Dreams are the best show in town. Write them down
I traveled in space, in time and I became a superhero. I have been friends with many celebrities. I made new memories with my friends and family, some of them deceased. I have committed terrible crimes. And I saved the day, many times.
Our Sleeping Spirit is a private theater where you are the director and usually the star, and there is no limit to the production budget. Yes, some of them are boring (the majority of mine are about work), but many are entertaining, incisive, and sometimes problem-solving oriented. That’s why you should consider turning a blank notebook into your first dream journal.
There is little scientific research on the benefits of dream journaling, but those who practice it find it helpful or insightful at best, and interesting at most. less.
The first potential benefit of dream journaling is that it can lead to creative breakthrough. Your subconscious dreaming mind is, by nature, more inventive. Your dreams jump in time, make leaps in logic, accept contradictions, and sometimes make no sense to our more conventional conscious mind.
“Dreaming enables each of us to be quietly and safely mad every night of our lives” so it is William Dement, founder of the Center for Sleep Research at Stanford University, once said so.
In centuries past, people believed that dreams were messages from the dead that contained clues about what the living should do. The Egyptian pharaohs believed that the gods send us messages in our dreams; they called them omina, the origin of the word omen. And the great religions today contain stories in their sacred texts in which dreams are important enigmas whose meaning must be worked out.
A more current theory of why we dream is that it helps sort, organize, and process all of the stimuli in our waking life, such as clearing cobwebs. But sometimes there’s silk to do with the webs, when the answer to a problem you can’t solve in your waking life is worked out in your more creative dream.
Dream solutions have the advantage of working “without the limitations of time, logic, space, or other real-world rules,” Dr. Allan Peterkin wrote in a Guided Dream Journal published by National. Geographic. Peterkin is a professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Toronto.
Sigmund Freud, who wrote the first scientific research on the interpretation of dreams, believed that they mostly reveal secrets and embarrassing moments from our past. But his mentee-turned-rival Carl Jung believed that dreams tap into universal archetypes and contain clues from our subconscious lives to help us find happiness and answers to problems.
Another theory is that dreams act as a dress rehearsal for real life, a way to safely test alternatives. This seems a likely explanation for the nightmares. Frightening dreams come from your brain’s amygdala, where intense negative emotions such as anger and fear reside, Peterkin explained. They’re helpful, researchers say, because they can help train your brain to prepare for the challenges and fears of your waking life.
Incidentally, the word nightmare comes from an image that itself sounds like a nightmare: the Old English word for evil female spirits (maeres) believed to sit on your chest and suffocate you.
“The Royal Road”
Dreams are windows into your deepest self. Looking into a fun, cracked mirror of reality changes your perspective. And by by writing them down and considering what they mean, you are traveling along “the royal road”, as Freud said, leading to knowledge of the unconscious of your mind.
“Trying to understand your dreams can become an important part of understanding yourself, your relationships, and your world, both inside and out,” Peterkin wrote.
“The Poor Man’s Opera”
Another benefit of telling and recording your dreams is simply the escape. And who doesn’t need a vacation from life once in a while? In your dreams, you can visit the past or the future, go anywhere in the world or leave it, and fly there with or without an airplane.
As Kahlil Gibran put it more poetically, “allow us to surrender to sleep and perhaps the beautiful bride of dreams will carry our souls to a cleaner world than this.”
The word dream comes from Old English for “joy, noise or music”. And there is joy in recording the music or deciphering the noise.
“The bed is the poor man’s opera”, says an old Italian saying. And there’s a new show every day. Dreams can be “an amazing virtual reality model of the world,” Peterkin wrote, “updated with cool new content multiple times a night.”
In some of my wildest dreams, I married Nicole Kidman, joined Laird Hamilton’s surf team, beat LL Cool J in a rap battle, and drove Speed Racer’s car, the Mach 5. In still others, Sarah Silverman was my therapist, Ally Sheedy and I had an affair while shooting an ’80s movie together, and I played Han Solo in a version of “Hamlet,” using a script made with graham crackers. I went to high school in the 1800s with Hulk Hogan, when I attended General Robert E. Lee’s funeral. And I was the Batman.
I remember these dreams and hundreds more because I’ve been writing them since high school. It is the simple act of recording dreams that keeps them from evaporating in the sun of the day.
Of the many dream-themed films, my two favorites are Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ and Wim Wenders’ lesser-known 1991 film ‘Until the End of the World’ starring William Hurt, Sam Neill and Max von Sydow. As a subplot in “Until”, the main characters find a way to videotape their dreams and subsequently become narcissistically addicted to watching them (to the point of insanity).
There are few things you need to get started. Find a dream journal app or designate a notebook to keep by your bed. And the next time you remember a dream, even a fuzzy, half-forgotten one, write it down. Even if it’s boring and not worth remembering, write it down. The more you get into the habit of recording them, the better your recall will be.
I also leave a piece of paper in case I make some scribble notes of keywords and elements in the middle of the night. Even a single detail can revive the memory of a whole dream. Telling someone about your dream soon after you wake up can also help you hold onto it until you write it down.
My dream journals have evolved over the years to include headings for them, tracking themes, people, and places, as well as noting how many were “good”, “bad”, or “neutral/in-between”. I do this to look for trends, but don’t set the bar too high for you, especially when you’re just starting out.
I will also, on occasion, write a note at the end of the dream if I feel I have some insight into its meaning. I can instantly recognize that a dream of being lost in a city is actually the loss of a work file, for example.
Dream dictionaries compile mythology, psychology, and cultural symbolism and can be interesting for researching recurring themes, even if there is little science about them except in a collective, unconscious Jungian way.
Remember to always interpret a dream through your personal experience. For example, a dream dictionary may suggest that a dog in a dream means loyalty. But if you’re afraid of dogs, that probably represents something else you’re afraid of. Or if your mother owns five dogs, the dog of your dreams can replace her.
As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”