Hope your 2023 is off to a good start!
One of our resolutions this year is to start a dream journal. Dreams add so much dimension to our lives. They allow us to view certain situations with a different viewpoint, step into someones else’s shoes and can inspire life goals and ideas, or drive us to make impactful changes within our lives.
Everyone dreams, however, some of us have more trouble recalling them than others.
What are dreams?
Famous psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung had different theories about dreams. “Freud thought dreams are repressed content, idea, or themes,” says behavioral sleep medicine expert Michelle Drerup, PsD, DBSM. “And Jungian theory came out of Freud’s ideas and has this idea of the collective unconscious. It’s something you are carrying from your ancestors.”
The medical world is still debating dream interpretation. Although there is continuing research into the meaning of dreams, Dr. Drerup says “there's no real consistent, scientifically proven theory linking specific content to what a dream means.”
However, throughout the recorded history of humans, different cultures have interpreted dreams in different ways. Dreams are a universal human experience and there is beauty in that fact alone.
What causes dreams?
There is a lot of speculation on what dreams are and the benefit of dreaming. New evidence from research, has scientists speculating that dreams may serve the following brain functions:
- offline memory processing, where the brain consolidates learning and memory tests and supports waking consciousness
- prepares us for possible future threats
- cognitive simulation of real-life experiences
- helps us develop cognitive capabilities
- reflects unconscious mental function in a psychoanalytic way
- a unique state of consciousness that incorporates experiences from the past and present, and imagines the future
- a space to psychoanalyze overwhelming, contradictory, or highly complex emotions and ideas that can be brought together
One of the most widely accepted theories of dreams is that they serve as a pathway for memory consolidation. Psychologist and dream expert, Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., explains that dreams are reflections of our waking life.
Dr. Naiman stresses the importance of not interpreting dreams in a literal sense, but to try and remember the emotions the dream brings up. After each memory of a dream, ask yourself “what emotion does this make me feel?”
Starting your dream journal
Starting a dream journal is a simple process! They even offer apps for keeping track of your dreams, but sleeping with your phone next to your bed is not the best practice for quality sleep.
- Find a journal you love dedicated to your dream interpretation and keep it next to your bed.
- Wake up slowly. You want to write down dreams as soon as they come to you in the morning. Open your eyes, lie still upon waking, and see if you can remember any dreams from the night before. As the memories come to you, write down as much as you can, with as much detail as you can recall! If you like to draw, sketching can be a great way to remember. If you don’t have time to write full descriptions in the morning, take notes that will help you remember when you have time to sit down and write a more accurate depiction of the memory.
- Once you have the full notes and/or story down, you can begin interpreting. This is where you would want to remember the emotional association. Jot down what these memories and emotions remind you of in your waking life.
- After you have spent some time recording your dreams, you may be able to notice more patterns and themes. You will be able to connect these memories to emotions and moments in your waking life, painting a more clear picture of your dream world. This is where insight will come in. You will have a better understanding of your unconscious mind and world.
Mind Body Green has some great prompts to help you get started with your dream journal. They suggest asking yourself these questions in the morning.
- Who was present in the dream?
- How did the dream make you feel?
- Where are the themes of your dream present in your waking life?
- Where were you in the dream?
- What do you think this dream could be trying to tell you?
- How can you take the lesson from this dream into your waking life?
- Was the dream recurring? If so, why do you think you keep having it?
- Did the dream have any important symbolism?
- Draw or sketch one specific detail you remember from your dream
- Draw or sketch one larger scene you can remember from your dream
- Draw or sketch something to represent the emotions present in the dream
- Write a different version of the dream with how you'd have preferred it to go
- Write what you would have liked to happen if the dream continued
If you practice this for a few weeks and continue to struggle to remember your dreams, there could be many different reasons for it. This Healthline article has some great suggestions related to remembering your dreams and your health. There could be many factors contributing to our struggle to remember.
Dream interpretation is a deeply personal adventure; one that can be so gratifying. We wish you the best of luck on this journey!
By Remy Lunceford