of mood rings. A mad fashion designer (sorry Ralph) creates an ensemble that expresses a persons emotions. Your protagonist, being known to have frightful mood swings, is targeted as a perfect guinea pig.

Might be the fashion designer even found a way to cause these wild mood swings just to see the impact they would have on the design.

Sure the results are extreme. Even the hair and eyes! But fashion loves to push the boundaries to see what new normals it can create.

If your Jekyll and Hyde is going to play both the hero and the villain he might as well look good doing it.

  • $\begingroup$ This is hilarious btw :) Thank you for the good laugh! @Candiedrange $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 14:00

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