50-year dream journal

August 7, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
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My ambition led me to believe that I could educate you about the benefits of journaling your dreams. The story teller inside of me wanted to craft the lesson as part of a dramatic account. As I age, I realize that I must tell you about my experiment without any anticipation of benefit to you or to me.

My college advisor suggested that I write out my dreams. At that point, I was 22-years old. The challenge was tied to my aspiration to study psychology and understand myself and others. My first journal was a gold-edged book. The gold indicated that it would be special and hold treasures. After all, it was the royal road to the unconscious. I didn’t understand that the physical paper, pens, inks, and paint weren’t important. It doesn’t matter that I have 45+ notebooks filled with scribbles, narratives and sketches. What is central is that I drew out my dreams.

Drawing out your dreams

You are already actively involved with your dreams. Each night they occur and many recur. When you pay attention to your dream images, the feelings, emotions and stories become more interactive. I encourage people to record their dreams in writing, sketching, coloring and even poetry. Then, look back on them. Re-read them prior to bedtime, or page through your notebook when your feel your emotions stirred without reason. A picture is worth a thousand words, it is said. Sketching is my favorite vehicle for capturing the scene and action of a dream. But my use of the term “drawing-out” your dreams refers to the action of engagement. Recording them, reviewing them, and letting them sink in.

I have 50 years of dreaming recorded. I feel tired sometimes, but I will return to this blog page when I can and continue this conversation about dreams, fantasies, awareness, and life. “Dream Well.”

Do you have repeat dreams?

March 9, 2021 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Self-Help Tools 

Science will tell you that you shouldn’t. A chemical that is naturally released during dreaming impedes the retention of the dream in memory. Nature has wired your brain to have dreams, but not store them in ever-living-color in your mind.

In therapy sessions with veterans, they often told me of nightmares that they couldn’t escape. They not only remembered them. They feared going to sleep because of them. And at times, in the dream, relived the same story or horrific life event.

When a dream repeats, I have an eerie sense of deja vu. It is as if I am walking into a place that I have been before. If it is a nightmare, I panic to see if I can remember my way out. Usually that is not possible. The antagonist in the dream remembers and blocks the old solution. The scene then continues as it did originally, or changes in a more obtuse and dreadful way.

The routine repeat dreams are more benign. They feel like I am watching a rerun on TV. One can almost predict the dialogue. When it ends, I still have to wonder about the meaning of the dream, and why it returned last night. I consider changes I have made in my conscious world and new pressures arising from the environs. I realize that a number of different circumstances could trigger the repeat.

To me, there are two intriguing challenges presented by repeat dreams. One is that I can recall having been in a particular scene and story while the science tells me that the dream should be long-forgotten. And two, the dream originates in me and demonstrates a lingering emotional content that hasn’t been integrated into my consciousness and accepted as part of myself.

If you want to explore your dreams further, you can use my technique of capturing the content and anchoring it in your conscious mind. The first task is to record your dream in some way. I recommend a tablet and pen by your bedside. When you wake from a dream, you can jot yourself some notes as an aid to your memory.

At breakfast, or later in the day, you can ask yourself the three questions that will enable you to draw out the meaning from the dream.

  1. What first comes to mind after I write down or draw an image from the dream?
  2. What feeling did I have in the dream?
  3. What was left unfinished at the end?

As you ask yourself these questions, remember that we addressing the phenomenon of sleep and waking. I don’t expect you to have concrete definitive answers to all of the questions. They merely permit you to elaborate the dream for your own inspection. As you follow this path, you will discover an ever deepening tour among your emotions, fantasies and desires. You’ll be surprised at the person you encounter.

Face your fears: Listen to your nightmares

July 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Self-Help Tools 

Your unconscious is not stupid. Those nightmares that shake you from your sleep and disrupt the next day are actually a healing force that you might not otherwise encounter. When you are immersed in your fear, you may believe that the nightmare is the problem. No, it’s the solution.

Your unconscious possesses a wisdom connected to the depth of your being. While you’re strolling through life with countless worries hovering along with you, your mind, operating in the background, takes in everything. It doesn’t miss a beat. That’s why the conscious part has to listen.

The communication occurs within both dreams and nightmares. The scary stuff appears either in response to events in your life, or as an urgent call to pay attention.

You go on high alert
After suffering a trauma, almost everyone experiences intrusive thoughts, physical agitation, and fear. The amygdala, the alarm button inside your brain, fires at a moment’s notice. Adrenaline pours into the system. The emergency response team jumps into action. You are ready for fight or flight.
When the threat resides only in your memory, your nightmare provides a means to de-escalate the fight. In fact the nightmare is exactly the right tool.

The trauma gets replayed
Sometimes the dream becomes a slide show of select events scaring you again and again. You can’t ignore the nagging.

Symbolism in the dream can carry an emotional jolt. For instance, walking among the pyramids could mean you feel like a slave or a pharaoh.  Confucius didn’t coin the term a picture is worth a thousand words. The unconscious did.

When the dream scares you in the middle of the night
Instead of dismissing the dream, pull it close. Befriend your dream. Accept the images, the action, and the feelings as a part of you. Write it down. Sketch out the scenes if you can. Then relax and go back to sleep.
The next morning, look back on your dream journal. A nightmare can be interpreted at multiple levels. Your unconscious would have to be stupid if the meaning in the dream could be reduced to a simplistic reference to a concrete event. For example, one author said that if you’d suffered a trauma, and you have an earthquake or explosion in your nightmare, you’re on the verge of great change. Bullshit. Such a superficial interpretation neglects content, action, archetype, symbolism, and your own personal history. Your unconscious is much more complex than that. You have to decode the message, and you have all the tools you need right in front of you.

The steps to decode regular dreams are also used for nightmares
• Write it out.
• List the first thought that came to you as you looked at the dream.
• Write down the feeling you’ve experienced in the dream. This step will transport you back into the dream in the same way as Harry Potter fell into Tom Riddle’s diary. You are sucked into the imagery combined with the feeling.
• Only then can you ask yourself, “What is left unfinished at the end of the dream?”

You can go further with a nightmare
Click on the video to hear a short explanation of re-scripting.
You add a new ending to the dream. Do not change the story. That would do violence to your own creation, and possibly only because it scared the living daylights out of you. One client, intent on riding himself of the bad scene, sanitized the script and excluded a part. He acted as if his conscious mind could control the forces from the unconscious.
You can’t merely edit the dream content. You must add an ending that resolves the dilemma. The rescripting follows the nightmare just as a cork would if it were floating in a strong current. Avoid violent endings where you inflict righteous indignation or justice on some culprit in the dream. Again your unconscious is too smart to accept that type of simple solution.

You end up befriending the nightmare
Listen to the message sent from your unconscious to help you resolve the initial trauma. Look for the symbolism within the dream and the connections to your own history. You will uncover your own personal meaning and find a way free of the trauma.