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    Thread: Do you write down every dream in detail?

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      Member Rallan's Avatar
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      Do you write down every dream in detail?

      After a month of taking up dream journalling, I feel the time has almost come for me to make some kind of compromise.

      So far I have been writing down all the details of dreams I can remember, when I remember them, which is often in the middle of the night. I imagine that in theory this is the best way to remember the most dreams in the most detail, but as my recall is improving I'm finding that it just takes too long! At the moment I can get away with it, but when I start my new job and have a schedule again it will not work if I want to have enough sleep as well. Last night and this morning I spent about an hour and a half in total writing dreams out. Including time spent waking up and falling back to sleep it gets even longer. I'm very happy that I'm having successful recall and enjoying many dreams, but I'm finding my mind's enjoyment of writing it all down diminishing. And from past experience I know that however in control I think I am, if there isn't enjoyment in something I will eventually stop.

      My motivation to recall dreams is so I can remember and learn from meaningful ones, so I can lucid dream and so I can remember lucid dreams. The idea of having a detailed catalogue of all my dreams is appealing, but in reality I probably wouldn't re-read it much except to find dream signs, as I'm always having new exciting dreams to think about.

      So I'm wondering, in what ways do you 'settle for second best' when it comes to dream journalling? Do you write down every dream in detail?

      I'm thinking of adopting the 'tagging' method I read here somewhere, where you wake up just to write down some key words. Would this work if I'm not writing the dreams down as soon as I wake up? I'm thinking I'll read the tags in the morning to recap the dreams in my mind, then later in the day I can review them again and write down the details of those dreams I feel are more important/interesting. This way I'll probably actually be flexing my memory muscles more due to recalling the dream 3 times, so who knows, maybe it would be an improvement!

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      I try to journal my dreams in as much detail as I can, but I don't do this during the night. Usually I'll just voice record keywords or a short summary, or just try to remember them until morning. In the morning, I'll put the one-sentence summaries onto the DV "share your dreams in one sentence thread," then either immediately, or later I'll use the one-sentence summaries to jog my memory to write out the full DJ.

      The benefits are of course having an archive of the dream, and the benefit of running through the dream and writing it down is that it helps to build dream recall and access to memory.
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      I haven't yet been pushed toward compromise, though I try to find ways to make the task as efficient as possible. Each time I wake up I voice-record everything I can remember for later writing in my formal dream journal, except perhaps for any special explanations or details I already know or can remember easily (but which I may include in the final entry for the benefit of my far future self)—with voice recording, it still usually takes me no more than five minutes or so.

      I could compromise with a very brief sentence or keywords and still remember most of the dream, but I like to avoid that because there are often many small details I would have lost if I had not voiced them.

      The final typing is the worst part—it can take an hour or more with heavy recall or complex dreams (including proofreading time), but it's worth it to me. If I had to, I could probably get away with recording a bit less, but my concern is remembering the dreams years later. If I read my journal frequently I can remember many dreams pretty well, including details I didn't actually think to write down. But there's also the risk of my firsthand memory losing accuracy over time (which I have witnessed sometimes upon rereading an entry that I thought I remembered well), and I have found that if I don't read my journal often enough, I can lose my firsthand memory entirely. I spent several years without reading it, and when I finally did read the earlier dreams again, I simply did not directly remember most of them at all—in a sense, I might as well have been reading somebody else's dream journal, and all I had to go on is exactly what I had written.
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      You should write down as much as you can, Rallan, but:

      If journaling becomes a chore that you do not wish to do, or it causes anxiety by cutting too deeply into your day (or night's sleep, for that matter), then "as much as you can" might mean skipping a few dreams here and there, but still finding time and inclination to record a significant amount of your remembered dreams. In other words, comfortably recording some of your dreams (perhaps the most interesting or well-remembered in the morning) is much better than uncomfortably struggling to write down everything. That discomfort can at worst lead to a disinterest in writing anything down, and at best cause you to be anxious about doggedly recording your dreams, which would challenge your recall development, I think.

      Also, I recommend that you do not use that "tagging" method, no matter how grandly folks tout it in the forums. I say this for a couple of reasons:

      First, tagging, or jotting down what you feel are important cues that will remind you later of what you dreamed, does little to build your recall. It is the act of manually writing dreams down, in as much detail as possible, that seems to aid their storage in long-term memory; just jotting down a couple of words and hoping you'll remember the rest later based on those tags does not do that. Sure, you might be able to recall your dream later in the day based on those words, but not in a week, or a month. So even the tagging method will have you recording the dreams fully sometime the same day, lest they be lost for good. Also, there is no guarantee that those tags are as significant to the dream as you think upon waking (I can't tell you how many times I discovered far more important imagery surfacing as I went through the process of writing down a dream fully than what I thought was there (and significant) at first.

