As you continue to work with your dreams you are likely to recognize aspects of your previous day appearing in your dreams. It may be someone you interacted with during the day, a snippet from a TV show you were watching, a news headline, or a particular object that you saw. Dreamworkers often refer to these aspects of dreams as “day residue”. So why does day residue appear in your dreams? It all has to do with memory.
Everything that you have ever seen, touched, tasted, smelled, heard, said and done is stored somewhere in your memory, even if you can’t remember them. Memories are linked to each other in the brain by a circuit of neurons. Each neuron is connected to a number of other neurons. Recent scientific studies in sleep, dreaming and memory indicate that REM sleep is important in the processes of learning and memory consolidation. So as we sleep and dream, more connections are being made to already existing connections to consolidate the day’s activities into long term memory.
In other words, the brain is taking everything that you said, felt and did during the day and linking it to an existing memory. According to the late Dr. Ernest Hartmann, during dreaming these connections are made more easily, more broadly, and more loosely than when awake, and these connections are not made randomly, but are guided by the emotions, and emotional concerns, of the dreamer.
In order for the connection to be made, there must be something similar about the new information and the memory it is being connected to. This is why day residue, the traces of events and psychic impressions from the waking state, appear in your dreams.
When evidence of the previous day’s events appears in your dreams, don’t dismiss it just because it’s ‘day residue’. Day residue is important in that it means that your dreaming mind found it relevant enough to link it to a previous memory – one that had some emotional impact for you. An emotional impact suggests unfinished business, an issue from your past, or present waking life, that you have not addressed to the satisfaction of your unconscious mind.
So how do you know what emotionally charged unfinished business this day residue has linked to? The answer is in the dream. What is the main theme of this dream? What other symbols are in the dream? Review your symbol dictionary for these symbols. What other dreams were these symbols in? What are the similarities between the current dream and these older dreams? Work with these symbols and dreams using any of the techniques discussed in my previous blogs. Trust your instinct as to which techniques to use. If you can’t find the answer at this time, trust that future dreams will bring the issue to light again.
Another option is to set an intention to have another dream that will address the issue and answer your questions. Before going to sleep say to yourself: “I will have a dream about … .” Be sure to conclude your intention with, “… and I will remember the dream.”
For another perspective on Day Residue, listen to what Dr. Robert Van de Castle has to say here:
In my next blog, we will consider what to do with the insights that your dreams reveal and look at Creating an Action Plan. You can also find many tips and techniques for working with your dreams in my book, Notes from a Dreamer … on Dreaming: A Personal Journey in Dream Interpretation.
The Roles of NREM and REM Sleep on Memory Consolidation by Alexandra Lippman at: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro03/web2/alippman.html
Dreaming: The Contemporary Theory, a Powerpoint presentation by Ernest Hartmann, MD, can be downloaded from here: