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Excerpt from "Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams"

The 1-2-3 System for Living Your Dreams

by J.M. DeBord

Step 1 Remember Your Dreams

The first step in my dream work method is learning how to remember your dreams. Dreams can seem impossible to remember or not worth the effort, especially dark or painful ones, and this all-important initial step often seems the most difficult. But it’s really not as hard as you might think. It just takes practice and a few good strategies. People also often think they “don’t dream.”

I think it helps to know that, except in rare instances of brain damage, everyone dreams. Comatose people dream. Blind people dream. Babies in the womb dream. Even animals dream. If you think you don’t dream, the truth is you simply don’t remember our dreams. Don’t worry. By the end of this chapter you will most certainly begin to. If you are someone who has no trouble remembering your dreams, you might want to skip ahead to the next section about keeping a dream journal (page 8). For the rest

of you, read on.

In my experience, people’s inability to remember dreams usually comes down to lack of time or desire. If you are too busy and distracted when you first wake up, your dreams will often slip away. But everyone who tries to remember his or her dreams eventually succeeds. Here are some suggestions for dream recall:

1. Talk to yourself the night before. Tell yourself before going to sleep that you will remember your dreams. Really tell yourself. Say it like you mean it. Say it like a prayer. Anything repeated to oneself three times with full attention is

likely to be remembered, so before going to sleep say three times, “I will remember my dreams.” If you have difficulty saying it with conviction, you might be internally blocked— you say you want to remember but really don’t, or don’t

think you can. If that’s the case, relax and let it come naturally. By reading this book you are planting a seed in your subconscious, and once you know the true value and benefit of your dreams, you will wholeheartedly want to remember

them, and the conviction to say so and mean it will grow.

2. Write down your dreams. Make time to remember and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. This will require an adjustment if you normally start your day at a run, but it’s essential. When I’m in a busy environment, I retreat to the bathroom with my journal first thing in the morning.

3. Review at bedtime, cue your mind. If you remember dreams from the last time you slept, review them at bedtime, or browse through your journal. By reviewing your dreams you cue your mind for that night’s dreams.

4. Don’t move. Stay in, or return to, the same physical position you were in when you first woke up. This physical cue helps jog dream memories and aid recall. I know someone who remembers his dreams as soon as he goes to bed, because the memories are stimulated by returning to a sleeping position.

5. Meditate. A clear mind, calmly aware of itself and its surroundings,

is a great helper for remembering dreams. Don’t let the word scare you. Meditation is any activity that holds your attention in a relaxed way, so a peaceful walk counts as long as you relax and clear your mind.

6. Be patient. The memories of your dreams are never lost, just stored away. There might be good reason why you block out some dream memories: They are too difficult to accept! Groundwork might have to be laid before the messages can be received. It’s fine to be a turtle instead of a hare when it

comes to dream work.

For most people, dream memories disappear soon after waking up, though the window of opportunity stays open longer with practice. So get in the habit of asking yourself as soon as you wake up, “What did I dream?” Hold other thoughts at bay as you look inside and ask that question. It’s like staring into a dark night and waiting for forms to take shape. In that black inkiness are

your dream memories. One memory, just a flash of a dream, is enough to give shape to the rest. Relax. Breathe deep. Search your memory. If a fragment of a dream comes to mind, ask yourself if it fits into a larger picture. For instance:

I wake from a dream and remember only that I was with my brother at a costume party. To remember the rest, I ask why we were there, how we got there, what we wore. I then recall that we drove to the party after visiting our mom. By asking why we visited her, I remember that we picked up costumes she made for us.

Once the initial association is made, it leads further into

the dream memories. I usually don’t need more prompting to remember the rest of the dream, but if I do I continue the same process of questioning the details and paying close attention to anything that compares or contrasts with waking life.

Waking up opens the memory hole and soon the details slip away, though you might remember other bits and pieces of a dream later in the day. By remaining at the edge of sleep longer and asking questions, the dreams aren’t allowed to escape as quickly.

If you do forget a dream, don’t fret: Dreams repeat themselves, displaying the same scenario a thousand different ways if necessary. In my experience, the dreaming mind is eager to get to work whenever I am, but the motor might take a few cranks to get started. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying.