      Next, and for me just as important, if you write your dreams down as completely as possible, you will have a written narrative of your dreams that you can enjoy rereading for years to come. With tagging, you will have a bunch of words that will mean pretty much nothing in a couple of days. I tried tagging for a year or so, with the same confidence that folks touting it hold today, and I eventually found myself with notebooks full of dates, times, and gibberish. This could just be me of course, but I'm not so sure.

      I understand that I am an outlier on both of these points, and that you will likely hear a vocal defense of the tagging method shortly, so no worries if you totally disagree with me. Just remember that only you will be there to say "He told me so" in ten years when you are reviewing all those meaningless tags.


      tl;dr: Write down as much as you can, but don't make the process a miserable one, and I suggest that you steer clear of that tagging method.

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      Minute details are usually not necessary. General details are usually enough to retain and bring back the memories of the finer details. The exact details come to mind via association with the key words and more generalized details. I can recall specific details from dreams that I've had years ago from reading just a few key words in my journal.
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      I am a huge fan of writing the dream out the moment I wake up. I do not do this for every dream, but I have found that (over and over and over again) in the process of writing down a "mundane" dream, something profound has come up. Sometimes this is just a small detail, and sometimes the act of writing unlocks entire dream scenes. I have tried the "tagging" method, and have often found that in the morning, I only have vague recollections of what the tags mean. Also, the whole process of unlocking the dream as I write is destroyed, as too much time has gone by.

      But like Sageous said, don't make it a chore. Find a method that works (and if it is the tagging thing, and that works for you, then do it--there aren't rules to how this is done, just suggestions). I personally find that whatever I write is whatever I remember. I wish you better dream recall than mine!
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      I enjoyed reading this thread. I'm just going to add what I do:

      I find I also don't have the time to write a dream journal with every single dream every day. So, I use the tagging method, except for lucid dreams. I don't even pretend I will remember them a month from now, I just throw them away. However, I do write the vivid/intense or interesting non-lucid dreams, just like I used to. Dreams I deem important, I write down.

      But again, I think there is a danger in doing this, and the danger is that categorizing dreams between "worthy" and "not worthy" might create a harmful perspective in your subconscious (I am not talking about an entity, simply the mental processes that we are not aware of). What I mean is someone who writes all their dreams deem all their dreams worthy. You're giving importance to each and every one of them. A person like me is putting a lot of the dreams in a "not worthy" garbage and the consequence is that it might be affecting my dream recall because my subconscious doesn't give it as much importance.

      To counter this, I have been making sure to feel gratefulness for even those dreams that I will not be writing down. But maybe I should go back to writing more.

      (As an aside, I went through a whole year where I did not write a single word, instead, I stored my dreams in a mind temple where I would set a dream in each room and remember them as I mentally walked through each room. I found even that technique better than the tagging method but I find it as hard to maintain any of those methods. I think writing whole dreams is maybe the easiest method).

      I would encourage you keep doing what you're doing now if it is working well and you have the momentum. I can't say compensating will not be harmful.

      I am thinking what I should do is to live a simpler life. I try to do a lot in one day, and maybe I should reduce that by a lot. Just do my duties, spend time with people, and record my dreams, and brush most of the extra away.
      Last edited by Occipitalred; 03-01-2015 at 09:41 PM.
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      I write my dreams down after a minute or two of exercising recall upon waking up. What I find interesting is I sometimes start writing, expecting to spend 5 or 10 minutes, and in the process more and more of the dream comes into focus. What I thought was a fragment might be a short dream and what I thought was a short dream turns out to be epic. And sometimes additional dreams come up that I didn't have an inkling of when I first awoke. Seems the process of recall and recording teases out more info the deeper I get into the process.

      I'm not sure tagging and then writing them down in full in the morning or during the day would have the same result.
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      Just as they did say already, tagging is not an effective method of recalling.

      I have like four or five entries in my written journal that are just a bunch of tags. Some of them make sense and I can recall some details around them, but I can't make head or tails of the rest, even at the same day of writting them. So unless I really have no other choice, I preffer to refrain from using tags.

      Now, how much of my dreams I write down in the mornings depends of how good the dream was, how sleepy am I and how late in the morning it is, but I write them all, no matter how epic or mundane are they.

