wikiHow to Start a Dream Diary

For beginning dream keeping: What is a dream diary for? How do I get started? What's the best way to get my dreams down? How do I begin to interpret my dreams?


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    Find a pen and a journal or diary or simply some paper that you can keep by your bedside. Whatever you choose, it will be something that by your standards means that you deem this dream-keeping as important to you. That will look different to different people. You will benefit most from following your dreams if you do so over a length of time, so pages that are easy to keep together are helpful. Unlined pages can be a good idea, because you may want to draw something from a dream or you may want to vary your handwriting to reflect the dream.
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    Some people do keep dreams on their computers, but there are times when you will want to take a minute at 3AM to note a dream or simply a dream image. It may be easier to scribble it in the half dark. If you go to your PC, you may find the dream has disappeared like smoke in the few yards you’ve crossed to get there.
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    If you wear contacts that you take out at night, you may also need a pair of glasses of some kind, in addition to the paper and pen, depending on your eyesight.
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    Alternative: Jungian Analyst Marion Woodman has suggested the use of a voice-activated recorder, which has advantages. You don’t have to wake up fully to record a dream story or image. You may find that your tone of voice as you relay the dream tells you something about the dream (i.e. you sound angry or sad or delighted.) A disadvantage is that you will probably need to write the dream out, as well, in order to work with it further. Another disadvantage to speaking the dream might be the interference with a partner’s sleep.
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    As you ready yourself to turn out the lights, make an intention to recall your dreams. You can do this by simply saying so to yourself. You could also write the date at the top of one of your pages with a note that this will be a dream from the night of etc.
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    If you persist, you will probably have a dream that you do remember. Write or record it immediately. Even if you only recall an image or a feeling from the dream, get it down in your dream diary. Again, the more attention you give the more the unconscious seems to respond.
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    Once you do have a dream in your diary, tend to it. There are many ways to do this. You don’t need a book to begin to interpret the dream. In fact, as you start, a book could lead you away from the dream as something that comes from you, uniquely. A simple way to start is to read the dream and then give it a title. Note in the diary whatever feelings arise when you think of the dream images. If it’s a longer dream, you can divide it into chapters and title the chapters. Circle the words that seem most important and make links to associations that occur to you. You can also make a sketch in the diary of any of the images. Coloring the sketch will tell you even more about the image. Then you can take another step by examining symbols. Not only what does a bird mean to you, but what about "bird" as a symbol? What is the interplay between your personal association and the cultural one? When you hit upon a good interpretation, you will feel an "Ah ha!" Remember that a dream convey the new, not what you already know and that they are multivalent, meaning that they may have multiple meanings.


  • Realize that you are beginning a relationship with a part of yourself with which you are generally unaware, the subconscious. The more attention you give, the more response you will receive.
  • Once you have begun your diary and feel you have discovered something authentic for yourself, you might look at books on dreams. Don’t buy “this means this” interpreters. A good beginning book would be Jeremy Taylor’s “Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill.” A well-facilitated dream group can be helpful. No one will tell you what your dream means in such a group. They will listen and help you make your own connections.
  • As you work with the dream, you will realize meanings that seem most valid to you. There is simply an “ah ha,” that’s it! If you don’t feel that click of recognition, let that meaning go. Realize that the ego (the part of you that takes charge once you wake and begin to relate to the day world) will supply you with some interpretations that are false. Those false interpretations may be a little too self-congratulatory or a little too self-condemning. The meaning that is real comes most often from the same place the dream did. It will be harder to get to in the light of day, but you have granted it access by recording the dream. That meaning will be a new realization, a surprise, not a repetition of things you already know or believe about your life. A dream carries new meanings.

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