It isn’t just because our dreams are more interesting than our actual lives that they’re so worth remembering. There’s a further advantage: detailed dream-memory fosters the understanding that can enable us to recognize our dreams as they occur. If we can do that, then we can have the pleasure of taking control. And lucid dreaming, as this is called, is about the most entertaining private activity known to man.
What makes dream-recall difficult is the way memories are stored in contexts. To recall a memory, we re-activate the state we were in when we first stored it. If you learn something when diving after jellyfish while wearing a false moustache, for instance, you’ll recall it best when re-submerged, re-moustachioed and back chasing the jellies.
The problem with remembering dreams is a kind of Catch 22: you’re either in a dream-state, and therefore too asleep to be doing any remembering; or else you’re awake, but outside the dreamy context where dream-memories cluster. To escape this bind requires tactical nous: you need to begin your dream-recall before your dreams have entirely finished.
Fortunately, our dreams are very punctual: they tend to fit our sleep schedules exactly. So by setting your alarm as little as ten minutes earlier than normal, you can reliably wake during a dream, not after it. Here is your opportunity: it takes a few moments fully to exit dreaminess. Get recalling with pen and paper during this period, and you’ll be thrilled with what you can remember.
And by practicing dream-recall like this daily for three weeks consecutively, you’ll find an almost surreal extension to your powers of recollection. You’ll remember multiple dreams- and in astonishing, filmic detail. Why such improvement? Because you’ll have come to understand the thing you’re seeking, you’ll know the quirks and foibles of your dreams.
This honed sense of their characteristic style will then allow you to spot your dreams for what they are- when you’re inside them. While dreaming, as you get down to installing a swimming pool in your E-Type Jag, or whatever, you’ll no longer find it it all very sensible, as one generally does. Instead, you’ll think to yourself “this sort of nonsense happens only in dreams”. Such a realization will allow you to draw the conclusion “this must therefore be a dream”. And once you know that, you can begin exercising control. The delights that follow are up to you.