      If the dream was interesting, I feel refreshed and I have much time in my hands, I'll write down everything I can.

      But normally I'll just write a synopsis of the dream. Not as detailed as the good dreams, but much better and more narrative than tags. Then, once I'm up, or in the afternoon if I can't do it before, I'll type it in the PC and add every detail I can.

      If I'm really sleepy and it's too cold outside the sheets, I'll just mentally revise the dream mentally a few times, and then hope I'll still remember it later in the morning
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      I voice record them on my phone. I find it way more manageable.

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      In the night I am writing sketches. Longer than tags, but not rich in details. In the morning I recall the whole dream in meditation. The absolute superlative recall is, when you need nothing just memory. I like to use this almost superhuman ideas for aim. So, I think that trying to remember from a scetch at morning, is a training that strenghtens my recall abilities. I am thinking about a voice recorder too.
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      Each time I wake up I voice-record everything I can remember for later writing in my formal dream journal
      Alas, this would be perfect if I wasn't sharing my bedroom!

      I have found that if I don't read my journal often enough, I can lose my firsthand memory entirely. I spent several years without reading it, and when I finally did read the earlier dreams again, I simply did not directly remember most of them at all
      I have come to the conclusion that I'm not too bothered to be able to re-read every single one of my dreams. Having a detailed journal of my entire dream life would certainly be nice, but ultimately I don't feel it would be worth the hours for me personally. My main motivation for recording dreams is to build recall and improve my dream awareness. That said, I do wish to record in detail my lucid dreams and those dreams that feel significant or are especially interesting.

      So even the tagging method will have you recording the dreams fully sometime the same day, lest they be lost for good
      Yes, this is the current method I'm testing, except I'm probably going a little more detailed than tags. Worked pretty well last night I feel. I wrote a bunch of words and pithy statements that captured each scene of the dream, then on waking I read what I'd written and recalled the dream again. Now I'm at my laptop and from the dream summary I can write a detailed version if I wish to have something I can enjoy after today when I'll start to forget bits.

      I think what was making it a chore, was feeling that what I was writing in my DJ in the middle of the night was my 'final draft'. I would be writing so that my future self could read it and understand the narrative. This meant I was putting energy not just into recalling and writing the dream down, but also into the way I was writing it.

      I feel I want to write enough so that I can recall as much as possible in detail, but no more.

      I am a huge fan of writing the dream out the moment I wake up. I do not do this for every dream, but I have found that (over and over and over again) in the process of writing down a "mundane" dream, something profound has come up. Sometimes this is just a small detail, and sometimes the act of writing unlocks entire dream scenes
      Hmm yes I have certainly found this too. This for me is the main argument for not compromising on details when writing in the night.

      Does anyone know whether the process of recalling from 'dream memory' once waking is somehow psychologically different to the process of recalling a dream from 'waking memory' by reading tags or a dream synopsis? If you just wrote a dream summary whilst recalling in the night, then wrote a detailed version the next day, you would be flexing your memory muscles more times than if you just wrote the whole detailed dream at night. But are they two different 'muscles?'. Does good dream recall primarily come from that initial ability to translate what you dreamt onto paper/voice recorder, or does it also benefit from being able to access dreams from the waking memory?

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      Quote Originally Posted by Rallan View Post
      Does anyone know whether the process of recalling from 'dream memory' once waking is somehow psychologically different to the process of recalling a dream from 'waking memory' by reading tags or a dream synopsis? If you just wrote a dream summary whilst recalling in the night, then wrote a detailed version the next day, you would be flexing your memory muscles more times than if you just wrote the whole detailed dream at night. But are they two different 'muscles?'. Does good dream recall primarily come from that initial ability to translate what you dreamt onto paper/voice recorder, or does it also benefit from being able to access dreams from the waking memory?
      My experience is if I don't begin the process of recording upon waking up I don't recall all there is to recall. There have been times where I haven't recorded upon awakening, and in the morning I can sometimes remember the gist of it. What was there in my mind when I awoke. Nothing or very little more. However when I put pen to paper right away I can't remember a time when I didn't pull in more info than what was initially floating around in memory when I first awoke. Sometimes a lot more. What I thought was going to take 5 minutes or so turns out to be half an hour or more.