If you draw a blank when you first wake up, pay close attention to your feelings, which can give clues to what you dreamed. Allow your imagination to fill in gaps; your intuition and feelings know what happened in a dream even if it can’t be recalled. Also, flashes of dream memory can be remembered any time during the day. A simple act like sitting down to type at your computer or getting your usual cup of coffee in the break room can trigger a new detail of your dream to surface.

Don’t judge a dream while remembering it. This can be a terrible hindrance by the ego to avoid painful or uncomfortable dream content. If the ego (see page xvi of the introduction for a refresher on how I use this term) is one-sided, dreams will go the other direction just as far to illustrate what is out of balance.

In return, the ego, avoiding a hard look at itself, can go to great lengths to preserve its illusions. Everything seen in a dream is part of yourself or connected closely. Accept it. Embrace it. It’s all you taking shape and telling a story about your life. Listen and learn; don’t judge.

If you have tried self-suggestion and the other tools described here to remember your dreams and are still drawing a blank, try the following strategies.

Napping. No alarm to wake up to, no work day to begin. Napping on a sofa or guest bed can stimulate dream recall, as can any change of sleeping environment.

Going to bed at your regular time but waking fifteen minutes early to an alarm is another option. I don’t like it because waking to an alarm tends to scatter my dream memories, but early sleep research discovered that people woken while having a dream are very likely to remember it.

Sleeping longer than normal is also known to help with dream recall. It gives the mind and body needed rest and opportunities to dream. People who go for long periods without sleep tend to have really bizarre dreams, which I attribute to rebellion in the unconscious side of the mind. Polyphasic sleep, sleeping multiple times in a twenty-four hour period, can also affect dreams. One particularly extreme form of Polyphasic sleep known as the Uberman sleep schedule breaks sleep into six twenty-minute naps, one every four hours. This can produce terrifying dreams, according to some people who have tried it. You don’t want to make an adversary of your unconscious mind; it needs complete sleep cycles of around ninety minutes to run processes for maintenance of mind and body, without which a person breaks down mentally and physically. Plus, with each consecutive dream cycle, dreams become longer and more meaningful. Half-hour naps don’t cut it.

Some drugs inhibit dream memory. In my experience, drugs that aid sleep also affect dreams by making them strange and meaningless, or blocking memory. The small print is supposed to indicate if a drug affects sleep or dreaming. If you are taking a sleep aid, read the insert and ask your doctor about other methods of aiding sleep.

Going to bed intoxicated also affects dreaming, as does cannabis. Some war veterans use medical cannabis to escape the nightmares of being back in combat; like alcohol, it suppresses dream recall and interferes with the sleep cycle.

In recovery groups it is well known that soon after cleaning up In recovery groups it is well known that soon after cleaning up from a drug or alcohol problem, a person will dream intensely. Dream activity usually picks up after a few days of sobriety, or after a few days of rest from a busy job. It gets intense because there is a backlog of dream content, but it’s better to slog through and let the dreams run their course than use a drug or some other means to avoid them. I’ve also known people who have quit using tobacco or taking prescription drugs and began remembering unusually powerful dreams.

If all else fails, take a long vacation and leave the alarm clock at home. Extra sleep is the best stimulator I know of for remembering dreams.


If you wake up in the middle of the night and remember a dream, you only need to write down the major symbolism to jog your memory and fully remember it the next time you wake up.


J.M. DeBord began studying and interpreting dreams two decades ago, and now one of his personal dreams comes true with the publication of Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams, a groundbreaking book that makes dreams understandable for everyone and shows how they can be used for your benefit. DeBord's publishing career began 25 years ago. He has worked in newspaper, radio and television journalism, and is the author of a novel, Something Coming: a New Age Thriller. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona and interprets dreams as a moderator at Reddit Dreams, where he is known as “RadOwl.”

Dreams 1-2-3 is available from Amazon.com and in bookstores near you.

ISBN 978-1-57174-702-0 Hampton Roads Publishing Company Distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.

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