Severing is considered the ultimate punishment for an Aes Sedai, often followed by execution. Most victims of the process experience strong depression, suicidal tendencies, and a general lack of will to live. Previously, men who could channel were hunted down by Aes Sedai (particularly Red Ajah) and caught so they could be taken to the White Tower to be gentled to remove their threat. This is changing though as Aes Sedai and Asha'man work together more. Rand al'Thor's cleansing of the taint on saidin also means that male channelers should no longer go mad, though most in the world still don't know of this feat.
Severing a person from the ability to channel is considered by most to be worse than death. A severed channeler can still feel saidin's or saidar's presence, but they can no longer seize or embrace it. It is often described to be as if part of the channeler itself has been cut away. In men, the experience of being severed is described as similar to castration. Without the ecstasy of the One Power within themselves, those who are severed usually lose the will to live, and will often die of various direct causes connected to this. Death after being severed is commonly caused by suicide, refusing to eat or drink, or simply becoming too weak to continue living.
Living on after being severed isn't unknown to happen, however. Accounts of people who survive the ordeal say that to hold on to their will to live, the presence of something else in their life to fill the emptiness left by the One Power is required. Often, this involves a great hobby, duty, or a lover.
Severing will also release a channeler from oaths made with a binding rod.
Severing was believed to be irreversible until Nynaeve al'Meara Healed Logain Ablar, Siuan Sanche, and Leane Sharif. Since then, Damer Flinn has independently discovered how to do this as well, effectively Healing the stilled Sashalle Anderly, Irgain Fatamed and Ronaille Vevanios. As the healing of a severed channeler was considered impossible even in the Age of Legends, the recent discovery is a relative unknown, and any side effects remain to be seen.
The Aes Sedai healed by Damer Flinn and Logain regained all their former potential, though in contrast Siuan and Leane after their healing were able to use only around one third of their former potential. About these cases Jordan confirmed the rumors that people that have been severed will only regain their full strength if Healed by someone of the opposite gender. It is not known if a circle of a man and a woman can heal fully or partially, but probably fully, because both halves of the One Power are used. It is also not known whether a person severed by burnout can be Healed in the same way as a deliberately severed person.
When Healed from Stilling, Siuan and Leane experienced a severe lessening of their ageless faces. Siuan even mentions that - despite returning to youthful features - her new face was more beautiful than she'd looked as a young woman. Egwene has overheard some Yellows saying that, to all their tests, both women are of prime childbearing age.
When a man is severed it is referred to as gentling. This term came about sometime after the Age of Legends and reflects the view that male channelers are like wild animals (due to their eventual madness) that must be controlled. The act of hunting down and gentling men who channel is often the work of the Red Ajah.
When a woman is severed it is referred to as stilling. Occurring very rarely, stilling is usually a punishment reserved for Aes Sedai who have committed serious crimes against the White Tower and are considered too dangerous to be allowed to continue channeling. A stilled Aes Sedai loses all title and status within the White Tower, and is usually sent away to live the rest of her life in exile before she dies.
- Tetsuan - Accused of betrayal of Manetheren during the Trolloc Wars.
- Bonwhin Meraighdin - For manipulating Artur Hawkwing, provoking him into besieging Tar Valon itself.
- Siuan Sanche - For keeping secret the existence of the Dragon Reborn from the Hall of the Tower. Her Keeper Leane Sharif was stilled alongside her.
Burning out is the act of severing yourself from the One Power by accident. It is most often caused by drawing too much of the One Power, and is fairly common in wilders when they first learn to channel. Other known causes include failed unweaving attempts, improper ter'angreal use, channeling while in a state of exhaustion, and suffering sudden trauma or shock while channeling
Detailed accounts are given of two Aes Sedai who burned themselves out. Martine Janata of the Brown Ajah burned herself out trying to use an unknown ter'angreal, and her Warder was killed by the shock of the experience. She was able to live a normal life afterwards, taking the name Setalle Anan and filling the void of the loss of channeling by starting a family. Annoura Larisen of the Gray Ajah burned herself out during the Last Battle by channeling while completely exhausted, in her dedicated effort to bring the severely wounded Galad Damodred back to Mayene and Berelain after his ordeal with Demandred.
It is not known if burning out can be healed as can stilling or gentling.