      Since this is all very new to me maybe this will change in time as my recall improves, but for me and where I'm at right now I think I get much more benefit and recall exercise by writing them down right away. I do seem to be recalling more dreams from earlier in a given sleep period than when I started. At first very rarely would I recall more than one dream, upon awakening, but now I more often pull up more than one. When I awoke this morning I had one dream at the tip of memory and after I started writing, pieces of two more surfaced and when I started writing them down they filled in somewhat.

      One other thing I notice is detail and especially interaction with the dreamscape and DCs. If I exercise recall right away this is much more clear and vivid and I get a much stronger sense of being in my dream body than being an observer.

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      After doing dream recall consistently for about 1.5 years, and spending significant time upon every single waking going over and over dream memories so that they all survive until I can reach for my phone to record, I find that more often than not I can recall most dreams even from earlier in the night across multiple sleep cycles until I get out of bed in the morning. Usually I will try to "refresh" the list of earlier dreams upon later wakings. Undoubtedly, some clarity and detail is lost this way, and I do know that I lose some dreams this way (I have the sense of "there is something else" but can't grasp it) sometimes. But for me it's a tradeoff: if I get up to record after about 5 hours of sleep, there's a good chance I may not make it back to sleep in a decent amount of time. I prefer to be asleep and dreaming than awake for hours with insomnia, especially for the key dreaming hours, so more and more I opt for mental recall throughout the night and only record once I'm up in the morning (after running through the dreams one last time before getting up, of course).

      If there is a particularly epic/awesome dream I may make an exception and record, I just play it by ear.
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      I guess what I was trying to ask was, does running the dream through your mind again the next day also help improve recall? As opposed to just putting the memory effort in straight after the dream happened? I fully appreciate that if you want to not lose the details and subtleties of the dream you need to put effort into remembering straight away. What I'm wondering is whether the process of trying to re-remember a dream later in the day from memory has a significant effect on improving recall.

      By writing the dream in full on waking you are spending more time accessing the 'dream memory'. By writing a dream synopsis on waking followed by a detailed journal entry the next day you are potentially spending less time using your 'dream memory' but are pulling the dream from your memory more times. Of course you could just re-read your detailed journal entry the next day, so another question would be, does effortlessly recalling a dream by reading a detailed dream journal improve dream recall as much as recalling the dream through a synopsis or word associations, where you have to work your memory muscles a bit harder?

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      A quick google found this article. Not sure if it entirely answers your question, but it's a decent read and you can draw your own conclusions.

      Study: The key to remembering your dreams might be the blood flow in your brain - The Washington Post

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      Interesting that the article doesn't mention anything about the fact that one can make oneself into a super dreamer via practice. The theory that "waking up during the night makes you remember your dreams" also doesn't explain dream recall differences on the final waking of the day.
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      My take is the article is addressing natural tendencies for awakenings based on physiological differences. And yeah, with intention one can definitely improve recall. Prior to January I fell into the 'couple a month' camp and now it's a rarity I don't have at least a couple a night and my average is about to break 4 per night if I stay on the same trajectory of the past two months.

      So it's definitely not static and cast in stone. That's for sure. And as you said I find it's usually the last one or two REM cycles I recall multiple dreams, though I can't be sure they're all from the immediate REM cycle, though I think odds are they are.

      Below is the part of the article I think is most pertinent to the question posed in the OP. I take it that the most important exercising of recall happens in the step that pulls it out of working memory and encodes it into long-term memory. Seems to me that's only going to happen in very close proximity to the actual occurrence of the dream. So there's recall of the dream from working memory and later on recall from what was pulled from working memory and stored in long-term memory. It seems to me the prior is more important to work than the latter, and that's not to slight the latter as being unimportant.

      “If the sleeping brain is not able to memorize something, perhaps the brain has to awaken to encode dreams in memory,” said study author and neuroscientist Perrine Ruby of Inserm, a French biomedical and public health research institution. If awakened during a dream, the brain has the chance to transfer its faint flashes — via reiteration of the memory in one’s mind — into more long-term storage. This hypothesis has been dubbed the “arousal-retrieval model.”

      “There’s a real question about the difference between dreaming, encoding memories of those dreams and being able to recall them,” said Harvard Medical School’s Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher who was not involved in the study. “For someone to remember their dreams, all three of those things have to happen.”

      Dream themselves exist first in working memory, or the memory we use to hold and manipulate thought fragments. Stickgold gives the example of hearing a five-digit number and then reciting it backward. But, like a fleeting dream, the series of numbers will erase in a flash if not put away into longer-term memory.

