Last night I dreamt that a penguin was telling me that 'Dreamt' is the only word in the English language that ends in '-mt'.
I've never met anyone who's said that they have a dream diary. I've never seen a dream diary, nor have I been told that I should keep one. I suppose I don't really know where the idea to start one originated but I've done it for a year and I thought it might be interesting to share some of it with you. I can only tell you what I've found out so far.
A Dream Diary
So. First of all, I don't think a dream diary is like a 'Dear Diary'-diary, right. It's not just a place where you keep bits and pieces pertaining to everything from to-do lists to how that person on television probably will never want to marry you. A dream diary is only for dreams. I wouldn't want to come across as prescriptive or superior about how to do this, but here's how I do it.
My dream diary contains an introductory note, written across the first two pages, and from thereon in is just a continuous stream of entries. Each entry is just a date and then has a fairly detached but very detailed description of the dream.
Here's my introduction:
This is a diary of dreams.
For 21 years and some, I have lived to get to the next thing, the next exam, the next qualification, the next lesson. Now that I'm out of education, my dreams appear to somehow have less context. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. Maybe they just have more freedom. I don't yet know. Regardless, this logbook of imaginative process has been, very deliberately, saved for the end of education. They are the dreams of a graduate.
The experiences, the elations, the tragedies that I have encountered will now be reflected upon in my post-education dream state. The associations I have knowingly and unknowingly forged and the schemas that I have developed are free to roam among these pages, liberated of sociality and other forms of judgement. I doubt others will want to peruse these landscapes of my chameleon mind but if you do I would suggest that upon finishing this sentence you make it your last, or at least the end of this note. If you know someone, you do not know their dreams, most probably. When you know their dreams you realise that you do not really know them. Impulse, suggestion and daring are all stitched into the fabrics of my projections. I play with ideas in my sleep that I would not while awake. I am often saddened by the roles I play, the thoughts I trial, the results I achieve - am I guilty of these crimes? Am I truly the perpetrator in these instances? Perhaps I am. Perhaps I am guilty of suppressing emotion in my wakefulness and it's only when the guard changes shift that such immoral criminality can occur. The questions that keep us up at night, also keep us dreaming.
Maybe one day I will sell this to people in some form or another. Maybe I will be able to cash in on my dreams. If I become a gabillionaire I will do it anonymously - perhaps for no profit; for charity? I'd want to see if people figure out who I am, figure out the person who walks between the episodes contained within - can we ever hope to emerge as the person we think we are from the wreckage of our half-remembered dreams?
It's pretty Emo, haha. I don't even know what some of it means but oh well. Like any diary, noting something down for yourself in a book will always be an investment that will always pay off; your words will accrue an interest, they will mature and they will be proved wrong. Either way, you will be able to look at your words and smile. These smiles arise from remembering how you were. That's the beauty of being shown what you've forgotten to reminisce. What will hurt you the most, and what will keep your "investment" from fully maturing when you look back through the pages of any diary, is dishonesty. Dishonesty will leave you puzzled or falsely affected. Either way, you will find yourself searching your past for a person you just won't find.
In keeping a dream diary, honesty is the most important thing. Don't hide anything. Don't censor the voice of your head. Chances are, the reason it's actually in your head is because you've already censored it from conversations with friends.
In terms of process, I wake up from a dream and tap some notes about it into my phone as soon as I can. Once I'm awake, I expand those notes into an entry. It's amazing how quickly a dream’s order of events will come back to you from a few notes. I usually do this in the morning while eating breakfast, on the commute or on a break. Best to do it sooner rather than later, I guess. That way the details of the memory will remain fresh in your mind.
Some of the dreams will be hazy to begin with. You might not be able to recount how you arrived at a certain place or what happened between two events that couldn't have happened one after the other. Just persevere. Keep writing what you remember. Some of my entries are one line long, some are three or four A5 pages long.
The entries themselves, as I mentioned, are not overly emotional or indulgent (unlike the introduction to the diary...). If they are funny, sad, shocking, romantic, whatever, they are only so because of the events and surroundings of the dream. I choose not to accompany the entries with comments about what I did that day or what conversation probably led to this thought or what I was stressed about. Of course, if you wanted to, you could add an element to each entry that does account for the events of the day. I've made sure to segregate my 'Dreams' notebook from another 'Thoughts' notebook that's more concerned with reading and essays and ideas. I find it more interesting to relate the dreams to each other, rather than to the day I've had. That being said, these comparisons, any way you look at them, are fascinating.
Were you to look at what you did today and then look at your dream, you might find connections, reflections, similarities, perversions or replays. Of course, these are interesting and of course they put you in awe of the human brain, how alive it is, far beyond our own perception of being 'alive'. What is also interesting, however, is the comparison of one dream to another. Between my dreams, I have found so many instances of recurring characters (real and imaginary), similar settings, identical actions and repeating circumstances. From these comparisons, I have learned so much about how my dreams respond to how I'm feeling. Look for strong patterns and don't discount them. Enjoy your dreams, note them down as they were, and then think about judging yourself - not too harshly though. It's ok to be horrified at what you dreamed.
