Dreams Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


I have tried to remember my dreams ever since I read an article about how interesting they can be and how they tell us about our secret lives, but for the life of me, I just can't. Any suggestions?


It can be very frustrating trying to recall dreams. Not only do we never remember most of them, but the ones we do recall can easily slip away and evaporate. But with a little guidance and effort, you will soon have more dream recall than you know what to do with!

Here is a quick Five Step process for dream recall:

1. Night Before: Keep a pad of paper and pen and a couple of pencils by your bed. Date the paper the night before. When you awake, in the night or in the morning, write something down. Even "I recall nothing this morning" is good to write down. If you are keeping a journal, read the last dream you had.

2. When you go to bed, relax your body and review the day in reverse. How did I get ready for bed? What was I doing just before going to bed? What did I do this evening? What was it like coming home from work, what did I do at the office, what did I have for lunch, and so on, all the way back to how you got up and either recall your last dream or recall your writing down "I recall nothing this morning.". This exercise (From Psychosynthesis) is very relaxing and helps us learn to reflect back and focus the way we need to focus to recall dreams.

3. As you are getting close to falling asleep, repeat over and over, "When I wake up, I will remember my dream.". Jill Gregory of the Novato Dream Library says that a physical "trigger" along with the verbal suggestion often helps, i.e. pressing your thumb against each finger as you say each word of the suggestion.

4. When you wake up in the morning, don't move! Stay in your same position, relax your body and let your mind drift closer to your dream. Remind yourself that you want to remember your dream. Shutting your eyes may help. Thinking about what you are going to do in the future, like shower or at work or appointments is the best way to miss a dream.

5. Once you begin to recall the dream, start writing! Write down whatever you remember right away so you're not trying to remember that material while trying to recall new material. If after a minute you don't have any recall, write down "I don't recall anything." Or even better, write down a short made-up fantasy about what you would have liked to have dreamed. If you have other dreams in the journal, read one of them.

For more information on how to recall dreams:

Breakthrough Dreaming: How to Tap the Power of your 24-Hour Mind by Gayle Delaney (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1991)

Living Your Dreams: Using Sleep to Solve Problems and Enrich Your Life by Gayle Delaney (Revised Ed. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988)

Living Your Dreams by Gayle Delaney (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979)

The Dream Game by Ann Faraday (New York: Harper & Row, 1974)

Developing Dream Recall. In Dream Tips by Jill Gregory (Novato, CA: Novato Center for Dreams, 1988)

Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using Dreams to tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious by Jeremy Taylor (New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc., 1992)

Dream Work by Jeremy Taylor (New York: Paulist Press, 1983)

For more information on how to recall dreams.


Richard Wilkerson is general editor for The Internet Dream E-zine, Electric Dreams, and director of DreamGate, the Internet Communications and Dream Education Center. He writes the Cyberphile column for the Association for the Study of Dreams Newsletter.


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