It is a common misperception that our dream life is simply our brain “taking out the day’s “trash” or only unconscious wishes at play. Dreams sometimes do reflect just these things, but they offer so much more. Dreams often provide clues or precise guidance for:
~solutions to problems
~life transitions of all kinds
~confident decision making
~making new discoveries
~opening up and expanding creativity
~increased self understanding
~healing and improving relationships
~awareness & healing of emotional and physical illness
Just as there are many states of mind and various cognitive processes active while we are awake, there are many types of dreams, each with it’s own gift.
While dreaming ,we are not bound by the everyday linear logic we use to get from point A to point B . Dreams typically speak in metaphor and symbols ..even in puns. Through paying attention to our dreams, we can access types of information, intelligence and resources that normally get overlooked, filtered out or criticized and abandoned.
Ancient wisdom from the Talmud says:
“A dream un-interpreted is like a letter unopened!”
All this is well and good, but before one can learn to discern types of dreams, or begin to decipher dream messages, one must first have the capacity to recall dreams. The more you can clearly recall your dreams , the more raw material you have to work with to in understanding dream meaning. Often meaning is most apparent when one has tracked a series of dreams, or a theme over several dreams or even over a season. Dream Cycles can even occur over decades.
Once you clearly recall your dreams , or even dream fragments, then you can work with a dream expert (one who listens deeply to your whole life, not only to your dreams ) and tap your dreams for meaning, guidance and direction. So to begin….
7 ESSENTIAL KEYS FOR INCREASING DREAM RECALL:
1.HONOR YOUR DREAM LIFE & SET YOUR INTENTION :
Improving dream recall is like forming a relationship with a toddler who is just learning to use language. You do not dismiss the toddler as useless or ridiculous just because you cannot understand everything the toddler is saying. You respectfully focus on and reward the toddler for the one word you heard clearly. So it is with your own dream life.
In learning to recall your dreams you practice LISTENING TO YOUR SELF , to the non –linear language you “speak”. Through this you are building a deeper, more compassionate and fulfilling relationship with your self. Before going to sleep set your intention to recall your dreams. Actually make a statement, write it down or repeat it silently to yourself Make a statement like this : “My dream life is part of my intelligence and creativity and I now intend to remember my dreams.” Feel free to re-state this in your own style.
For a few people , setting this intention clearly is all it will take to increase dream recall.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO EVEN SMALL BITS OF DREAM RECALL:
We build relationships with others by PAYING ATTENTION to them. When you are working to bond with a child, a new friend , a boss — -anyone — you deepen rapport by respectfully paying attention to what that person is saying or even to what they are attempting to communicate.
Remember what we said above: With dream recall, you are deepening your relationship with yourself. So begin to pay more attention to even dream fragments…no matter how small. Notice and pay attention even If you only recall one color, shape ,object or feeling state of the dream . If you do not recall even these, then pay attention to the feeling state you have upon awakening from a dream. PAY ATTENTION TO THAT one whisper! Do not minimize this by saying or thinking “Oh I do not remember my dreams well”! This one tiny whispered recall is the beginning of honoring and learning your own dream language.
3. REINFORCE EVEN SMALL BITS OF DREAM RECALL:
Reinforcement encourages a behavior to increase. Reinforce any tiny bit of dream recall by WRITING DOWN whatever you can remember. Do NOT interpret as you write. Just write it down like you “saw” or felt it. As much as possible , write it down in the PRESENT TENSE AS IF IT IS HAPPENING NOW. By writing dream images and events down in the present tense you are more likely to re-stimulate the emotional states associated with the images and this loops back to more dream recall. Practice this. It makes sense and gets easier as you do this more.
4. ORGANIZE SUPPLIES TO WRITE DOWN DREAM RECOLLECTIONS WITHIN ARM’s REACH
The sooner you write down a dream or dream fragment upon awakening before the day’s events intervene , the more content you are likely to recall .