Now, as I said, I don't write down how my day was before the dream of that night, but I can roughly remember what was going on in a certain month or around a certain time. Gradually, I've garnered an understanding of what my dreams are saying to me. Sometimes, I know what they're talking about, and sometimes I don't. The next day, I can use that understanding to help me address something that might have gone wrong or has been left unresolved - a feeling, a worry, a person, a task.
For example, I know from my dream diary that when I'm anxious about something and have been for a while, I start to dream about being on a stage and forgetting my lines with the whole audience looking at me. When I've had a really, really good day, flawless and utterly enjoyable, I often dream that I'm the subject of a decadent, Renaissance painting, naked, covered in beautiful women and blankets, and eating grapes to the sound of winged babies playing rock music.
Dreams can tell you so much about yourself.
I'm cynical and have never put the slightest shred of value in horoscopes and palm-readers and fortune tellers because usually they're just throwing out information for you to respond to. They want you to dissolve their 'prophecies' in your own experiences until you can't tell them apart. I always try to remember that so that I don't draw dangerous conclusions.
Talking about your dream diary can spark really interesting conversation with someone you meet in a bar. Telling your girlfriend about the dreams you've been writing down might lead to a marital. Be careful who you tell and remember that if you're worried you can't tell someone about a particular dream then that fear might be telling you something all by itself...
The Effects: Good and Bad
I became quite obsessive over this diary. I would write note after note into my phone and then handwrite a week's worth of dreams into a notebook in writing sessions that could go on for hours. I think any writing process is so good for you so that was a real benefit. It helps with articulation, focus and relaxation.
I didn't get to this place, but I can imagine that obsessing over dreams and symbols and meaning could become dangerous. Like I said above, be careful you're not starting to find meanings where there aren't any.
I found that by writing down my dreams, my ability to remember dreams improved dramatically. The memories of my dreams became far less fractured and it seemed that my dreams began to have more of a narrative rather than being a mess of random events.
I have always had a lot of déjà vu and writing down my dreams certainly seemed to reduce the frequency of it.
It's truly rewarding to learn about your imagination's visual responses to various stimuli.
You feel like you have more agency in your dreams. When I was younger I used to dream that I was in Harry Potter's place with Voldemort coming towards me; I'm stumbling back, as in the film, and he's drifting towards me; I'd trip over a branch and fall backwards; as much as I wanted to, I could never move; then I would wake up. Being so aware of the dreaming process definitely empowered me within the dreams themselves. I felt like I could determine their outcomes.
I'm not one for shouting about personal growth or living my best life. But I really enjoyed writing about my dreams. On top of that, I've really enjoyed writing about writing about my dreams. I've had the pleasure of trying Char's pyjamas and they've kept me dreaming. Go buy some.
Here are a few of my dreams for your amusement...
Enjoyed a log fire with Matilda outside a big barn at an American ranch.
Matilda being hunted down by Flynn from Prison Break. Me and Matilda drive at her crêche - there is a cryptic message that reads 'feuille des yeux'. I pretend not to know what the message means so that Matilda's boyfriend won't hate me. But, while in the dream, I know that I dreamt about Matilda and a log fire outside a barn the night before; in the dream, I realise that the the secret message must refer to that. I scribble 'Fire of eyes' into the gravel with the end of my shoe.
At kind of a dream convention. Waiting for a conference about dreams. Big white modern centre in the Mojave desert that used to be a weapons manufacturing facility but is now closed down. You could walk down the old sewage pipes that have since been cleaned out. Then you could walk out on to the desert. When we did, Bryony and Mum were interested in the history of it. Dan was there kicking stress balls about with Will and Fraser. The accommodation was there too, king of glamping tents - I was with Mum and Dad but they had separate tents. Mum had a really lovely room with a bath on a raised plinth and we had camping beds so Mum did more work during the day to earn the luxury - for instance, she moved a blue lidded wheelie bin full of leaves across the area of tents. There was a young black couple whose accommodation was cool and industrially themed, set up within a shipping container with a flat screen TV and P.S.4. X and Y were there, sharing my orange but only X wanted any of it. They were both pulling mock sad faces at the other's proximity to me. Then we were on a stage and an audience was eager to see what would happen between me, X and Y. There were loads of girls lined up on stage in little black dresses, really made up, including X and Y. They were judging, joking, singing and comparing. Y left because X looked too good. It was just me and the couple from the cool container accommodation left on stage. We spoke about remote control cars. Then we left and met up with Mum and Dad. We had to push a tram cart back to the tents which contained all our supplies - Mum pushed the most.
At a Laser Quest. I went to a house with a massive group and stayed the night. Then I went to this huge Laser Quest arena that was like the rocky inside part of the place in Star Wars where Natalie Portman dies. Loads of fighting, all the cool stuff. Got to the end of the session and had lunch. The receptionists were talking to me and Grace. We asked when lunch was over so we could start shooting again. They offered us a job there and had to take a bunch of pre-school kids up the drive at my old school, holding their hands. Got into an elevator that came up from this house to near the tennis courts at school. Held kids' hands over the road. Dropped them up at a sports pitch. Was supposed to get a lift with Ed but ended up getting one with Tammy in a new red Polo. Her mum said she'd picked up some beers over the handsfree.
like a sister really