The ABC’s of Dream Recall

By Lauri Jean Crowe

When we awaken, often the dream sequence which moments before in our sleeping state seemed vivid and real will disappear to be only fragments of imagery. In seeking to recall them we rely heavily on memory and free association. One method which has been beneficial to me, as well as to other dream journalists, is an approach put forth by Robert L. Van De Castle, Ph.D. in his 1994 Ballantine Books release of “Our Dreaming Mind.”

Upon first awakening, keep your eyes closed for a few moments while lying still and trying to recall the last images which may have been present as you approached everyday waking consciousness. When you are able to recall a specific image, go through the following sequence, known as the DCBA – ABCD method:

“(D): try to reconnect it with whatever event or activity preceded it,(C) and what preceded that, (B) and what preceded that, (A) tracing it as far back as you are able.”

Recreating these dream sequences in an order beginning with the most recent and stretching your memory to the first image helps you to string together the events. Once you have done this, with your eyes still closed, open and record (preferably in a specific dream journal you keep by the bed) the dream in reverse order (A,B,C,D). Write non-stop describing the dream as fully and in as much detail as you can, but do not go back and correct or scratch out anything you’ve written. The way in which you first remember your dreams and jot them down may hold a certain meaning for you, than a more polished rendition would not later reveal.

If you are more inclined to be vocal, an alternative could be to utilize a tape recorder for the DCBA portion of Van De Castle’s approach, and then write the ABCD order down based on that recording. Others who are inclined toward visual representations may find it more useful to draw or paint the DCBA sequence and then write the ABCD journal entry or vice verse. This is just one approach to reinforcing dream recall, which has many possibilities that can be implemented depending on individual inclination.

Keeping a dream journal on a daily basis, and getting into the practice of the DCBA – ABCD approach will help assist you if you’re having difficulty recalling your dreams. It will also give them some structure, without losing the often chaotic images which make up the dream.

Lauri Jean Crowe is a freelance writer known for such diverse topics as dreams, sexuality, gardening, health and parenting. She is a freelance writer, artist and designer living in Michigan, USA.

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