Here is the abstract for the first-ever Long Term Journal Keeping panel, held at the 1996 conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams. Created by Dennis Schmidt, one of the most careful and thoughtful dream journalist I've known, this proposal provides a neat summary of the issues that emerge for those of us who keep and study dream journals over the long term. Since this first panel, may more have come together, always with fascinating accounts from dreamers of diverse ages and backgrounds.

Long-term journaling:

The naturalist's contribution to dream study

Copyright 1997 Dennis Schmidt

A way of studying, long and open, shows an unanticipated story;

to our wonderment,

the story appears to mesh with teachings of mystery;

but it stands on its own, revealed by the study,

not by faith in the teachings.

It changes the orientation to life.

This has been the experience of many students of dreaming, faithfully recording their recollections, morning after morning, through years. In the tradition of the naturalists whose patient observations prepared the ways to elegant understandings of physics, chemistry, and biology, home journal keepers record and discover events and regularities that astonish and enlighten, and that elude experimental probing. 

We do not all agree on exactly what are naturalistic methods of dream study, or on which naturalistic approaches are the most fruitful, or on how to evaluate our observations and our ideas.

Some of us focus on communities of dreamers, studying many dreams of different dreamers, to see their relation to matters collective and individual. Some of us study our own individual experience. Some of us are focused mystically, or metaphysically, or both, seeking to comprehend dreaming immanent in a reality transcending the apparent waking world. 

We differ in how we consider the dreams that we work with, and in how we test our ideas to develop confidence in them, and in how much and how we apply our ideas.

Yet our shared discipline of methodically recalling and recording our dreaming, and attending to resonances of themes, has brought us to a remarkable commonality: We have all found extended coherence in dreaming. And, to a great degree, we agree on what that coherence is like and how it appears.

This agreement is not reflected in the scholarly study of dreaming. It is not just that scholarly students of dreaming don't share in the agreement. To a dismaying degree, they ignore it, and the phenomena and naturalistic methods that constitute the agreement.

Some factors in the academic neglect of these studies may be apparent.. Long-term journal studies do not seem adaptable to an experimental paradigm. The phenomena appear only with long attention to and intimate familiarity with the dreamer. Key events occur sporadically, in the natural course of life. Apprehending the full richness of the phenomena usually involves associative thinking and, often, mystical thinking, more than rigorous thinking within a familiar theoretical framework. And anomalous or "paranormal" occurrences are integral in the extended coherence that we see.

But the broad agreement among many careful observers concerning phenomena of radical importance in conceptualizing dreaming calls for any serious student of nature to consider them. Journal-keeper and scholar alike may be surprised at the need to recognize the personal journal as a uniquely sensitive instrument that may enlighten not only the individual dreamer but the whole field of dream study.

By sharing notes on what we do and why, and what we don't do and why not, we may learn about the unique sensitivities of each other's methods, and expand our awareness of ways in which we may see dreaming's extended coherence. We hope to foster further development of our several approaches to studying dreaming in its natural settings. Perhaps we will also inspire new applications of our methods, and whole new approaches. 

 Long Term Journal Keeping

Copyright 2017 Cynthia Pearson