It’s simple to understand that you can’t have B—the interpretation—without A,
a good record of the film and dialogue of your night movie. So the only
thing that we need to go over is how to keep a good dream journal. Some
people like to use a tape recorder. Most people write down their dreams,
more conducive to review and analysis. The format is a matter of taste, but
here is what I have learned over the years about helpful substance.
What to Do At First
It’s likely you’ll have to convince your dreams, in the beginning, that you’re
serious about them and willing to be their scribe. Go to sleep with the intent
to remember. Keep your pen, paper, and a book light handy to jot down
major concepts if you wake up in the middle of the night. This will keep both
you and your partner, if you have one, from glaring lights in the middle of the
night. By keeping the lights focused on your journal, you’ll avoid completely
waking up either of you. Dreams are best remembered and transcribed in
that hazy threshold between sleep and waking. If you sleep through the night
without a bathroom break (a good time to stop and ask yourself if you
remember anything), record first thing in the morning. Don’t even get out
of bed. Grab your notebook from the nightstand.
As you get good at this and your dreams know you’re serious, you may be
able to hang onto the info till you get your morning coffee, then go to your
computer or notebook. Even a seasoned dream scribe will do best with
the most immediacy to his or her dream state.
What to Write
The level of detail is completely up to you. I’m a Virgo; I love details. I think
they provide a richer tapestry of information. But sometimes, you’ll only
remember a snippet. Sometimes the shortest dreams are as rich as an
éclair, packed with everything you need to know. Don't ignore one of those
short but sweet ones, thinking it was too tiny for your attention. It may be like
a rare gem, small but valuable.
The best rule of thumb is to write down whatever you remember. The mind
is an amazing filter. It will just slough off what you don’t need to know and
leave the rest for you to work and play with.
How to Organize It
I write my dreams in a simple format on my computer, then print out and
prong them into a three-ring binder. This works for me. Any format that
works for you is fine. Dreams should always be dated and filed in forward
or reverse chronological order. I do several other things I have found helpful:
• Give Your Dream a Title. I know it sounds a little over the top, but
you’d be surprised how this capsule version of each dream will give you a
mental and emotional cue, especially when you’re paging through a series of
dreams over time find any patterns.
• Optional: TV Guide Blurb. This is another great technique, a little
longer than a title. It nuggets the main action of the dream, as if you were
reading the preview of a program in your local TV listings. (I'd insert it right
after the title, as an "executive summary." When you use this technique, it’s
important not to personalize it. For example, if I dreamt about a large dog
chasing me named Spot, I would not write Spot chased me, bent on attack.
I’d write, instead, A woman is chased by a mad dog. Why is this important?
Dreams are often symbolic. The dog could mean a problem or another
person who is “dogging” you. It’s important not to get too literal, or the blurb
might solidify your thoughts about the dream too early and eliminate important
• Record Your Thoughts About the Dream. While it’s still fresh, I write
my unedited ideas about what I think it might mean. Of course, you can
mull it over later, but again using the presumption that we are most in touch
with intuitive and cosmic forces during the threshold time between sleep and
waking, you will find most of your first ideas to be accurate.
• Optional: Make Affirmations to Retarget Any Fears or Negative
Feelings that Come Up. For example in a recent dream, someone was
holding me hostage by holding my car keys so I could not leave. The scene
was in my own apartment. I felt it had to do with feeling frustrated about how
long it’s taking me to get my memoir published. I wrote these affirmations: I
hold the power to my success, and I move forward with total ease and comfort.
What about Dream Dictionaries?
Dream dictionaries are fine for dreamers to use, especially when you’re just
getting started, as long as you don’t treat them like gospel. They often give
the broadest, archetypal or universal meaning of a symbol. These are
important to get to know. However, the dictionary may be giving you the
symbol’s broadest meaning, but it’s more likely that the dream is offering the
symbol in a way that’s custom-fit to you. Therefore, it’s most important with
practice to learn your specialized symbol system.
Example: There was a love in my life that took me decades to get over,
and I often dreamt of him in San Diego, even though we met and spent
time together in the Midwest. It took a long time before I deciphered that San
Diego was a pun. Keene and I had met on a beach, and San Diego meant
“sandy ago.” My brain put him in the setting where we met but updated it to
something more familiar to me now.
Another example: I dreamt of happy reunions every time I was being guided
to reconnect with someone in my past. It wasn’t necessarily a reunion with
that specific person, only a happy reunion of some sort, maybe with
someone else I knew in the past. If I didn’t pay attention to the generic
“happy reunion,” I might have never gotten that it pertained to someone else
I later rediscovered to our mutual delight.
Dreams Are a Treasure
This is a lot of work. Why is it worth it? First, dreams are a well of creativity,
including the Mecca of creative problem solving. In one of my favorite books
on the topic, the classic Higher Creativity, authors Harmon Willis and
Howard Rheingold talk about how the best solutions and creative insights
happen when we are offline—sleeping, playing, puttering—dreaming.
Another example of this is when you just can’t remember a name or some
bit of information, and the harder you try, the harder it is to remember. When
you just forget it, the answer bubbles up on its own, in its own good time.
Thinking will only take us so far. Dreaming and other right-brained activities
have to do the rest. Both sides perform vital functions. Dreams are the life’s
blood of artists, writers, and more left-brained human beings that need some
right-brained balance in their lives.
Second and equally important, dreams are a psychological sorting ground,
a place where we can express fears and feelings in a safe place we cannot
often conjure in daily life. You can dream of beating up your boss, but I hope
you wouldn’t dare do it. You can exaggerate your feelings in your dreams by
being naked—an expression of feeling very vulnerable and exposed. But
hopefully, you don’t streak down Main Street as an expression of how badly
you feel. Dreams are a safety valve like the steam release on an old-
fashioned pressure cooker.
Last but not least, dreams have an interface with our most treasured goals,
those “dreams” of another kind. When it comes to our most desired goals,
there is a great parallel between night dreams and waking goal dreams.
They both require us to have vision, to listen carefully to cosmic signs, and
to trust the process.
Soon you’ll learn that night dreams lead to viewing your entire life as a
symbol system. When a real dog chases you, it might be that someone is
“dogging you” and you need to look at this waking incident as a cosmic hint,
May all your good dreams come true … and may all the others be a great
© Joyce Mason, 2008-2013. All Rights Reserved.
Link freely, quote short passages, but please seek permission for all other uses
of the author's material.
A dream journal is a record of a
dialogue between your and your
subconscious. By recording the
dream transmission, you are
transcribing the direct, unedited
shorthand--the symbolic language
of pictures used by your mind and
spirit to convey concepts through
your dreams. Then comes the Sort-
It Detail—deciphering it.