Recalling and Recording Your Dreams

How to Remember Your Dreams

Everyone dreams. Not everyone remembers their dreams, but everyone does dream.

The dreaming mind doesn’t store memory the same way as the waking mind, which is one reason why we often don’t remember our dreams. Unless a dream evokes a strong emotional response, odds are we won’t remember it, and we might assume we didn’t dream at all.

What follows are some suggestions for recalling and recording your dreams (from The Complete Dream Journal by Laynee Gilbert). It’s okay if you don’t take the time to write down every dream. As time goes on, you’ll recognize the dreams that are most significant. If you miss transcribing a dream that you feel was important, don’t worry – you’ll have it again (or one similar) if the message still needs to be heard.

12 Tips for Recalling and Recording Your Dreams

1) Just before you fall asleep, tell yourself to remember your dreams, and perhaps think of a topic to dream about. (See Dreams & Problem-Solving for tips on incubating dreams.)

2) Keep your dream journal and a pen or pencil by your bed, with the journal open to the page where your next entry will be placed. Remember to date each of your entries.

3) Write your dreams immediately upon awakening. If it’s the middle of the night and you don’t want to take the time to go into detail, just jot down a few key words to jog your memory in the morning. It may be helpful to have a flashlight or other easy-to-use light source available.

4) As you write your dream, write in the present tense as if the events are happening now (e.g., “I am swimming in the ocean and I see a huge wave approaching…”). This will help you get into a state of mind similar to that of the dream state and thus enhance recall. Write as detailed an account as possible, including what people are wearing, what colors things are, and anything else you remember seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting.

5) Be sure to note your feelings during the events of the dream as well as upon awakening. Feelings can be just as important as the events in reaching an accurate interpretation. Feelings noted upon awakening can be of particular interest when they contradict the feelings during the dream. An example of this was demonstrated by a woman who shared a dream in which she was intimate with a man other than her husband. Upon awakening she felt ashamed and embarrassed about her actions in the dream. But when I asked her how she felt during the dream, she sheepishly replied, “I felt wonderful!” The shame upon awakening reflected the shame that she needed to work through about accepting and expressing her unfulfilled need for intimacy.

6) If you awaken and know the dream is on the tip of your brain but you can’t quite think of it, shut off the thinking part and try to recall instead the feelings you were just experiencing. This will frequently lead to total dream recall in seconds.

7) If you’re still having trouble remembering, use your body to stimulate recall by assuming the last sleep position you were in. Try out other possible sleep positions as well.

8) Make a separate entry of significant events, thoughts, and feelings of the night and day before. This is essential to the process of interpretation, as the majority of our dreams have something to do with what was on our mind when we went to bed.

9) Give your dream a title. For example, the title to one of my recurring dreams about violent waves was “Riding the Storm Out.” The title to the final wave dream in the series was “Safe in the Sea.” A title can help identify the dream theme and guide you toward interpretation.

In re-creating dreams through paintings the artist becomes a conscious traveler to the world of the unconscious and brings messages from this mystery land. Through painting this mystery can be unveiled.

– Fariba Bogzaran, “Painting Dream Images”

10) Draw your dream. Drawing a dream can be useful and fun, as this further invites back the creative, unconscious mind and can lead to more complete recall. You might feel inspired to draw one particularly intriguing symbol or scene from the dream, or you may choose to divide the paper and draw several scenes that relate the dream in story form. I personally recommend using colored pens or crayons, but of course it’s up to each artist to choose his or her own favorite medium.

11) Write your dream in its entirety before you begin to interpret it. Interpretation, if begun too soon, can actually block recall of important dream symbols and images.

12) Once you’ve been interpreting your dreams for a while, you might want to compile your own personal dream dictionary of frequently occurring themes and symbols. For example, if you were to look in my own dream dictionary you might find:

Huge waves = powerful emotions
Lost wallet = feeling insecure about my identity

See also:

Again and again I find that my own inner counselor, my secret dreaming self, is not only wise and helpful but usually amusing as well.

– Sheldon Kopp, The Hanged Man