Here are some practical techniques for recording your dreams that will also help you improve your dream recall:
• Find a journal that you like—something special just for your dreams. Keep it next to your bed. Before you sleep, open it to a blank page and leave a pen on it for the night's dreams. Think about getting a unique, unusual pen for your journal—for your dream journeying. Your preparation shows your psyche that you are serious, and inevitably you will begin to recall your dreams more clearly. Some people prefer to speak their dream into a tape recorder and then transcribe it into their journal later. Find the system that works best for you and then commit yourself to it. Don't give up!
• Use the back of your journal for a symbol and image glossary of your personal symbols, collective images, and recurring dream themes with dates that refer you back to particular dreams. Also consider keeping a blank page next to each page of dreams for future notes and interpretations. Over time, unique patterns unfold that are extremely helpful in understanding your own symbolic language and particular collective images that are impacting your Authentic Life.
• Write down your dreams immediately! Our connections to the unconscious are often fleeting and we tend to lose most dreams if they are not written down in the first few minutes after awakening. If you are unable to record your dreams right away, write down key words and images from them. This will usually bring the entire dream back. If you don't recall any dreams, use your journal to record how you felt when you awakened: relaxed, anxious, panicked, sad, depressed, etc. Your dreams play a major role in influencing how you feel, particularly when you first wake up. Writing about your feelings in your journal, even without remembering a particular dream, will help improve your dream recall.
• When you record your dreams or feelings from the night's sleep, don't censor any dream content. Record your experience no matter how strange or nonsensical it may appear to be. Also record the feelings from the dream. Trying to interpret your dreams when you first record them can be frustrating. We all have a tendency to immediately judge a dream through a left brain sort of logic—an intellectual approach that at first prompts us to think a dream is meaningless. Rest assured that your psyche does not waste any effort on meaningless dreams! You have to consciously override these first-impression judgments when you initially recall a dream.
• Consider including pertinent direct observations about dream figures and symbols in parentheses immediately after the motif/symbol to clarify known and unknown dream elements. For example, a dream might read: "I was in my grandparents' house (their actual house in Maryland)." As an alternative, connections to people and dream elements can be listed at the end of the dream.
• Keep your dream journal private! Well-intended judgments from friends and relatives can seriously hurt your dream work process. The only exceptions would be for legitimate dream groups, individual psychotherapy with someone experienced in dreamwork techniques, or a carefully selected "dreamwork partner," a close friend, partner, or spouse with whom you feel OK sharing and exploring each other's dreams. Finding a good dreamwork partner combined with ongoing practice in dream exploration and interpretive techniques is a tremendous aid to understanding your dreams and your life, especially if you prefer doing your own inner work instead of working with a psychotherapist.
We are so close to our own dreams, it's often difficult to he objective, and hence working on our dreams alone is definitely more difficult. However, do not tell your dreams to anyone who does not respect dreams or consider them important.
Improving Your Dream Recall
• Give yourself extra time to wake up gradually without using an alarm if possible. If you need an alarm, use the one that buzzes instead of a clock radio. Music or other programs tend to draw you into the waking world and make it more difficult to recall your dreams.
• Self-suggestion: As you go to sleep, speak to your psyche, repeating a brief sentence that clearly states your intent to remember your dreams, such as, "I will remember a dream when I awaken in the morning." Keep repeating your statement until you fall asleep. If you have difficulty focusing or find your mind wandering, number your statements in sequence: "One—In the morning I will remember a dream from this night. Two—In the morning I will remember a dream from this night," etc. Be patient and persistent with this process—no two people recall dreams alike. Don't feel anxious or pressured, but trust your own psyche.
• Avoid late meals, caffeine, alcohol, or other stimulants/depressants before sleep.
• "B" vitamins will often help dream recall, particularly B-6.
• Try to get enough sleep. Get enough rest to wake up naturally without an alarm. Exhaustion and stress can prevent or drastically reduce our dream recall.
• Give yourself time to unwind before sleep.
• If you notice that you are sleeping in a certain position when you recall most of your dreams, try to sleep in that position.
• If you rarely remember your dreams, try alternating your sleep patterns: Vary the times you go to sleep and the times you get up.
• Experiment with setting your alarm for ninety minutes, or two hours, or four and a half hours after you go to sleep in order to wake yourself during REM sleep. Or have your partner wake you when s/he detects your eyelids moving, indicating you are dreaming.
• Try sleeping fully clothed on top of the bed covers. This may help you stay in a lighter sleep, which can help to improve your dream recall.
• Read or talk about your dreams just before you go to sleep.
• As you go to sleep, suggest to yourself that you will recall your dreams upon the cue of some regularly occurring morning sound or event such as the alarms, birds, the sunrise, the smell of the coffee your partner is fixing, etc.
• Try wearing clothing that is a color or design that reminds you of your dreams.
• Some people have had success taping a paperclip or similar object to their forehead to create a physical trigger to symbolize an antennae to receive and remember dreams.
• Joining a dream group can stimulate and aid dream recall.
• The experience of interpreting and understanding your dreams aids recall, as does acting on your dreams insight and guidance. Cultivate your imagination during your waking life, create day-dreams and fantasies, read poetry you find inspiring.
• Use a timer that turns on a bedside lamp as an alternative to an alarm.
• When you wake up, give yourself a few minutes to lie very still and turn your attention inward. Sudden activity, like jumping out of bed, inhibits dream recall.
• Dream researcher and author Jeremy Taylor has found that "thinking backward," starting with the last dream image and using it to link your way back through the entire dream, helps dream recall. The regular practice of reviewing your entire day backwards at bedtime has been found to help dream recall, and in many instances, an entire night's dreams.
• Simply retelling your dream to your partner or to someone during the day helps recall and can also bring out more details about the dream.
Organizing Your Dream Journal
It helps to organize your dream journal with a dream index as well as a symbol and image glossary (with dates that refer you back to a particular dream). Early on, writing this book compelled me to go back and compile a dream log for my own dreams. I found myself recalling a particular dream and I had to look through five thick journals spanning the last twenty-four years and thousands of dreams to find it.
Sometimes you will remember just a dream image and you can quickly locate it using your symbol glossary. Plus it's extremely informative to see what types of symbols and images repeat themselves in your dreams. Recurring themes in dreams, as well as recurring dreams, can indicate that you still have something important to work on that you have yet to understand.
©2003. Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Citadel Press Books. www.kensingtonbooks.com
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
Radical Dreaming: Use Your Dreams to Change Your Life
by John D. Goldhammer, Ph.D.
In a stunning departure from cookie-cutter dream dictionaries, psychotherapist Dr. John D. Goldhammer introduces his powerful new approach to unlocking the hidden meanings of your dreams. By learning to navigate your dreams' multiple layers of meaning, you can use them to reveal your authentic self and begin a gratifying lifelong process of self-discovery. Using case studies, exercises, and research based on over 20,000 dreams, Dr. Goldhammer's program will help you pull the sword from the stone of your life and make the most of the strength, power, and insight you never knew you had. The result will be a life dramatically richer in spirit, creativity, soulfulness, and passion.
Info/Order this book.
About the Author
JOHN GOLDHAMMER, Ph.D., is a twice-published author, psychotherapist, and adjunct professor of psychology. He has over 25 years of experience in dreamwork, psychology, comparative religion, sociology, and philosophy. He has appeared on numerous television and radio programs around the country. Visit his website at www.radicaldreaming.com