Dreams have been regarded by everyone from ancient spiritual leaders and philosophers to modern day psychologists and neuroscientists as a window to our unconscious, an invaluable tool for introspection and determining the best course of action for the future. The periodic table of elements in chemistry was first seen in a dream, with the assistance of a dream, Frederick Banting isolated insulin and a dream of Einstein's about sledding down a hill initially inspired the general theory of Relativity.
So why would we want to remember our dreams?
- History has proven that our dreams will often deliver to us solutions to problems. Your dreams may not provide the solutions to world peace or global warming but I bet they will help you fix the problems in your own life.
- A lot of times our dreams are the most fun experiences we have all day, vividly recalling the fun of surfing a tidal wave or being a badass ninja on mission can add much needed levity or entertainment to an otherwise dull day.
- Like in the movie Inception, the dreamer can build whatever world they want within their dream. There is a theory within among lucid dreamers that building your own reality in dreams can be a valuable practice environment for building the kind of world and life you really want in your waking reality. Many lucid dreamers are highly successful people so there is some credence to this theory.
The problem with dreams is that they are really difficult to remember, within just a few minutes of awaking they can almost completely fade, especially if we have a busy morning ahead of us, the general themes of the dream may stay with us and we start our day but surely the vivid details will be lost.
Recording your dreams.
For a long time psychologist have suggested that we maintain dream journals to record our dreams. However, dream journals are actually a very impractical tool for recording dreams.
- Often in the few moments it takes to pull yourself out of bed and find your dream journal you will start to lose the dream.
- If you have a busy morning you won't have time to journal your dreams.
- Often times the most insightful dreams wake you up the middle of the night, when you're much more likely to fall back asleep then wake up and write things down.
- Turning on the lights in the middle of the night to write can mess up your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm, especially if you are recording your dreams every night.
A far superior alternative to dream journal is to use a free dictation or voice recording app on your smartphone, like evernote. There's still some drawbacks to this:
- What if you charge your cellphone somewhere other than your bedside?
- What if you forget your dream in the time it takes to turn on your phone?
- What if your sleeping partner doesn't appreciate you talking to your glaring, bright cell phone screen at odd hours of the night.
Memory Systems for your dreams. The ultimate way to capture the vivid details and introspective themes of your dreams is to start recording them as soon as our mind slips back into the conscious world. This is accomplished using this memory system:
A known sequence. The individual events and details of the dream need to associated to a sequence of events that we are already very familiar with. I prefer to use the sequence of vocations I've had in my working life:
- Grocery store clerk
- Car salesman
- Mortgage broker
- Corporate account manager
- Nightclub promoter
- Web designer
- Internet marketer
This list gives me 9 links in a memory chain. Maybe you haven't worked in as many vocations so you'd prefer to use the list of places you've lived or visited, or classes you took in school. As long as it's a list to know well backwards and forwards it will work.
Associate to the sequence. Now start with the very first detail, environment or event of the dream you can recall upon waking up and associate it in some silly or bizarre way to the first thing in your sequence. Create a really odd mental picture associating the dream environment and the sequence. For example:
Dream detail: I have a dream that starts on a pirate ship in the ocean.
Visualization: On the deck of the pirate ship is a giant grocery store checkout lane, the conveyor belt belt of the checkout lane is pulling the pirates off the boat and dropping them in the ocean.
Dream detail: I fall into the ocean too and start surfing.
Visualization: I imagine being at my old restaurant but it's full of water and I have to surf around the aisles and tables to deliver the customers their food.
Dream detail: In the water I see a past lover, I swim over to them but they don't trust me for some reason.
Visualization: I'm going to visualize my old car dealership lot as a giant monopoly board (monopoly=antitrust) instead of a parking lot where a giant godzilla like version of my ex girlfriend throwing cars around.
It will take you between a few seconds and few minutes to come up with these sequential associations and you can do it in bed, while the dream is fresh in your mind. However I do recommend once you are up and awake in the morning to record your dreams using a journal or a convenient application on your iPhone or Android. That way you can easily review your dreams over time and it clears the mental scaffolding of the of known sequence for you to use it on different dreams in the future.
Since dreams are often bizarre, absurd environments wont the visual association I make between the link in my sequence and the dream details confuse me later? Not really. This is why you use a known sequence that you are intimately familiar with, later on when you are recording your dream you will know that any dreams aspects that match your known sequence are false memories you implanted.
I particularly like using a list of my jobs or vocations for the known sequence. Each link (or job) in the sequence has it's own unique physical environment, set of tasks I did, people I interacted with along with attitudes and feelings I had about my work. Lots of elements I can use creatively to associate with dream details I want to remember.
Give this memory system a try next time you dream! What do you have to lose? Not only will this help you remember your dreams, it will also give you the opportunity to practice memory systems which are an invaluable tool in real life. If you'd like to learn some powerful applications of memory systems for social or business situations check out the AV Association Technique video course.
I'd love to hear what you are dreaming about and the known sequences you are using in the comments below!
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