      “Dreams are very fragile in short-term memory,” said Harvard Medical School psychologist Deirdre Barrett, who was also not involved in the study. She consults for a new mobile app, Shadow, that is aimed at improving users’ dream recall by waking them during REM sleep and having them dictate their dreams right away. “People do seem to form many short-term memories of dreams which, most nights for most people, are lost.”
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      My point is that the article seems to be missing the most important thing in dream recall success: the intention (perhaps subconscious) and the desire to remember dreams (not to mention the practice of doing so). And that the posited explanation didn't seem to account for recall differences given the final waking of the day.
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      Gotcha, but I think the article was coming at it from a physiological perspective, not a perspective of practice to improve recall. Your points are valid but not points the article was addressing.

      Still the article does indicate the importance of exercising recall during that short period when the dream is still in working memory. Now perhaps at first that has to be a conscious effort, but maybe with lots of practice it begins to become more of a subconscious activity, thus it's easier to recall dreams from much earlier in the night without having to consciously engage working memory for encoding into long-term storage?

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      Gotcha back. An analogy about recall improving over time, is like at first you have to dig and dig and dig and little tidbits start coming through, whereas after sufficient experience and practice, you just need to start thinking of the dreams and the subconscious says "here you go!" and they flood in. Now maybe it's never quite like that, you must always reach, but once your mind realizes that reaching for dream memories is important and something you do all the time, the pathways become well-oiled and operate efficiently.
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      Quote Originally Posted by FryingMan View Post
      Gotcha back. An analogy about recall improving over time, is like at first you have to dig and dig and dig and little tidbits start coming through, whereas after sufficient experience and practice, you just need to start thinking of the dreams and the subconscious says "here you go!" and they flood in. Now maybe it's never quite like that, you must always reach, but once your mind realizes that reaching for dream memories is important and something you do all the time, the pathways become well-oiled and operate efficiently.
      Yup! I think we're saying the same thing. Practice basically reprograms the subconscious through repetition and assigning importance. Neurons that fire together, wire together. :-)

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      Quote Originally Posted by JustASimpleGuy View Post
      I take it that the most important exercising of recall happens in the step that pulls it out of working memory and encodes it into long-term memory. Seems to me that's only going to happen in very close proximity to the actual occurrence of the dream. So there's recall of the dream from working memory and later on recall from what was pulled from working memory and stored in long-term memory. It seems to me the prior is more important to work than the latter, and that's not to slight the latter as being unimportant.
      Ah yes I think I'm understanding this all better now. It seems to be that we're looking at two different memory 'muscles'. The first one is exclusively concerned with recalling dreams, while the second is mainly used for accessing already recalled dreams from our waking memory. So if we wrote down tags for a dream and recalled the dream from those tags in the day, we're probably just accessing those waking memories of the dream that we recalled and associated with the tag during the night. The times I've tried writing less detail in my journal, the bits I remember later have always been bits I'd already recalled at some point in the night or morning already; It's very rare I uncover new details this way, unless I see something that suddenly triggers a memory.

      So I suppose the important thing for developing recall is to really pay attention to all the details of the dream on waking, whether or not we write it all down fully. I'm going to posit that If you remembered a dream in full and ran through it several times in your head, this would be developing good recall regardless of how well you remembered it during the day. But of course writing it all down does seem to actually help the recall process, and being able to remember the dream in long term memory is crucial for building awareness of what it's like to be dreaming and for spotting dream signs.

      Now I understand it all a bit better, I think I'm going to try and get more enthusiastic about writing dreams fully at night. I just might use less punctuation and pointless words like 'I' and 'the'
      FryingMan and JustASimpleGuy like this.

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      I think with enough practice one can get to a point where recall from working memory and encoding to long-term storage becomes more automatic. That's not to say it would be as good as actively writing the dream down upon waking, but I am beginning to notice at times I recall more than the current dream I woke up from. They're not nearly as complete or detailed, but they are there.

      Not sure if they were still in part residual in working memory or somehow my subconscious did the encoding into long-term storage without me being aware. But there's definite improvement because when I started this in early January it was one waking = one dream. That's no longer the case.

      EDIT: And yes, I agree going over the dream in memory with as much attention to detail as possible and then writing down some key tags has to result in more retention than just quickly writing down the immediate impressions in the form of tags and then going back to sleep.

      2nd EDIT: By the way, I have to give credit to FryingMan for my motivation and improvement on recall. His ability in this area impressed me and I listen very closely to what he has to say.
      Last edited by JustASimpleGuy; 03-03-2015 at 06:14 PM.
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