REHEARSAL. The advantages of writing a dream journal are amazing. Explain who does it.
Editorial director of CNN Travel, Style, Science and Wellness writes essay from his own experience: since adolescence he has been writing a dream diary.
It’s been my dream for years to present “Saturday Night Live” [à letra “Sábado à Noite ao Vivo”, um dos maiores programas de televisão nos EUA]. Literally. I have had this dream over and over again for decades.
I’ve traveled through space and back in time, and I’ve been a superhero. I have been close friends with many celebrities. I have created new memories with friends and family, some of whom have passed away. I have committed terrible crimes. And I saved the day, over and over again.
Our sleeping mind is a private movie 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 (most of my dreams are about work), but many are fun, incisive, and occasionally problem-solving. 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 diary, but those who put it into practice find it useful or insightful at best, and interesting at best.
insane in safety
The first potential benefit of dream diary is that it can lead to creative breakthrough. Your dreamy subconscious mind is by nature more inventive. Their dreams jump in time, make leaps in logic, accept contradictions and sometimes make no sense to our more conventional conscious mind.
“Dreaming allows each and every one of us to be silent and insane in safety every night of our lives” – this is how William Dement, founder of the Stanford University Sleep Research Center, once put it.
There are countless anecdotes of creative and innovative people who found inspiration in dreams and nightmares. James Cameron conjured up the famous vision of a robot “Terminator” crawling after a woman, in a dream that sparked a huge swath of movies. EB White invented the character of Stuart Little in a dream. Like Mary Shelley, her monster in “Frankenstein”. Computer scientist Larry Page had a dream of downloading the entire Internet and cataloging just the links, before even doing so with the company he helped found, Google.
Paul McCartney was inspired to write “Let It Be” after his mother told him that phrase in a dream. The melody of “Yesterday” also came to him in a dream. “I’m a big believer in dreams,” McCartney said in an interview with the New York Times Magazine. “I’m a great dream rememberer.”
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 sent us messages in our dreams; they called them ominathe origin of the word omen. And the great faiths of today contain in their sacred texts stories in which dreams are important enigmas, whose meaning must be worked out.
A more current theory about why we dream is that it helps sort, organize and process all the stimuli of our waking life, like cleaning cobwebs. But silk can sometimes be made from webs, when the answer to a problem you can’t solve in your waking life is crafted into your most creative dream.
Dream solutions have the advantage of working “without the limits of time, logic, space, or other real-world rules,” wrote Dr. Allan Peterkin in a guided dream journal published by National Geographic. Peterkin is a professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Toronto.
There are also historical examples of problem solving in dreams. Elias Howe designed the modern sewing machine needle from a dream he had about cannibals waving spears at him, according to the New England Historical Society. Jack Nicklaus dreamed of a new golf grip that would improve his game. Albert Einstein traced even the roots of his theory of relativity to a dream he had as a teenager about traveling at the speed of light.
Sigmund Freud, who wrote the first academic research on the interpretation of dreams, thought that dreams mostly revealed secrets and embarrassing moments from our past. But his rival Carl Jung thought that dreams were rooted in universal archetypes and contained 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 to be a likely explanation for the nightmares. Scary dreams originate in the amygdala of the brain, where intense negative emotions like anger and fear reside, Peterkin explained. They’re useful, researchers say, because they can help train your brain to prepare for challenges and fears in your waking life.
By the way, the word “nightmare” [pesadelo em inglês] comes from an image that sounds like a nightmare in itself: the old English word for evil female spirits (mothers) that are believed to sit on your chest and suffocate you.
Dreams are windows to your deepest self. Looking into a cracked, fun mirror of reality in your home changes your perspective. And when writing them and thinking about what they mean, he travels “the royal road”, as Freud said, leading to the knowledge of the unconscious of his 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.
Ellen DeGeneres came out publicly after having a dream about a bird flying out of its cage and breaking free. Brad Pitt said in a recent interview with GQ that by studying his nightmares of being chased, caught and stabbed he was able to understand and work through “deep scars” from childhood.
“No dream comes just to tell us what we already know. It invites us to go beyond what we know,” said Jeremy Taylor, author and past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
“I’ve been paying attention to my dreams lately,” wrote director and actress Sarah Polley in her new memoir, “Run Towards the Danger.” “After 20 years in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, I’m used to noticing them. They’re smoke signals from the past, drawing my attention to scorched wreckage in a forest far from my mind, packed and buried under years of rubble, still burning. But lately I also began to see dreams as guides, pointing the way forward”.
“The Poor Man’s Opera”
One more benefit of retelling and recording your dreams is simply to escape. And who doesn’t need a vacation from life from time to time? In your dreams you can visit the past or the future, go anywhere in the world or outside it, and fly there with or without a plane.
As Kahlil Gibran said most poetically [tradução livre]”allow us to surrender to sleep and perhaps the beautiful bride of dreams will lead our souls to a cleaner world than this”.
The word “dream” [sonho em inglês] comes from the old English word 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 every day there is a new performance. Dreams can be “an amazing virtual reality model of the world,” Peterkin wrote, “updated with fresh new content several 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 others, Sarah Silverman was the my therapist Ally Sheedy and I had an affair while making an ’80s movie together, and I played Han Solo in a version of “Hamlet” using a script made from cookies. I went to high school in the 19th century with Hulk Hogan, when I attended the funeral of General Robert E. Lee. And I was Batman.
I remember these dreams and hundreds of others because I’ve been writing them since high school. It’s the simple act of recording dreams that keeps them from evaporating in daylight.
“Total Recall”: total recall
Of the many dream-themed movies, my two favorites are “Inception” [“A Origem”] by Christopher Nolan and Wim Wenders’ lesser-known 1991 film “Until the End of the World” [“Até ao Fim do Mundo”], with 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 seeing them (to the point of insanity).
“You are now looking at the human soul, singing to itself. To its own God,” says von Sydow’s character. As fun as that sounds, current technology hasn’t advanced us to the point of burning our dreams to DVD (yet). The closest thing available is to write them down.
There is little it takes to get started. Find a dream journal app or choose a notebook to keep by your bed. And the next time you remember a dream, even a hazy one or only half of it, write it down. Even if it’s boring and doesn’t seem worth remembering, write it down. The more you are in the habit of recording them, the better your memory will be.
I also leave a piece of paper out, in case I want to scribble some notes of words and key elements in the middle of the night. Even a single detail can bring back the memory of an entire dream. Telling someone about your dream right after waking up can also help you keep it until you write it down.
My dream journals have evolved over the years to include titles for them, themes of reference, people and places, as well as recording 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 yourself, especially when you’re just starting out.
I also occasionally 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 about being lost in a city is really about losing 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 that is scientific in them, except in a collective Jungian, unconscious way.
Just remember to always interpret a dream through your personal experience. For example, a dream dictionary might suggest that a dog in a dream means loyalty. But if you’re afraid of dogs, it’s more likely to represent something else you’re afraid of. Or if your mother has five dogs, the dog in your dream could be representing her.
As the great myth expert Joseph Campbell said, “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”