Ask Tzivia: I Only Remember My Nightmares

September 21st, 2015 by

Dear Tzivia,
I have a hard time remembering my dreams (I usually remember the nightmares). What can I do to help myself remember my dreams? I might remember part, but it gets foggy within seconds after waking.



Dear Forgetful,

I am a woman of a certain age—No, I’m not being coy, I’d tell you my age, it’s just that I can’t remember it.

But seriously. I am at a time of life when I forget a lot of things in my waking life: Where did I put my keys? My glasses? Oh, is that them on top of my head? The dreams however—those I remember.

So, dear Forgetful One, if I can remember dreams, you can too. It shouldn’t be so difficult. You see, in waking life we accept that we remember some things and forget others. But when it comes to dreams, we more or less expect to forget. Scientists tell us that low dream recall occurs because the brain chemicals that support short-term memory recall are in short supply when we’re dreaming. But there must be more to it than that. After all, in cultures that value dreams, people remember dreams on a regular basis—the way we some of us remember the batting averages of every Red Sox player that ever lived, or lines from songs we haven’t danced to since the days of three-piece white suits and disco balls.

My point is this: In our cultures where dreams are considered bizarre or random occurrences void of meaning, guess what—the general population tends not to remember them.

As for you, my dear Forgetful One, you do remember some dreams. You remember the scary ones. No surprise! When dreams need to get our attention, they deliver something we’re not likely to forget: Breathless chases, sharp-fanged dogs, and terrifying falls from high mountain passes—no wonder some people don’t want to remember their dreams. (So, kudos to you for wanting to recall more of them, despite the fact that the opening sallies have been a bit disturbing.)

As for how to remember more dreams? That is indeed the question.

And you, my friend, are already on the right track: Taking a genuine interest in your dreams is an important first step in recalling them.

One way to show your dreams that you are paying attention is to put a pen and pad by your bed (or your smart phone with the voice recorder ready to go) and set your intention to recall your dreams before you nod off. Write it down: “Tonight I will dream and remember my dreams in the morning.”

When you wake, write your dream, or even a dream fragment in your notebook. Do this before you roll over and kiss your sweetie good morning, before you check the time, or get up to pee. If you don’t remember a dream, write that down, along with anything you do remember about your sleep experience. Do this for a week or more, and that should get the dreams flowing.

I hope this helps clear a little of that dreamy fog, so you can step onto the Royal Road to your unconscious.

In the meantime, may you be well and dream well.


Tzivia Gover, Certified Dream Therapist, author, and educator.

Join Tzivia for a dream workshop series at CLINIC beginning Weds. evening Sept. 30.

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