Keep everything you need for writing down dreams within arm’s reach of where you sleep. Initially writing dreams or dream fragments down by hand and not immediately on a digital device facilitates dream recall. Use a computer first , only if you must. Keep on hand:
~ a good , working pen (or two)
~ a dedicated notebook
~ a flashlight or small side table light (this is so you do not wake a bed partner or roommate and also so you do not have to get up to turn on a light switch etc.
If you can : experiment with writing in the dark…(and re-write later) so that you remain in a half sleep state, fresh from the dream.
5. RE-CREATE DREAM IMAGES WHEN APPROPRIATE
Some images lend them selves to being re-created in a number of ways. Such a re-creation reinforces more dream recall. IAs with writing down your dreams , it communicates to psyche that you are LISTENING and PAYING ATTENTION! For example,If I dream of picking apples and later baking a pie I might :~Draw a picture of apples and apple pie.
~Cut out magazine pictures of apples or apple pie
~ Go buy apples and make an apple pie
****NOTE: This does NOT mean one should re-create or re-enact everything you dream. As with all aspects of waking life, good judgment and discernment are required. Consult with a dream expert when in doubt.**** NEVER EVER ever re-enact or re-create IN ANY WAY ,ANY dream image that may be emotionally or physically harmful or hurtful to anyone , including yourself. ALL such images are symbolic and one must consult with a dream expert to understand and determine the dream communication. ******
6. OPTIMIZE HEALTHY LIFSTYLE AND SLEEP PRACTICES:
Some habits reduce sound sleep and dream recall. The factors below all can interfere with sound sleep, or R.E.M sleep and/or dream recall.
~ alcohol intake
~ marijuana use , especially within hours of sleep (many people feel this increases dreaming, which it may, but it decreases dream recall)
~ heavy eating , spicy eating, or any eating not compatible with yoru constitution, especially in the hours close to sleep
~ watching any digital source of computer screen , within an hour or two before sleep
~ poor sleep hygiene habits such as erratic sleep schedules.
7. SHARE YOUR DREAM WITH A TRUSTWORTHY FRIEND,EXPERT or EXPERTLY GUIDED DREAM CIRCLE
Sharing dreams with a trusted friend can be a beautiful way to deepen intimate friendships when there is a deeply respectful practice around this. If you are completely confident your friend will listen respectfully, non judgmentally and not offer interpretations, then sharing dreams aloud can help to reinforce dream recall, for the same reasons that writing them or re-creating aspects does. You signal your psyche that this is a worthy and important activity and that you are paying attention! If you decide to share dreams with a friend, take responsiblity for doing this is a very honoring way, such as when you are both focused, quiet and paying full attention….not on the fly or as one of you is multi-tasking.
Another option is to share your dreams with a qualified , skilled psychotherapist who is expert with dreams, either one-to-one or in a guided dream group. NOTE: While many therapists have an interest in dreams, not all have developed expertise in dream work. If you do not experience beneficial results from sharing a dream with a therapist or if the same dream repeats over many months or years despite your sharing with them, this suggests they may not have sufficient expertise. Any therapist expert in dreams should also know when it is best to NOT dive into your dreams and instead focus on more concrete approaches to moving forward.
As you work with these 7 ESSENTIAL KEYS FOR INCREASING DREAM RECALL and put them into practice over a few months, you will most likely find your dream recall improving, sometimes quite dramatically.
Please note This only addresses the issue of dream recall and does not focus on dream interpretation skills or resources. For help with dream interpretation consult directly with Dr. Hanna Chusid Ed.D
Dr. Hanna Chusid.Ed.D has studied and worked with consciousness, including dreaming, dream interpretation, lucid dreaming and yoga nidra for more than 40 years in her own life from the perspectives of every major psychological and many Wisdom Traditions. She has helped 1000s to life hack and self-empowerment through dream exploration and interpretation. drhannachusid.com
Originally published at medium.com