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Monday, April 28, 2008

On Remembering Dreams

If you want to remember more of your dreams, you must make a commitment to consistent effort. You won’t improve your recall if you can’t, don’t or won’t really try to, for whatever reason. Practice truly makes perfect in this. I can’t stress this enough.
Dream recall & efforts toward it are focused in 3 main areas; going to bed, waking up & while dreaming. The last involves lucid dreaming. Although many people believe that lucid dreaming is “controlling your dreams,” all it is, really, is being consciously aware that you’re dreaming during the process. Beginners need not concern themselves with lucid dreaming, however. You need to crawl before you can walk, as the saying goes, & if you crawl enough, you will eventually walk.

On going to bed;
1. Keep a pen and paper (or journal) within easy reach of your bed. You may also want to have a nearby nightlight or penlight, in case you wake in the middle of the night & need to write, but don’t want to get up & turn on a bright light. Alternately, a little, hand-held tape recorder might be good for those mid-night episodes.
2. Use repetitious, positive thoughts about dream recall as you drift off, i.e.; “I will remember my dream, I will remember my dream.”
3. As your mind slips into the hypnogogic stage (pre-sleep,) watch the images that appear as though you’re watching a movie. Remain detached but aware. This is sometimes difficult. Don’t worry much about it, but do keep trying.

On waking;
1. Allow yourself to wake naturally, without such distractions as an alarm clock or phone. Sometimes these things may wake us in the middle of a dream, but the movement involved in turning off the alarm or answering the phone stimulates the conscious mind, which can push the dream out of your memory.
2. For the same reason mentioned above, when you first awaken, don’t move around. Lie still for a little bit while you mentally review what you remember of your dream to set it more firmly in your mind.
3. Write down everything you remember (or tape recorded,) in detail, whether it’s a full blown dream or just an abstract image. This goes for waking in the middle of the night or remembering things halfway through the day—write things down immediately. Even if you set it firmly in your mind, if you don’t write it down, you’re likely to lose it again. On the other hand, if you remember nothing, write nothing. Your dream journal should be associated with dream recall, not with entries saying “I didn’t remember anything.”
3a. Sometimes you can remember more of your dream if you ask yourself questions about what you do recall. If all you remembered was “something about a woman,” ask yourself how old she was, was she inside or outside, what color was her hair, was she calm or upset, etc.? Sometimes the answers to these questions will lead to remembering other parts of the dream.

As previously mentioned, the most important part of remembering dreams is consistent effort. If you try these techniques once in a while, you're unlikely to remember any more than usual. Consistent use of the techniques will eventually retrain the brain to pay more attention to dream recall. After all, "where attention goes, energy flows."

Please feel free to share your own techniques & experiences in my comments. I'd love to read them!

18 comments:

Erik Donald France said...

All very helpful to keep in mind.

This summer, I'm keeping my alarm clock unplugged!

Lisa said...

These are some good tips. My sleep has been so terrible lately that making an effort at any kind of routine can only be helpful. Tonight -- the notebook and pen go on the bedside table...

Lynda Lehmann said...

Lana, this book is probably from before your time, but have you read Eric Fromm's "The Forgotten Language?" It influenced me a lot during my college years.

Some of us used to get together and sit in a circle with soft music playing. We would take turns relating our memories of our best or worst, and recurring dreams. The icons and symbology that came out of it were amazing, as was the feeling of relatedness that we shared during this activity!

Avery said...

It's strange; when I have regular dreams, I don't know I'm dreaming. But, when I have nightmares, it's like watching them on TV. I know I'm asleep, so I just sit back and enjoy what's supposed to be scary. What do you make of that?

Travis said...

Excellent tips. I'm like Avery...I tend to remember nightmares quite vividly, but not regular dreams.

But I've never made the consistent effort to remember my dreams. It could be worth pursuing though.

Lana Gramlich said...

Erik; Good for you. :)

Lisa; Good luck! Do try to get sufficient sleep--for your health's sake!

Lynda; No, actually, I hadn't heard of that book. I've ordered it on your advisement, however. Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the tip! :)

Avery; Well, of course everyone's different, but I think a nightmare is far more affective than a mundane dream, more likely to get your attention. You can sit back & enjoy because you know you're asleep & dreaming (aka lucid,) so you're assured of your personal safety.

Travis; It's certainly very interesting & I know I've learned about myself in the process. Dreams can inspire so many emotions, from fear to joy & much more. Some are downright funny. Some can help you with problems (finding a lost item, etc.) Sometimes they provide good material for stories, poems or paintings. It's just a whole other realm (in a sense,) available to all of us for free. Unfortunately not many people take advantage of it.

Lynda Lehmann said...

I hope you will like it, Lana!

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks for all the great tips.

I usually don't remember my dreams, but the first speculative fiction story I sold was a dream I had, with some of the illogical parts altered.

Lana Gramlich said...

Lynda; I'm sure it'll be very interesting & I look forward to reading it.

Shauna; You're welcome. I hope they help. Dreams can be a great source for creative projects! Good luck. :)

Demon Hunter said...

I have been remembering my dreams the past year or so now. They're very vivid and cool. Thanks for sharing the tecniques with us, Lana. :*)

Charles Gramlich said...

This is why you will be assisting me, or I'll be assisting you, for the dream panel at Babel Con mein herren.

Natural said...

good info lana. i don't have trouble remembering my dreams, i've very aware, surprisingly of when i'm dreaming and what i'm doing that i control them, sometimes. once i had a dream about something that i had to do and it was so REAL i almost didn't do it when i woke up because i thought i already did it. crazy weird but fun.

Lana Gramlich said...

DH; Anytime. I hope you're keeping a dream journal--half the fun is going back & looking at old dreams.

Charles; I love it when you talk German. It sounds so dirty. *LOL* I'm greatly looking forward to assisting you at BabelCon.

NW; I know what you mean! Personally I hate when I'm dreaming that I'm going to be late for work, which wakes me up in a panic, & then I realize its 4am or some such. <:\ I find lucid dreaming makes recall much easier, though. I pause every so often during the dream to mentally go over what's already happened, so I remember more on waking.

Donnetta Lee said...

Good points, Lana. I usually remember my dreams. I have vivid complex dreams that are like short stories. They are enjoyable. On the rare night that I don't recall my dreams, I feel cheated. I like to lay in bed after I wake up and just go over and over my dreams mentally and ask myself what they mean to me. Then I share my most significant dreams with my best friend, EA Monroe.
Donnetta

Lana Gramlich said...

Donnetta; I know what you mean about feeling cheated when you don't remember a dream. I hate when that happens!

Dave Coulter said...

I seem to go through periods where I will remember dreams, or not. Must be what I'm eating, lol...

Lana Gramlich said...

Dave; Have you ever tracked it to see if there's a correlation to anything? Might be interesting to look at...

Bird said...

Aside from the fact that I dabble in my dream world on occasion, this image is gorgeous, thank you for sending me the link!

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