Today’s Guest Blog: Remembering Dreams is written by Christian Gerike M.A, who teaches The Psychology of Dreams at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California.
It is Part II of a two Part series about Sleeping and Dreaming. By clicking the link you can read Part I: Sleep Well, Remembering Dream.
How you wake up, what you do upon awakening, the documentation of one’s dreams, and how one relates to the dreaming unconscious can all affect the occurrence and remembering of one’s dreams. Presented below are a few of the ways that one can enhance remembering dreams.
If you use an alarm to get up, do not use a clock radio which will intrude with thoughts that will take you away from your dream. Use as gentle an alarm as possible so that you are not abruptly pulled out of the dream world.
Keep your body in the position you have upon waking, and give yourself time to just lay there and allow the dream to come back, especially if you recall experiencing a dream just prior to waking. So, don’t move, just lie there, then record or take notes immediately, quickly jot down some key words, do this whether in the middle of the night or in the morning. If you tell yourself you’ll remember later on the chances are very slim that you will. I’ve had some incredibly dramatic dreams in which I told myself it can wait till morning, that I couldn’t possibly forget such a dramatic dream. But, come morning all I remember is that I had an incredibly dramatic dream.
Generally dreams are not recalled unless one awakens directly from a dream: this is my experience, I awaken in the middle of the night and I recall dreaming, I awaken in the morning and recall dreaming; but if I sleep through the whole night, it is generally only the last dream that I recall, the one that occurred right before awakening.
A key to working with one’s dreams is a dream journal: if you don’t already, begin keeping a journal of your dreams, use it only as a dream journal, nothing else.
Write your dreams out fully in detail as soon as you can after having a dream. Some keep a pen and notepad by their bedside to take notes in the middle of the night; others use a voice recorder for later transcription. Keep lights minimal as it will disrupt your sleep and can bother your sleeping partner, as could a voice recorder.
Write the dream down, right when you remember it. If nothing else just the main points, key words, main image, the emotion. I facilitate taking notes in the middle of the night, in the dark, by using a pen that has a light built in at the tip, providing sufficient illumination to see what is being written, to avoid writing illegibly or over what one has already written. Google “writing pen with light” to find a source for these, there are many.
If possible, record your dreams before getting out of bed, do not worry about spelling and grammar, write the dream out or just jot down notes that recall the main or most significant dream experiences, record your emotions. Regardless of how much you remember, enter it into your dream journal, it is possible to later meditate upon the dream and more details will arise.
dream during the day
One might also think about the dream during the course of the day and suddenly more details will emerge. Be prepared to take notes at any time about your dreams. It is also possible to incubate and re-enter a dream to develop it more, to get the beginning, middle, or ending portion that you may have missed.
When recording, focus solely on the dream, other thoughts will interfere with the dream memory recovery process, so upon awakening think immediately “What was I dreaming?”
Any clues – recall a mood, feeling, fragment, a scene, then try to recall what happened just prior and just after, until the dream has been reconstructed as much as possible.
When recording, do not censor your dreams; write it all down, regardless of the material. This is one of the reasons to keep your dream journal private so you won’t have a need to censor. The act of censoring the dream will distract you, take you away from the dream.
Don’t interpret your dreams at this point, do only the documentation, you can always interpret later on, but starting in on interpretation may lead you away from the dream content and you may forget some or much of it.
If you have nothing to recall, write something down anyways – about how you felt when you woke up, or what you were thinking, or even just that you remember no dreams from last night, but acknowledge the overall process.
incubation of a dream
One can also incubate a dream. If you wish to dream on a specific subject or idea or feeling, or just stimulate your dreaming in general, prior to going to sleep, meditate for 10 to 20 minutes on what you wish to dream and remember. Then, just before falling asleep, consciously breathe in and out several times, normally, but relaxed, being aware of your breathing, repeating ten to twenty times the intention that “I will remember a dream when I wake up.” Reading your dream journal prior to going to sleep can also be a way of stimulating the dreaming mind.
The more you work with dreams, the more you will experience them, the richer they will become. Dreams are always occurring; it is just a question of becoming aware of one’s dreaming world. Perhaps most important is to work with your dreams, acknowledge their occurrence, document as much as you can, demonstrate to your unconscious that you are interested in what your dreams have to offer you.