Old Dream Journals May Have The Answer To Your “Why”

Why did I do that?

Why did it all turn out that way?

Knowing what I know now, what would I tell my younger self?

You look back at your decisions. Some you judge to have been good, others bad.

It’s easier when a few years have passed. The emotions have dimmed, if only a little.

A name for the game could be “If Only.” You see opportunities missed, hopes that didn’t pan out, and strokes of good fortune. Perhaps the most remarkable are the strokes of good fortune and terrible luck. You sit amazed and ask, What the hell were the chances of that happening?

Sometimes If Only can be a painful game. It doesn’t have to be, however. If you can learn the lessons from your past, you can avoid mistakes in the future. If you do, that means less pain overall.

Be kind to yourself. Be constructive. When you reminisce, maybe follow the format of an After Action Review.

Keep your old dream journals. They might help you clear up questions about your past.

There are two basic parts to every real-life story

Every life is a story.

There’s an overt story.

The overt story describes what happened.

Our subject (you) went there. They did that. Then that happened. Then the next thing.

There’s a covert story too.

The covert story describes why. This is not always so apparent.

Why did our subject go there? Why did he or she do that? What did our subject hope was going to happen?

Understanding the “why” can be difficult. When looking back, decisions can be puzzling. Coming up with these reasons can involve no small amount of speculation.

When it comes to reading about someone from the past, there will be a different zeitgeist. Parents, neighbors, teachers, friends, siblings, TV shows, movies, random people you meet, and even a rainy afternoon, influence you on the interior. They don’t always get the credit they should in the objective story; the overt reason you make a particular decision.

That’s even true of yourself when you read about yourself from fifteen or twenty years ago.

All of these buried influences can come out in an old dream journal.

Reading your old dream journal gets you in touch with your old feelings. You see how you developed over time. You’re not the same person you were back then. You’ve grown and changed, for better or worse.

Your life, the period covered by your dream journal, is spread out in front of you like a town viewed from a mountaintop.

You didn’t always know the lessons you take for granted now.

You may have regrets about how things turned out. Regrets over wasted opportunities. Things you should have done better. Problems you didn’t see. Regrets are inevitable because we’re always looking back over the past with the benefit of clear hindsight.

In the past, you were answering a different call. You didn’t know then what you know now. You wanted to do different things and had different reasons for wanting to do them. Other thoughts occupied your mind.

Perhaps it would have been nice to act differently.

Old dream journals can explain what was going on in your interior.

Old dream journals often end up at the bottom of a box

Once a journal is used up, it goes out of your day-to-day life.

You may throw it to an old corner of your desk or room, never to look at it again.

You may put it into a box. The box is filled with other things and is stuck in storage.

It becomes buried treasure, buried under so much other detritus from your past.

Maybe it deserves a little better treatment than that, primarily when it deals with the period before you changed in some way.

Today, looking forward, you’re looking into the unknown, the nascent future.

There are unknown influences on the way everything turns out, then as well as now.

Priorities that aren’t as obvious.

A destination you can’t be entirely sure of.

People admonish us to look forward, not back. However, in time, sometimes we can’t tell where we are except by looking back. Looking backward is looking forward if done in the right way. Maybe the big value of old dream journals is that they’re the notes with which we can approach the test of life. Perhaps we can finally solve some of the riddles.

As William Wordsworth wrote, “The child is the father of the man.”

Knowing where you’ve been can help you understand where you’re going.

Further reading:

What you know and don’t know.


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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