Thursday, September 19, 2013

What makes a dream journal different from a waking journal?

Just as creative greats and average folk from the past and present have done, you can use dreams to inspire your own poetry, fiction, painting, jewelry making, music, solutions to global issues – or to simply help understand your personal life and others. Some basic questions remain. How can you better remember your dreams, then interpret them and use your dreams as inspiration or as a tool of insight? One of the best ways to better experience, savor and reflect on your dreams is by keeping a dream journal.

If you already maintain a “waking” journal, you might want to start a separate “dream journal.” Why separate? According to the experts, it’s best to record dreams in a different manner than you would your waking hours in a journal.

In daytime journals, what stands out is the exploration of the “why” of things, centering on what you’ve done or could do, what you feel or hope to feel, and how you respond to others. In your daytime journal, you need to build on the reasons you act and feel the way you do.

On the other hand, since dreams are so weird and wiley to begin with, it’s vital to write them down in a factual, journalistic manner rather than begin analyzing them right away. In dream journals, simply capturing “what” you dream should be the goal, before the dream images slip away. In dream journals, you need to deconstruct, not build.

Focusing on the “what” will help you both gather and organize those loose and far-flung dream images that played in front of you the night before. Your dream journal is first a record of the “what,” and also the “where” and “when” of your dreams. Save the “why” for later, as I’ll explain below.

Dreams, on an ever-flexible time frame, can jump from past -- to future -- to present all during one dream. But surprisingly, you are always right there, in the moment. Your dreams may careen across the spectrum. Again, that’s reason to rivet your journal focus to simply recording your meandering path and not trying to explain it. In the midst of an actual dream, you are not looking back on yourself and saying, “Why am I dreaming this?” Instead, you are totally involved as an active participant in your dream, no questions asked.

In a waking journal, you want to break out of the chronological world of seeming step-by-step reality, by add creative asides, ongoing insights, ironies, memories of the past and anticipation of the future. You want to ask yourself questions, to cross-examine yourself to dig deeply for the “why” or “why not” of things.

Such self-analytical questions should arise in regard to your dream journal only if and when you’ve recorded a good 20 dreams or so. Since you’ve kept your dreams together in a separate journal, it’s now easier to go back and skim for recurring symbols laced through your several weeks or months of dream notes.

After you’ve logged this score or so of dreams, go back to circle or underline repeated images. Do you find two or more symbols that seem to stand out in your dreams? Are they trains, children, stairways, dogs or flying? What are they? Are they things or people – or are they emotions or feelings such as nausea, fear, sexual excitement, confusion, thirst?

Then look at the context in which these symbols occurred. Is there a pattern? What do these symbols mean to you personally? What emotions do they evoke? Do they relate to anything going on in your waking life? Do they represent something from the past you still need to deal with? Do they have any implication for the future? What images give you that “a-ha” moment, that spark or nugget that might serve perhaps to launch a new creative work?

Only you can answer these questions as you become more involved in remembering, recording and making use of your dreams. Your emotions can boil over like a heated caldron of water, can split your world in two like an earthquake, can wash away past hurts like repeated waves rendering a shoreline smooth. Your dream images may relate to something that has or can actually happen, or to an emotional or sheerly symbolic condition. Know that by merely starting a dream journal, you automatically give your deeper self a signal to pay more attention to your dreams.