- Mental Health
How to keep a dream journal and learn from your own dream interpretation
It's A Dream Life!
Dreams are my single most important source of inner guidance.
Perhaps it is because I can be quite stubborn and head strong, and the only time the higher guidance could reach me is when my mind is entirely switched off, for most of my life I have had my own personal growth sessions (and entertainment) at night, while I am sleeping.
Of course it didn't start out that way. At the beginning, while I was younger, they were simply filled with amazing tales. The earliest dream I could still recall dated back to when I was five years old. I was enjoying a glorious ride on a very large Chinese dragon and it was great fun! When I was a teenager, my dreams were often so dramatic and intensely emotional that I would wake up in the morning, stunned and bedazzled, every second of it vividly relived throughout my day. I guess that was the beginning of my training as a dream-worker.
For many years, my dream life outshine my real life in its vividness and intensity. Comparing to my dramatic night time adventures, my daily life was colourless and mundane. Imagine being Harry Potter at night and then being a nobody during the day! So much so I felt compelled to start a dream journal, even though no one I know ever kept one. I simply could not continue to keep the growing numbers of dream events in my head any more, it had reached its full storage capacity.
How To Remember Your Dreams 101
Needless to say, you can hardly start a dream journal if you can't remember a single dream!
So for the starter, here are some simple tips for dream recall:
1. Every time you wake up in the middle of the night even just slightly and briefly, think back to what you have just dreamed!
I know it sounds almost idiotic, but it is the single most important thing you could do to improve your dream recall. If you happen to wake up slightly for any reason, think back to what you have just dreamed, instead of letting your mind wonder, going over what happened during the day or thinking about what you must do in the morning. The best time to think back on your dreams is when you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
2. Keep a pen and a writing pad by your bed side and in the bathroom to write down key words.
If you could keep a pen and a writing pad by your bed and in the bathroom, you can write down key words of your dreams. The benefit of that is you can then go back to sleep without having to worry about remembering your dreams. You might not have to do this for too long. Once you start to get better at dream recall, you will find you can do without the pen and pad and still remember your dreams in the morning. However, if you feel a certain dream might be important, it is still safer just to jot down a few key words.
3. As soon as you wake up in the morning, think back! Do not let your mind wonder to other things. Concentrate on thinking back and retrieving dream images.
This step is crucial to your dream recall. I've found the best time to do this is your first stop at the bathroom in the morning. It is the perfect time because you are alone and undisturbed. Prolong this visit if you have to. This is the best time to remember your dreams from the night before. When you feel you might have lost the dream, close your eyes an allow yourself to remember the feeling of the dream, and it will often pop right back in your head. Close your eyes and feel the dream.
Keep A Dream Journal And keep It Interesting!
I've been recording my dreams for over 15 years. The more I practising remembering them in the morning the better my dream recall. The less I practise the harder to remember them. But I find that if a dream is really important it will stick to your head no matter what. Yet no matter how vivid a dream is at the time, if it is not recorded, it will fade from your mind faster then a fog. It is a real shame when that happens as dreams are great resources for personal growth and creativity. Being an artist, I use my dreams like a visual bank.
1. Select a dream journal of your liking. Your dream journal is also your diary.
It is important to have a physical dream journal and not just some loose papers from here and there which you are bound to lose. The idea of the dream journal is to keep a record of your dream in a chronological fashion. In fact, my dream journal and dairy are one and the same. I am not a detailed diary writer however. I only note down significant event, physically or emotionally. When your dream journal and dairy are in the same record, you could view at a glance how your daily life and dreams interact, how they reference each other. I take pleasure in selecting every one of my dream journals; for me, it is a special relationship I am cultivating between my outer life and my inner life.
2. Record your dreams at breakfast time, or at your first possible opportunity.
Because you already have your key words or key feelings from your note, you can now use them to trigger the full memory of the dream. Write down your dreams while your are having your breakfast or morning coffee. Try to record as many details as you can if it is possible. This should include the feeling and emotion, not just events.
3. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Remembering dreams is just like anything else we do in life: the more you practice the better you are at it. I used to have a few days off in between my flying duties, so I had the luxury to approach my dream recording at leisure. The more I try to remember, the more dreams I remember. If you think we only have one or two or three dreams at night, you are wrong. At one time, I was recording up to 10 dreams a night, in great details. The highest record for me was 14. After that I decided it's gone out of hand and went back to recording only important ones.
4. Add Sketches If Necessary!
Sometimes, you will find mere words are not enough to record your dreams properly. Sometimes it might be easier to sketch what you saw. It is a highly visual experience any way. The day they invent a dream-video-recorder, I will be the first one to order! Don't worry about being accurate or good, just a rough sketch that quickly conveys the image will suffice.
How to Interpretation Your Dreams
Now what did Jung do when he asked himself what myth he was living by? He had been interpreting people's dreams. He suddenly realized one does not Interpret dreams. One lets the dreamer interpret the dream because there is no single vocabulary, no dictionary of ream images. Each person's dream is his own, in a certain way. --Joseph Campbell on Carl Jung, about Dream Interpretation -- retrieved from http://www.jcf.org/new/index.php?categoryid=106&p10012_articleid=5&p10012_page=3
Here is what's absolutely true for me when it comes to a meaningful dream interpretation: It Is Personal! The dream symbols and meanings are for you and you alone! Throw away those dream books that gives you uniformed meaning of any given image. I have looked at so many over the years and it just doesn't work that way. Your dream is a private conversation between you and your higher/lower/subconscious mind. My dream only make sense to ME and on one else in a very personal and peculiar way. An endearing way, much like talking to your own personal best friend (once you really get the interaction and conversation going). Your dream is catered to your mind, and on one else's. Some very skilful therapist are very adept at helping with dreams, but they start by asking the right personal questions and knowing your intimate details.
The importance of free association:
As soon as you finish recording your dreams, start writing down any free association to the dreams that intrigue you. Sometimes, you will find you have already started to do that as you are recording the dream. Your mind has already make the connection as soon as you write something down. But the strange thing (at least for me) is, if you don't write it down, your mind could not free associate! It is the missing link to meaningful dream messages. You could remember one hundred dreams, but if you do not start the writing process, the mind could not start the free association process, thus could not provide you with meaning. As soon as you start writing it down and start the free associating process, it suddenly becomes so clear and even down right obvious.
I had a short but interesting dream two days ago: "I am a man in this dream. I am swimming under water, but the water is more like air, intangible yet fluid. It is very calm and I feel very peaceful. Then there is a big eye in front of me. It is the eye of a dolphin. But it is so big, more like a whale ( I thought to myself after I woke up). In the dream I just know that if I could reach The Eye, which is bigger than I am, I will be instantaneously recharged. I will be enveloped by a force like electrical charge coming from The Eye and envelope me entirely. I swim closer to The Eye in a very slow and smooth butterfly. But I woke up just before the contact. "
For two days, I was intrigued and puzzled by the dream. Last night, when I was meditating, I once again gazed at a giant eye. So this morning, I finally wrote the dream down. As soon as the pen met the paper and I wrote "The Eye", it became clear instantly it is in fact The I, The I AM. Now I feel so idiotic that I could wonder about it for two days without once grasping its meaning. My point is, however obvious its meaning, you could still miss the important message if you fail to simply write it down.
A Psychotherapist's method:
My psychotherapist friend taught me a great process to gain more understanding from my dreams when the free association is not enough: Imagine yourself as one element in the dream and ask yourself what it is trying to tell you. Taking the previous dream as an example, I could ask myself: "If I were the giant eye in the dream, what was I trying to tell me?" My own answer to myself is: "I have you clearly in sight, I know everything that you are seeking and aspiring. I have all that you ever need. Come to me and you shall receive. " Of course, not all dreams are mythical in nature. I will devote a new hub article on exploring some different kind of guidances you might receive from your dreams.
Different Type Of Dream Messages And Real Life Examples:
All questions welcome in the comment section and I shall do my best to answer.
article and artwork images copyright of Vera Lin, 2012