Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dream Recall

Studies show that most people dream five or six times a night. How many of these dreams do you recall? If you are like most people, you might remember one a night, if at all.

First of all, to recall dreams well, you have to sleep. For more information on catching your forty winks and a good dream, read my post on sleeping well.

Before sleep, re-read a couple of dreams from your journal, which connects you with your dreaming mind.
As you go to bed, repeat to yourself, "I will remember any beneficial dreams when I wake, either in the morning or during the night." Or, "I will spontaneously awaken when I need to without an alarm" (which can be set fifteen minutes later as a backup), since alarms can shatter dream recall.

You'll be surprised at how much more you can remember as you write, speak, draw, paint, etc. Be playful, patient, and persistent. Although most people start having success the first week or two, dream recall is a mental muscle that may require some time to get back into shape. If your recall is poor, trust that it will come in time. Trying too hard or being too serious can limit your progress.
Dreams thrive on attention. The best way to improve dream recall is to record one dream every morning. This builds a connection to the dreaming mind. The part of your mind that creates dreams is exceptionally sensitive and responsive. Your subconscious mind responds to any interest you show in your dreams. So as you pay attention to your dreams, it responds with rich, profound dreams. And as you regard your dreams as important, they will become more relevant for your waking life.

Record your dreams right upon waking. If you cannot remember any of the dream, gently move back into the position you woke up in. Magically, it is as if the body holds the memory of the dream. With your eyes, closed see if you can recall an image or a feeling. Allow yourself to move back into that image or feeling. See if you can pick up a piece of what happened right before that. Continue in this way until you have gone back as far as you can with the dream. Then review it forward. Once reviewed, gently slide your dream journal over and begin recording. You may even find in the act of writing the dream, it almost slides down your arm into your pen and on paper. New insights come with the writing of it.

If you cannot recall a dream like this, write whatever is on your mind when you wake in the morning, even a fragment or vague feeling. No fragment or dream is too small or too ridiculous. Record the dream right upon waking. If you wait until later in the morning or after a conversation, the dream is usually diminished or gone. Write the dream in the present tense to bring you back into the experience of the dream. "I am walking down a rocky road...." Record everything, including how you feel. Especially note two things: anything bizarre or unusual in the dream and a central dream image if there is one (an image that carries particular power for the dreamer). Don’t immediately try to link the dream to anything when you're writing it down (i.e. don't try to analyze it). Even if you feel like the dream is "meaningless," don't throw it away. Ignoring dreams results in reduced dream recall.

I find that whenever my recall is limited, I either give myself a break from dream work for a few day or weeks (respect the need for an ebb and flow with dream work) or I write down something... anything. The first day, perhaps all I write is "I wish I remembered my dreams." The next morning I might write: I dreamt something about a fish. The next day I might write: I woke up with a song in my head. A day or two later I am recording full-blown dreams.


Genie said...

I used to keep a notepad by the bed for writing dreams in the night if I awoke, but I'm always so groggy upon waking in the middle of the night that my handwriting is illegible! I need a laptop in bed with me!

But, yeah, doing it first thing in the morning before I even move is the best way for me. The second I sit up the dreams start to vaporize.

Laura said...

I've had that happen where I write something I can't read in the morning! Some people say they just write down one word and then in the morning that one word triggers a recall of the dream. That hasn't worked for me, though.

Genie said...

I've tried that, it doesn't work for me either. I just end up spending the entire day wondering what I meant by, "cartoon dragon."

A digital recorder doesn't work for me either, I'm far too groggy to SPEAK.

I do think I could type it though.

Meg Wolff said...

Great advice on dreams. I find this information to be true for myself. I'll definitely read more & add your interesting site to my blog roll.

BTW, I came over from San's blog. Thanks.

Merelyme said...

I come up with some of my best creative ideas from dreams. I am one to sleep on a problem and the next morning...well sometimes...I have it figured out.

Your blog is fabulous and I am glad I have found it!

Laura said...


I'm glad you found my blog, too. I have a feeling you'll have a lot to contribute. I'm especially interested in how creative ideas come from dreams!


Laura said...

Hi Meg,

I hope you contribute to my blog as well. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas about dreams!


Lisa Marie said...

This is a very interesting blog! I love the idea of analyzing dreams as a door to your inner psyche.. but what do you do if you don't recall dreams at all?

For as long as I can remember, I would never remember dreams. Maybe one every 2 months or so and they were very cloudy. The only time I had any complete memory was if it was a nightmare, which of course was not something I ever wanted to remember. Is there such thing as a mental block to keep you from remembering dreams?

Laura said...

Hi Lisa Marie,

Yes! You're absolutely right. The mental block can take various forms. It's sort of like negative self-hypnosis in that you are telling yourself, "I won't remember my dreams, I never remember my dreams, my dreams are always nightmares, my dreams are silly and mean nothing." And of course, this is a self-fulfilling prophesy. What you could do is this: while you are falling asleep, tell yourself, "I have vivid, interesting dreams," or "I have wonderful dreams and remember them." Say this to yourself twenty times or more as you are drifting off to sleep. If you can stir up some feeling about it (excitement, curiosity, interest) it will help give you a dream. Get back to me on how it goes!