Without a written record, dreams are quickly forgotten, often as soon as an hour of waking up.
There is no good way to remember your dreams without a written dream journal, preferably on paper.
With paper, you can draw. You can write notes in the margins. It’s far more flexible.
Understanding the dream consists of more than remembering the actual dream components. You’ve got to understand the triggers as well. Without a written dream journal, even if you remember the dream, you don’t remember its triggers.
This is how you get insight into your life and the world around you.
In dreams you can see solutions
Without a written dream journal, I doubt I’d remember the precise date I saw a documentary on gypsies prompting a dream I had about Stevie Nicks. By itself, the events of the dream are odd. Considered together, the dream and the trigger provide a solution to a problem in the world. Appearance matters. A little regard in this area could alleviate much suffering for the poor people who were discriminated against in Europe.
On the one hand, this seems obvious to many people. Of course, they say.
On the other hand, it isn’t. Many would charge that the people impacted by discrimination and poverty in the documentary can’t be bothered to attend to how they look. It’s judgmental.
Cute puppies and kitties have an easier time getting adopted at the shelter than older, more homely dogs. Would-be helpers (whatever the cause) do make judgments based on appearance.
If you forget the situations and thoughts inspiring the dream, it’s harder to understand, especially a few weeks after you had the dream. Essential facts are missing. If you’re going to use dream journaling as a springboard to understand yourself and the world around you better, the triggers from your day-to-day life are as much of a part of the dream as the dream itself.
Trying to remember and understand the dreams without a record is like trying to remember every word in a long book you’ve read.
You’re just not going to do it.
Rather, if it’s a book you care about, a book to which you want to be able to refer to discuss, you will need to mark it up. You’re going to keep notes in the margin. You’re going to highlight passages.
Some people are against this. Depending on the situation, it might not be appropriate.
If you own the book, however, do it. It will help you find useful information in the future if it’s contained in the pages of the book.
It turns a book into a tool.
The same line of thinking applies to dream journals.
The dreams become tools, a guidebook to your subconscious.
People who write their dreams down are rare
Unfortunately, writing isn’t something coming naturally to many people. Even fewer keep dream journals.
One reason is they’re worried about someone reading their journal and misunderstanding them. Having a written journal makes some people feel vulnerable.
You can’t just remember some random dreams and say you’re using this method to understand yourself better.
You’ll forget a bunch. Without a journal, you’re not going to notice trends. Trends are important because they show what’s concerning you at any one time.
Without keeping a dream journal, you tend to remember odd dreams the best. You forget the subtle symbols your subconscious uses to communicate.
Any diagrams a written dream journaler keeps from his or her dreams are lost.
There’s no shortcut to keeping a written journal.
And there’s no rule saying you can’t hide your journal between your mattresses or under your bed, writing in it in secret.
It takes a bit of courage, maybe a little callousness.
However, you don’t gain knowledge and wisdom without risk.
Further reading in the series: Understand Yourself Using Your Dream Journal
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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