Exploring the Sleeping Mind

The Basic Steps of Dream Analysis, Part 1

The ID dream analysis method uses the following steps to record, analyze, and learn from our dreams.

  1. The moment you wake up, write down a quick overview of the dream in one to three sentences. This must be done immediately, before you forget. As soon as your brain begins to acknowledge the thoughts of everyday life, the details of your dream, and usually the entire dream itself, will fade from your memory. Many people claim that they do not dream—in reality, we all dream, we just forget the vast majority of them. When you begin to track your dreams regularly, you will be shocked at how even a thirty second delay in the morning is enough to erase all memory of a dream. The dream that we were so absorbed in one moment is never transferred from our subconscious to our conscious thought if we do not actively pull it there.
  2. Next, expand on the first step. Write a full description of the dream, recounting every possible detail. The reason not to do this step first is that dreams are forgotten within moments of waking up, so if you dive into details immediately, you may forget the ending of the dream before the time you are able to get there. Write down everything—every color, every number, every person, every detail you can recall. Instead of writing “I was standing in a room,” write, “I was standing with my feet shoulder-width apart, arms at my side, in a small room about the size of my bedroom, with white walls. There was one window on the wall to my left, and it was gloomy outside. The other two walls were blank, and I didn’t see the fourth wall as my back was facing it. The room was completely empty other than carpeted flooring underneath me.” A longer dream may take several pages to write out in this level of detail. This may seem excessive, but the minor details will often provide valuable insight later on.
  3. One by one, review your reaction to each image encountered in the dream. To use the last example, what feeling flashes through your mind when you picture the window? Use your gut reaction, not your logical thought. Your logical thought says “this is a window, which provides light to a room and a view outside.” Your gut reaction will be much more complex, personal, and instantaneous. Perhaps as you picture the window, a memory of gazing out your bedroom window as a child will flash through your mind, and with it a brief feeling of melancholy, before your logical brain takes over with its externally imposed definitions of a window. This is the significance of seeing the window—not an architectural or metaphorical window, but melancholy. As a side note, this is why dream dictionaries are rarely effective, because they use externally imposed connotations to objects rather than internal (see my post on this topic here).
  4. In addition to recording and analyzing each element of a dream, list each feeling experienced during a dream, for example, as you stood in the room, perhaps it felt familiar, even though you’ve never seen it before. Perhaps you also solemn during the dream. These are the feelings experienced during the dream itself, not the feelings brought about in your conscious state while recalling the dream. Oftentimes these feelings do not come with an obvious explanation. You may not know why the room feels familiar and solemn, even though during the dream, those feelings were natural.

Continued in Part 2.

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