Dream Diaries

Dream Diaries are great – even though they sound like a lot of work and it’s hard to see the point at first.

When you’re stuck in a place that you don’t want to be stuck in and have lost that little propeller which, in better days, keeps you heading in the right direction (forwards), writing a dream diary can really flick that subconscious switch. It’s just a case of making yourself pick up that pen in the first place…..

The premise is simple (and probably explained far better by self-help gurus or therapeutic professionals): a dream diary is a description of how your perfect day would look to you.

Unlike a real diary, anything is possible and there’s no fixed reality (shopping in New York, for example, is completely feasible because your wallet is bottomless and you shouldn’t be worrying about things like childcare or not being able to smoke on the plane). What’s more, you’re not restricted to an A5 page or four ridiculously thin lines: nothing is irrelevant and the devil is, most certainly, in the detail.

I wrote my first dream diary in a hard core psychiatric unit. It wasn’t very pleasant. In fact, it was probably my most far from perfect moment. However, the idea was given to me by a friend and, with no other distractions for my typical cynicism to latch on to and more faith in her than the psychiatrists, I figured that it was worth a try and, hey, it would fill an otherwise empty day.

The results were surprising. Not only did I enjoy the exercise but I also learnt some important stuff too.

With no limitations, I had been a bit concerned that my ‘ideal day’ would be slightly OTT – think shopping in New York with a bottomless wallet and smoking above the Atlantic scenario – but I found that, when your life has been reduced to the extent that mine had, it was not the big things that mattered; it was the little things that most people take for granted.

A lazy lie in (rather than the 6:30 jolt from a resless sleep); a satisfying breakfast (unknown, not calorie counted, not the first thing to cross my mind); other people (there, not by intention or arrangement, but just because they were there); possibilities and freedom (rather than plans and provisions). You get the idea.

My dream diary really got me thinking. The first realisation was a bit tricky (my life was a million miles from where I wanted it to be); but the things I actually wanted weren’t quite as distant as they appeared. Recovery felt far more achievable and far more worthwhile. What’s more, instead of looking backwards, I made a u-turn and started looking ahead.

I don’t know how effective writing about an imaginary day is or why it helps – I can only say that it was a bit of a turning point for me, a way of accessing the motivation to recover which a month in hospital had well and truly destroyed. I did nothing with my diary, but it obviously flicked that subconscious switch. It got my inner propeller going again and did the crucial job or re-sparking the motivation which is so important to recovery.

What’s more – and I can’t make any promises or claim any mystic meg powers – some of my dream diary actually became part of my real diary in the following year. Nothing grand – but enough to prove that dreams are not just in your imagination.

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