7 Steps of Dream Recall

Step 1: Recall and Record Your Dream

  1. Place a voice recorder or notepad and pen within easy reach of your bed.
  2. When you begin to feel yourself drifting off to sleep, repeat aloud three times: “I will remember my dreams clearly and well, and will record them when I wake up.”
  3. When you awaken, whether in the morning or the middle of the night, quickly record whatever you can recall from your dream.
  4. Be very literal. Jot down the first images and feelings that come to your mind without judging or analyzing, Whatever comes to your mind, just note it and let it be.

Step 2: Give Your Dream a Title

  1. Familiarize yourself with titling by paying attention to newspaper headlines and magazine story titles.
  2. Let the title be the first word or phrase that comes to mind.
  3. If you have trouble, try saying aloud a very basic summary of the dream’s content to help identify its central themes.
  4. Repeat your title aloud, slowly, and think about what the word or phrase means or suggests to you generally.
  5. Set the dream and its title aside.

Step 3: Read or Repeat Your Dream Aloud – Slowly

  1. Repeat or reread your dream aloud.
  2. Speak slowly, keeping in mind that the dreamer is always dreaming about the dreamer.
  3. Verbalize your thoughts and feelings yourself, so that your brain fully absorbs the information. Don’t let others do it for you.

Step 4: Consider What Is Uppermost in Your Life Right Now

  1. Quickly review the title and/or summary of the dream with which you are working.
  2. Assess what is uppermost in your life right now, looking carefully at your work, your family, your relationships, etc.
  3. Be instinctive. Whatever first comes to your mind is most likely what your dream addresses.

Step 5: Describe Your Dream as if Talking to a Martian

  1. Consider which details stand out the most in your dream.
  2. Describe those details as if talking to a Martian, or someone with absolutely no shared frame of reference.
  3. Belabor the obvious. If something seems to go without saying, say it anyway. Explaining the obvious aloud offers clues to a dream’s meaning.
  4. Think about symbols that commonly occur in your dreams and familiarize yourself with their meaning and intent. This helps you to interpret dreams more quickly and easily as you move forward.

Step 6: Summarize the Message from Your Unconscious

  1. Reflect on the work you have done in steps 1 thought 5.
  2. Try to summarize your dream’s content in one or two clear messages from the unconscious.
  3. Remember your interpretation simple, grounded in common sense, and relevant to your current, waking life.
  4. Honor your work. Though it may initially be challenging, step 6 prepares you to understand the dream’s guidance.

Step 7: Consider Your Dream’s Guidance for Waking Life

  1. Repeat aloud the message you summarized in step 6.
  2. Consider the symbolic solutions offered in the dream.
  3. Translate the symbolic advice into commonsense guidance related to current situations in your waking life.
  4. If the dream does not seem to offer solutions, consider what steps you can take to address the issues raised in the dream.
  5. Consider one or two tangible actions you can take in response to the dream’s guidance.
  6. Honor your baby steps.

For more detail and guidance, look to Dr. Cohen’s new book Dreaming on Both Sides of the Brain: Discover the Secret Language of the Night.

For more personal guidance, email Dr. Cohen at drdorisecohen@gmail.com for a private Reading.


“Broken-down Car” Dream & Dream Interpretation

“Broken-down Car”

A male patient of mine shared this dream with me a few years ago.  Rick was suffering from depression.  He had lost his job due to downsizing, his relationship with his partner was shaky, and in order to cope was eating more and exercising less.  He tried many fad diets but nothing seemed to work.  The more weight he gained, the more depressed he became.  He felt out of control.  In the dream, Rick buys a brand new Volkswagen that doesn’t work.  He tries to have it fixed but it just won’t run and he feel angry and frustrated. He decides that if he had the right keys to the car, it might run properly so he searches for the keys all through the house.  When he finally finds the keys, the car still won’t run.  He ends up returning the new car to the dealer.  He wakes up feeling horrible and even more depressed.


The car is representative of the “Body” – the vehicle that carries you and lets you “run”. One of Rick’s major frustrations was about his physical appearance.  The Volkswagen is representative of Rick’s physical body.  No matter how hard he tries to fix it, (through diets and exercise), he remains overweight and feels like he can’t be “fixed”. Searching for the keys in the house represents Rick searching for new ways to correct what he perceived is his biggest problem – losing weight with new diets, new exercise routines etc., the feeling that if only I had the right tools to make it run, it would work.

The message is clear – rather than buying a new Volkswagen ( a new body), concentrate on the present “self”. Forget the new diets, the new exercise. Focus less on new trends to fix the physical, and concentrate more on the inner-self.  When Rick started working on his real issues (fear over his job loss, anxiety about relationship), the weight loss started happening without him even realizing it.

Becoming whole on the inside changed his need to overcompensate with food, and the results were amazing! Again, the unconscious spoke volumes: going out and buying a new “self” isn’t going to change anything, Instead, stop what isn’t working and look inside at what can be fixed.

“The Straw Man” Dream & Dream Interpretation

“The Straw Man”

A female client of mine shares the following dream with me. Before I tell you about the dream, let me tell you a little bit about her.  “Julie” is a single, 42 year old woman with a history of physical abuse, low self esteem, and a recovered substance abuser.  Needless to say, she has been surrounded by fear the majority of her life and has been working very hard on herself.

“The dream begins with me running down a long hallway.  The hallway is unfamiliar and there are numerous doors on both sides of the hall.  All of the doors are closed.  When I reach the end of the hallway, the door opens ever so slightly and what emerges is at once terrifying and yet in a way, strangely comical.  It is a large bale of hay with arms and legs.  There is not face, no neck – just arms and legs sticking out of the hay.  Rather than being on the verge of hysteria, I start to laugh at the hay and it becomes smaller and walks away from me rather than toward me.  I wake up slightly frightened, yet realize that this is not a nightmare, but almost kind of a silly and even a little ridiculous.”


This is a very powerful and very good dream for Julie,  Although at first the dream appears to be a nightmare, it ends up being rather silly and comical.  Keep in mind that nightmares are the way of the unconscious to get our attention.  Let me explain.  Prior to this dream, Julie often had dreams involving being chased by monsters/strange looking creatures and running away from them while experiencing an enormous amount of fear.  This recurring nightmare was never discussed in our sessions and it started occurring more frequently over the months that Julie was in therapy.  When Julie and I started working on her dreams, her unconscious was able to let-up and no longer had to band so hard on the door to get her attention.  What did the dream really say? Remember the dream is always about the dreamer and in this particular dream, Julie is dreaming of herself walking down a long hallway with many doors.  The doors are representative if the many unknowns in Julie’s future.  She is going through many transitions right now – new job, new status (she is recently divorced) and is also looking for a new home.  When Julie gets to the end of the hallway and the door opens, instead of finding a hideous creature chasing her, she finds a “straw-man” similar to the Scarecrow in the “Wizard of Oz”, who was the epitome of kindness and loyalty. Her unconscious is telling her to stop being afraid of the unknown, to stop running away from fear, and to take time to laugh at the unexpected. The dream reinforces the positive changes that Julie is making in her life and assures her that she no linger has to feel so afraid.

“President Obama and Powerful People” Dream & Dream Interpretation

“President Obama and Powerful People”

The following two dreams were told to me by a friend of mine who is a Professor at a major university in the United Kingdom. Marianne, although very successful, has been feeling rather incompetent lately.  Although an expert in her field of study (Art History), she was born and raised in Italy and while she speaks perfect English, never felt that her writing abilities were very good.  She also does not need to use a computer very often and frequently complains about how intimidated the computer makes her feel. She is in the process of a career change after 25 years of teaching and has always dreamed of starting her own business and working on her own.

“In one of the dreams, President Obama comes to me and asks me how I am and what my plans are.  He’s being very charming and reassuring.  I explain how incompetent I’ve been feeling and how intimidated I’m feeling toward this career change.  Obama sits down with me and tells me the story of how he came from nowhere and is now one of the most powerful men in the world.  He encourages me to move forward in my decision.  A few weeks prior, I had a dream that Oprah Winfrey is my new next door neighbor.  She comes over to help me work on my new business and is quite supportive.  She gives me the support and incentive to continue to pursue my new career as a business woman.


Although these 2 dreams may seem rather simplistic, the message they are sending is one and the same: Go forward with confidence and lose your self-doubt over what you cannot do.  President Obama, although coming from a very simple background, has become one of the most powerful men in the world.  Oprah Winfrey, who cam from extremely humble beginnings, now reaches millions every day. Her information spreads like wildfire.  Both dreams are showing my friend that yes, she can do it too.  They are reinforcing any doubts she may have about her abilities (her feelings of incompetence) and urge her to go forward with great determination.  Although on a conscious level, Marianne was feeling so badly, so insecure about how to start her new business, her unconscious is pushing her forward into a new world of accomplishing her dreams.

The Healing Power of Repetition – Why we repeat and relive our traumas and stories

I decided to familiarize myself with the process of accessing Past Lives by discovering my own relevant ones,  I began this endeavor almost 30 years ago.  For a yeae and a half, I attended three psychotherapy/hypnosis sessions a week, each lasting two to three hours.  This intense work resulted in my developing a great deal of understanding about the nature of my relationships with the people in my life, including my siblings,  and even my ex-husband.

This memory came to me in the very first session when I began to delve into my own Past Lives:

I am hanging on to the sails with all my might.  We are somewhere in the Indian Ocean in the a.d. 900s. A sudden storm rages, and the seas have become tumultuous with little warning.  My pantaloons are a second skin as the waves crash over me and the pounding rain slashes at me.

Unable to maneuver the boat to safety alone, I beg the princess, my mistress, to help with the sails.  She adamantly refuses, shouting, “How insolent can you be?! You are just my servant! Don’t ask me to participate in something so demeaning!”

As the storm grows angrier, I go reeling over the side of the boat, cursing the princess for her arrogance.  The powerful pull of the waves instantly swallows me up, and I drown.

I discovered that the person sitting in that boat was one of my siblings in my current lifetime.  Having two sisters who are older, O was often asked to bring them a glass of water or fetch something from another room.  Interestingly, I always resisted in helping my sister whose soul was that of the princess in the lifetime in which I was her servant.  I would inevitably say to her, completely spontaneously and without conscious awareness, “I am not your servant! Go get the glass of water yourself!”  She also happened to be the sister with whom I had the most repetitive pattern of conflict and disagreements, which were steeped in ongoing sibling rivalry.  That wasn’t the case, however, with my other sister.

After the regression was completed and I’d cried intensely during the experience of dying so frightfully, I recalled that this sister who had been so cruel to me in a previous lifetime almost drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv in our current lifetime when she and I were 19 and 15 years old, respectively.  She didn’t know how to swim, went into the ocean, got caught in a whirlpool, and began to waver her hands and cry for help.  I couldn’t swim either but felt compelled to follow her in and pull her out, only to be caught up in the whirlpool myself.  Luckily, we were both rescued by a lifeguard who dragged us onto the beach and saved our lives.

The core of this repetition became clear:  Unconsciously, my sister and I are, in essence, repeating the stories of our current and relevant Past Lives because we’re trying to heal from past trauma.  This time, when we re-created the scene of a possible drowning, she was the one in danger and I was the one in the position of potential rescuer.  On this occasion, rather than re-creating our dynamic of two rivals who are so spiteful that one lets the other drown, I made a different choice – I sought to help my adversary so that we could stop repeating our deadly rivalry in lifetime after lifetime.

I went from being the reactor to being the initiator, from damning her for putting me in mortal danger and not risking her life to save me to risking my own life to save hers.  My choice brought us closer in to balance, lessening the dramatic swings of the pendulum.  Now it’s true that our rivalry would continue to be played out in this lifetime and probably in future ones, but it would do so in a much gentler fashion than it had in the past.

My relationship with my sister improved significantly.  Once I was conscious of the origin of my resentment toward her, I could let go of that feeling.  At last, I was able to experience genuine love and forgiveness in my heart for what had happened in the past and apply it to the present.  My sister and I were then able to enjoy trust and closeness.  Of course, we still had our differences, but the quality and nature of our relationship changed so that we could now open our heart to each other.

I was able to reach out and get past any feelings of hurt or resentment because I’d come to realize that on an unconscious level, we were both working for the same goal: freedom from suffering.  We didn’t actually want to hurt each other – we wanted to help each other heal!  To this day, although my sister and I argue and tend to compete with one another, I see this for what it is, and I consciously choose to work on healing our rivalry even further.

Excerpted from Repetition by Doris Cohen, Ph.D.
Copyrighted © 2008 (Hay House)