What Is State Specific Memory?

By Matthew Joyce

Have you ever awoken from a vivid dream only to have it vanish like mist in the sun within moments of waking up? If so, you’ve experienced a state specific memory.

When dreaming, you are having an experience in the dream state. As it is occurring, your dream is vivid and it seems to be happening in real time. Yet just moments after you wake up it begins to fade, and within minutes you can’t seem to remember what your dream was about.

Why Years-Old Memories Are Easier to Recall

Isn’t it odd that you can’t remember a minutes-old dream, yet you can clearly remember experiences from days—or decades—ago? The reason for this has to do with the difference between the state of consciousness you were in when the experience happened and the state of consciousness that you are in when you are trying to remember that experience.

Chances are the experiences that you can most easily recall from days or decades ago happened while you were awake. The dreams you are trying to remember happened while you were asleep. That may seem obvious, but if you think about it you’ll realize that the reason you may have trouble remembering a dream is because you are trying to access memories that happened in one state of consciousness (sleep) while you are currently in another state of consciousness (awake).

More precisely, when you are dreaming your predominant brainwave frequencies are in the alpha (8-10 Hertz) and theta (4-7 Hertz) range. Yet when you are awake your brainwave frequencies are generally in the beta (14-27 Hertz) range.

What This Means to You

If the real-time experiences that you have in your dreams are occurring while your dominant state of awareness is in a particular state of consciousness, then it makes sense that the memories associated with those experiences are also associated with that particular state of consciousness. Thus the reason you have trouble accessing those memories is because you are trying to access them when you are in a different state of consciousness.

This same challenge holds true not only for remembering your dreams, but also for remembering ideas that may arise during meditation, recalling events that occur while under the influence of mind-altering substances or technologies, and recollecting experiences in that happen in nonphysical reality, such as out-of-body journeys, contacting deceased loved ones and accessing guidance.

The Good News

Fortunately the state specific memory challenge is one that can be easily surmounted.

The secret to accessing state specific memories lies in maintaining conscious deliberate awareness as you cross the boundary from one state to the next.

The more frequently you cross that barrier with conscious intention the easier it gets to recall memories and ideas formed while in those states of consciousness.

How to Better Recall Your Experiences

Repeatedly accessing expanded states of consciousness by virtually any means should provide you with an opportunity for practice, but some methods are likely to be more effective than others. When I’m working with clients I generally suggest they begin with two methods.

The first is to try an audio technology that uses verbal guidance, music, and binaural beats to shift your awareness from one state to another. My favorite of these—and the one we use in our workshops—is Hemi-Sync because it has been clinically tested and developed over more than 40 years.

When you listen to Hemi-Sync with stereo headphones, within minutes the binaural beats shift your consciousness to a predetermined state. Some recordings are designed to take you to that state and bring you back repeatedly. Others only bring you back at the end of the recording. But simply taking off the headphones at any point can quickly return you to normal waking consciousness. It is for this reason that I favor sound technologies over other methods of consciousness alteration.

The other advantage of practicing with binaural beat technologies like Hemi-Sync is that well designed recordings are specifically engineered to help ensure that you remain awake and alert throughout the experience. This makes it much easier not only to recall the experiences afterward, but also to maintain control over your experience while it is happening, as opposed to dreams that often take on a life of their own.

But you don’t need technology to practice remaining alert during the phase shift between levels of consciousness.

The Simplest Method

The simplest method of all is to practice remembering your dreams. As you wake each morning your brain frequencies naturally shift from Theta to Alpha to Beta consciousness. By setting the intention to remember your dreams, you will be deliberately setting out to practice bringing that information from your dreaming consciousness back to your waking consciousness.

There are numerous techniques to help you remember your dreams, but the easiest is to keep a pen and paper or voice recorder beside your bed. Then when you wake up take a few minutes to recall however much of your dreams you remember.

At first you may not remember much but with repeated practice the process gets easier. As you deliberately practice searching for and recalling experiences that you have in alpha and theta consciousness, your memories will grow larger and more complete until over time you may find that you are remembering your dreams in vivid detail.

State Specific Memory Opens You to New Worlds

Remembering your dreams has many benefits, but one benefit that is often overlooked is the fact that by doing so you are improving your ability to access and recall state specific memories that didn’t occur in waking consciousness. This opens the door to a wide variety of other practices, including learning to access guidance, intuition, and creativity, as well as more esoteric skills such as psychic readings, remote viewing, and astral travel. Because the more frequently you consciously cross that barrier, the easier it gets to not only bring information back with you, but also to deliberately visit those states in the first place.

If you liked this article you might enjoy our follow up article about state specific senses as well.

Next Step

Read more articles, and if you haven’t done so already:


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4 Responses to Memory

  1. laurence Zankowski says:

    Matthew and Janet,

    well done you give back so much…

    I hope to contribute more soon

    be well


  2. Matthew says:


    Glad you enjoyed the article. Giving is a fundamental element of service and it’s in our nature to do so. Not just Janet’s and mine, but yours as well. Sharing and receiving ebb and flow like the tide. Sometimes it takes a while for the tide to turn. When you recognize both as natural states of being the process becomes easier. All the best to you,


  3. Samantha Heitman says:

    Hellow Matthew & Janet

    Reading your article @ recalling state specific memories (or anything), you speak of listening to Hemi Sync tapes from Monroe Institute.

    Q -1 WHICH Hemi Sync tape/cd? I have a cd that has Eat/No Eat as a title. I’m sure that’s not it.

    Q-2 If you’re listening to the cd and take off earphones to come out of it, when you put the earphones/plugs back on/in, do you have to start tape/cd all over again? Does the part you missed while not ‘plugged’ in matter?

    Q-3 Where to get tape/cd?


    Samantha Heitman

  4. Matthew says:

    Hi Samantha,

    Great questions. Let me see if I can help to answer them.


    I was speaking of Hemi-Sync titles in general. The Eat/No Eat tape that you mention comes from the H-Plus series which shifts you into what TMI calls Focus 11. I don’t know if you are familiar with their numbering system of states of awareness or not. So let me take just a moment to explain it briefly.

    Focus 11 is a state that makes it easier to access your subconscious mind, making it easier to work with the patterns of experiences you want in your life. TMI keeps the exact frequencies of their recordings secret, but I would guess that it involves primarily alpha since alpha is the access point to the subconscious.

    If you try a relaxation CD it will use primarily Focus 10 and it will take you to a different state that combines delta for relaxation, beta to remain alert, and likely some alpha as well. The creative flow CDs use mostly Focus 12 which has even more alpha and some theta. Other CDs take you to other states such as Focus 15, which is great for very deep meditation. Any of them can help you to experience different states of awareness.


    The Hemi-Sync CDs are designed to be listened in their entirety straight through in order to give you a continuous experience. But you can interrupt them at any time by simply taking them off. When I listen to them, I most frequently take off the headphones when the recording starts to return to normal consciousness and I’m not ready to come back.

    If you want, you can stop the recording and then resume it later. Or you can just let the recording play on. It doesn’t really matter because all of the states are natural to the human condition, whether you are readily familiar with them or not. If you like a gradual shift in awareness then starting again from the beginning might help. If you want to jump straight to the “good part” you can do that too. So how you listen–or don’t listen–is primarily a matter of personal choice.


    Hemi-Sync is available from a wide number of local dealers. Some dealers have online or brick and mortar stores. Others may only sell at events such as trade fairs. I sell the CDs at my workshops and other local TMI events that I host, but I don’t sell them online. The simplest way to purchase the CDs is to go directly to the source at But if you purchase them from a portion of your proceeds will go to help support the Monroe Institute, which is a nonprofit organization.

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