The Dream Detective FAQ

I don’t think I dream at night.
Actually, we all dream about 4 to 5 times a night, you probably just don’t remember them....
Why is it so hard to remember my dream?
“Sometimes I remember a dream in the middle of the night, by the next day it is gone. Or, I wake up and remember, but then I totally forget after I my day gets started. Why does this happen?”
Science is still trying to figure this one out. It seems that when people are awakened within a relatively short time of dreaming (or during a dream), they are quite likely to recall a dream. The more time that elapses between having a dream and waking up, the less likely they are to remember a dream. One theory is that our short term memory is functioning while we are dreaming, and that if you don’t do something to get the dream into the long term memory (i.e. write it down, tell it to someone), it will be gone. But this doesn’t explain why sometimes later in the day you’ll see something that triggers the memory of a dream you had until then forgotten. This seems better explained by another theory – that the memory is there, but unless you have an association to recall it by, it will remain hidden from your conscious mind. Writing it down, recording, repeating or rehearsing it seems to provide the association necessary to remember it. Perhaps it is possible to strengthen (like a muscle) those connections in the brain with practice, as people who put the effort in to record their dreams seem to recall them with greater ease over time.
What can I do to increase my dream recall?
When we first wake up, most of us tend to jump out of bed and spring into action. This is a sure way to forget any lingering traces of a dream. Instead, try to just lie still and pay attention to anything you might be feeling or thinking, or even part of a song that might be going through your head. If you don’t notice anything, try shifting positions (sometimes just getting back into the position you were dreaming in will help trigger a memory). You may get something right away, or it may take some practice. Whatever you are feeling or even if you recall just a little piece of a dream, write it down! If you don’t want to write it, try using a tape recorder, digital recorder, or even leave yourself a voice mail. Even the most seemingly insignificant clip of a dream can hold interesting and amazing insight, once you understand the meaning of it. Keep paying attention every morning, and write down what you do remember. Strengthening your dream recall is like exercising a muscle: eventually it will get stronger. Soon, you will recall whole dreams and have plenty to work with!
Do we dream in color or black and white?
If you see in color, you most likely dream in color. If you think about it, the idea of dreaming in black and white probably never occurred to people until the invention of the black and white television!
Do blind people dream?
People who are blind from birth have no visual images in their dreams. They experience their dreams as they experience their waking life: through their other senses such as sounds, taste, touch and smell. People who became blind later in life may retain some visual images in their dreams.
Recurring Dreams
“I have a recurring dream; why does that happen?”
Recurring dreams usually happen due to an unresolved issue in a person’s life. If you resolve the issue, the recurring dream will likely stop. Try to notice if you have this dream at certain times in your life -- is there a recurring situation, or unresolved issue in your life that seems to come up when you have this dream? Once you pinpoint the source of the recurring dream, you can address the unresolved issue that is causing it. Once the issue is resolved, in you will most likely stop having the recurring dream.
Sexual Dreams
Yes, we all have them...But are they really about sex? Sometimes the person we are having sex with in a dream possesses certain qualities or traits that we would like to embrace in ourselves. Other times, our dreaming mind is indulging us in what we might be missing out on in real life! There are many possibilities, and each dream must be looked at in the context of the dreamer’s life, and what the people they are interacting with represent to them.
Same Gender Sex Dreams
“I dreamed of having sex with someone of the same gender, does that mean I’m gay? (or vice versa for a gay person dreaming about sex with a straight person)”
In general, a straight person dreaming of a gay encounter- or a gay person dreaming of a straight encounter- does not mean the dreamer is confused about their sexual orientation. It simply may be a matter of wanting to connect with certain traits in them selves that the sex partner represents to the dreamer in waking life. When it comes to interpreting an actual dream, more information is needed from the dreamer as there are many other possibilities for interpretation. The circumstances and interactions between the two characters need to be taken into consideration (i.e. if the person is attacking you sexually, it probably is not about you wanting to connect with that trait!)
Nightmares
Nightmares are sometimes so scary that they can wake us up out of a deep sleep. The feelings of fear, anxiety and stress that they bring are most likely happening in some area of your waking life. Nightmares can also be triggered by a traumatic event. If we understand the dream, it can help us deal with the real life issue that is causing the nightmare. Try asking the scary figure in the dream ‘who are you’ and ‘what do you want’? Nightmares are very common, but different than night terrors. Some other causes for nightmares can include certain drugs or medications (or withdrawal from either), illness or fever. If you would like to, post your nightmares in the forum, and know that you are not alone.
Psychic Dreams
“I have dreams that later happen in reality, am I psychic?”
