Keeping a Dream Journal

I’m just 1 person who has tried to record my dreams. I don’t often remember my dreams, possibly because I don’t sleep enough to achieve the deep, extended REM cycles needed for dreams that last. But on the occasions when I do remember my dreams, I often want to record them in some way, so I’ve tried keeping a dream journal.

The most common dreams I have are quest or adventure-type dreams. There is often a task I need to complete, like something mysterious to find that will save civilization. I’m often with a group of others, all working together to complete the task. Basically, my dreams are D&D one-shots! My dreams can be complex and involved, veering off on tangents or side quests that seem important at the time. But I almost always wake up before I’m able to complete my mission, leaving my accomplishment unresolved and leaving me feeling unsatisfied. I find that the practice of journalling about the dream helps me process that emotion and bring myself a little bit of closure.

It’s also fun to try to capture all the twists and turns and odd happenings from my dream before the details slip from my mind. Sometimes I wake up, trying hard to remember what just happened and sometimes I wake up sure I will not forget the journey I just went on. But by the time I make it to breakfast, I have already forgotten most of the dream.

So it’s important to capture the dream as soon as I possibly can. I have tried to keep a number of dream journals over the years. One was a notebook I kept beside my bed so that I could jot down the details of a dream immediately upon waking. Another was a blog where I would post my dreams online. But the truth is, our dreams are most exciting to us. Hearing or reading about someone else’s dream just isn’t that interesting. The blog was great for being able to tag entries, however, so I could more easily identify patterns about the types of dreams I had, the types of people who showed up in my dreams, and any other references I wanted to cross-reference. With a single click of a button, I could bring up every dream I’d had that involved Star Wars in some way, for example. Or I could easily calculate how many good dreams versus nightmares I had had in a given period of time. Some of the dreams were intensely personal, and I would often set those entries to private. Another benefit of typing out my dreams rather than writing them longhand in a notebook was that if a detail about the beginning of a dream popped into my head later, I could just go back and insert it where it belonged rather than making a note on the paper to say such-and-such actually happened earlier on. As my dreams seem linear but my memories of them are not, being able to edit and add to the narrative was extremely useful.

I own a few dream dictionaries, but I have never found them to be all that useful. There are often symbols and characters in my dreams that are key to the adventure that done show up in the dream dictionary. It is rare, in fact, for me to be able to find entries that come close to what I experience in my dreams, so the interpretations that the books give are never as accurate as I want them to be. They do allow me to think a little more deeply about my dreams, but it’s never that I have an exact meaning to explain my dreams.

Therefore, I learned to do my own interpretations. What emotions do items or symbols from my dreams evoke? What connections can I draw to things happening in my life? How can I use what I learned in my dreams to make my current situation better? What are my dreams trying to tell me that I should be aware of? Is there something I learned in my dreams that I can apply to my life? Just like any method of divination, I believe the importance is what you bring to it and read into it rather than what the literal interpretation is.

Instead of keeping a separate dream journal these days, I will record my dreams and thoughts about them in my bullet journal. I can’t easily search that by keyword, of course, but it’s always something I have with me. I can easily jot down flashes of images that pop into my head as I try to remember those fleeting dreams. And I can put my personal reflections right there as well, as I search for meaning and connections.

Do you keep a dream journal? If so, have you found it useful?

Photo by Jaime Handley on Unsplash

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