Can keeping a dream diary help with your mental health? Well it’s totally dependent on you. Some people with minor depressive episodes or anxiety issues may find it beneficial to keep a log of their dreams. People with severe disorders or issues may find it less than helpful unless of course they do it in conjunction with a psychiatrist.
Both Freud and Jung believed that dreams were almost a window into our subconscious minds. They aren’t alone, it’s not unheard of for philosophers or psychology autodidacts to keep track of their dreams.
If you do decide to do it, it’s a large undertaking.
Here’s the reality; it can take years, and I mean years to be able to discover patterns in your dreams that may actually reveal a particular aspect of your psyche. It can take years to be able to figure out what certain symbols mean. Unfortunately you can’t just pick up a dream translation book with your Tarot cards and get the answers off your psychic. Actual dream comprehension is a long and arduous task. Plus this sort of thing is developed to understand neuroses rather than psychoses, so severe mental illness may not be benefited at all by dream analysis.
Firstly you must keep a pen and paper beside your bed and write down every dream you have the moment you wake up. I mean every single dream! Even that stupid one you think is unimportant, it isn’t.
Secondly you must write in as much detail as possible about your dream. Thirdly you must spend a considerable amount of time attempting to understand your dreams. Don’t just take the obvious one i.e. if you have a dream that you’re standing watching a waterfall and you when you wake up you have to pee, they may not be linked, don’t assume anything. Fourthly I would recommend that if you have the money and dedication to go through psychodynamics, which itself can take absolutely years to peel back all the layers of your psyche. But doing this in conjunction with a dream diary can be massively beneficial. Your psychiatrist may be more than interested in your diary.
Again interpreting dreams is incredibly difficult if you are not someone who has a great and deep understanding of yourself. I remember an episode of Frasier in which he had a dream that was homosexual in its persuasion. He spent the entire episode with this recurring dream and every theory he developed for the dream was incorrect. Even in the end he couldn’t solve entirely the issue behind the dream as the closing sequence is him naked in bed and Sigmund Freud walks into the room and climbs into bed with him! Point being, don’t kill yourself trying to solve your dreams give it time, a pattern may emerge and answers may be revealed.
For an example of how dream interpretation can go here’s a short story originating from Siberia.
A solitary hunter once had the experience of seeing a beautiful woman appear on the opposite bank of a river. She waved to him and sang, “Come, come. I’ve missed you, missed you. Now I want to put my arms around you, put my arms around you. Come, come, my nest is nearby, my nest. Come, come, lonely hunter, right now in the stillness of twilight.” As he threw off his clothes and began swimming across to her, she suddenly flew away in the form of an owl, laughing mockingly. Swimming back, he drowned in the ice-cold river.
That story is synonymous with Jungian psychology as an example of a destructive anima inside a male. I won’t go into the Anima and Animus in depth here but in it’s most basic definition the Anima is the female energy within a male and the animus the male energy in a female.
In Jungian psychology, if a man has a bad relationship with his mother it can cause depressive moods, make him very sensitive to criticism, irritable and permanently discontented with himself and life. This anima if allowed to dominate the self further can become so destructive that the man may kill himself.
The above story is an example of that anima becoming destructive. The man drowns because he is a chasing an impossible erotic fantasy with his dream woman who he believes is not only beautiful but will nurture him back in her nest.
Now whether you agree with Jungian psychology or not is irrelevant. If you are going to track your dreams because you want to understand your psyche better you’re working straight from the Jungian and Freudian playbooks, so open mindedness is necessary. Without further digression the point of that story is to show you how a dream can be interpreted. If I had asked you to interpret that story as if it was told to you by someone who claimed they dreamed it, would you have come to conclusion that the person is having a dream about anima projection?
This is why I say it can take years and you may need to employ the help of an experienced psychodynamicist. But you also must be aware, depending on which way the person leans you may get different answers i.e. a Freudian won’t come to the same conclusions as a Jungian but then again nobody in the history of mankind has ever come to the same conclusions as Freud.
Dream analysis may bring your self understanding to a whole new level and open your mind to things you thought not possible. But it’s hard bloody work. It’s not a short term thing and it’s not cheap, monetarily, emotionally or mentally. But if you are doing it let us know! Or if you have done it, please share your experience! If you want to tell us in depth your experiences with dream analysis and psychodynamics please email me if you’d be interested in having it published on the blog!
Until next time.