Precognitive dreams are actually very common. I wonder if more people remembered their dreams, if we would hear more stories about these types of dreams? Sometimes it is possible that we are picking up on subtle cues regarding a situation, and that really we had the information all along. Other times the dreamer simply could not have had any information regarding the situation in advance. Science has little to offer in terms of explanation for these types of dreams, but this is a fascinating subject. If you would like to post your precognitive dream, or read those of others, visit the forum.
Lucid Dreams
Lucid dreaming is the ability to be consciously aware of the fact that you are dreaming while it is happening, and being able chose the actions and outcomes of your dreams. There are conflicting opinions on this: One is that if you can control the outcome of your dreams, you can control the outcome of your life. What a great way to take charge of your destiny! A second theory is that the unconscious mind needs to work things out as we sleep, and that process should not be interfered with. I can see value to both sides.
Can I learn how to have lucid dreams?
It can take some practice, but it is possible. Some stumble into the ability, but for most putting in some effort can pay off. Here are some steps that can help if you would like to learn how to become lucid in your dreams:
Set the intention that you a going to have lucid dreams tonight and that you will remember your dreams when you wake up. Repeat this over and over to yourself as you are falling asleep. You can also decide ahead of time what you would like dream about while you are lucid. For example: “Tonight I am going to have lucid dreams that I am flying through the sky with Brad Pitt, and I will remember everything when I wake up!”
Perform ‘reality checks’ throughout the day: take note of your surroundings to see if there is anything unusual such as talking pigs or the fact that you can walk on water! By making reality checks a habit when you are awake, you will start to do them in your dreams. When you realize that you are dreaming - voila - you are lucid!
Create an association that you can use to trigger your awareness during dreaming, such as looking at your hands (or make up your own association). Practice this through out the day, similar to reality checks. By making awareness-association a habit you will start to do it in your dreams. When you do it (awake or asleep) check in with yourself to see if you are dreaming or not. If look at your hands in a dream and gain the awareness that you are dreaming – voila again – you are lucid!
Some suggest setting the alarm clock early because if you wake up in the middle of a dream, you are more likely to remember it. In my book there is nothing worse than being yanked out of a good dream by an intrusive alarm clock! But it is an option if you are having trouble recalling your dreams. Just be sure to write your dream down or record it, or it will probably be lost in the first 10 minutes.
One study found that by being woken up an hour early and staying up for 30-60 minutes, then going back to sleep, people were 15-20 times more likely to have lucid dreams.
Once you become lucid, realizing that you are dreaming while in the dreaming state, you will be able to take control of the characters, scenery, plots, and actions in your dream. If you are being chased by a monster, you confront him and turn him into a piece of broccoli! Or get romantic with your favorite celebrity. You decide, it’s your dream! Have fun.
Shared Dreams
“Is it possible to to have the same dream at the same time as someone else, or to meet someone in a dream?”
Yes! Also known as mutual dreaming, dream linking, or meshing, shared dreaming can be an amazing experience. It often occurs spontaneously between couples, siblings or close friends. If you want to try to make it happen, try using a combination of the techniques described here for Dream Incubation and “Can I learn how to have lucid dreams?”
Dream Incubation
Many inventions, literary works, and musical compositions have all come to people in their dreams. Most of us have gone to sleep with a problem, issue or question on our mind at some point, and woken up with the solution. Even if we don’t remember a specific dream, waking up with the answer just shows that mind is always working. Dream incubation is the process of learning how to ask for a dream on a specific topic, and can be an amazing tool for problem solving, coming up with creative ideas, or addressing relationship issues, for example. Here are some steps to help you learn how to incubate a dream:
Decide on a specific question you would like to know about. Try not to ask yes/no questions, as dreams will answer with a story and may give you new perspectives and ways of looking at things that you hadn’t considered before. Yes and No can be limiting and not offer much creative insight.
Here are some examples of dream incubation questions:
  • “How can I find the kind of romantic relationship that I really want?”
  • “How can I reach the next level in my career?”
  • “I need a creative new marketing idea for the Johnson campaign”
Write down the question on a piece of paper next to your bed. Repeat the phrase over and over as you go to sleep. Be sure to write down or record your dream as SOON as you wake up! All that problem solving won’t be worth much if you let it slip away. Most dreams will be gone in less than 10 minutes if you don’t do something to record them. Even if you only remember a short fragment, a song lyric or a thought, write it down. It still may have interpretive value.
The answer to your question may be obvious to you upon awakening. The dream may offer direct insight, or it may take some pondering and reflecting to find out what the metaphors are telling you. Sometimes having a little distance from the dream, say letting a day or two go by, will offer you a new perspective – almost like an outsider looking in. After all, isn’t it always harder to see our own problems than those of others? If you are really stumped, you can always enlist the help of a Dream Detective.
Dream Incubation can also be combined with other forms of dreaming such as lucid or shared dreaming, to create the specific scenes, activities and company that you would like to enjoy.