Dessa, a singer-songwriter who is also a rapper and part of Minnesota-based hip-hop collective Doomtree, has spent the last two years exploring the depths of her own heartbreak inside her brain. In her journey to find to find a scientific team to help her, Dessa reached out on Twitter and landed in the hands of a Tampa fan.
One of her “co-investigators” on this scientific journey was Tampa-based neural frequency analyst Penijean Gracefire. As a licensed mental health clinician with a masters degree from the University of South Florida, Gracefire specializes in the field of neurofeedback, a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves to produce a signal that can be used to teach self-regulation of brain function. Basically, you scan a person’s brain to determine the level and location of trauma and create new feedback loops which alter EEG patterns.
Much of Dessa and Gracefire’s work together is detailed in a new book from the Minnesotan, My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love (released today).
Gracefire met with Dessa for multiple neurofeedback sessions and later appeared on tour to demonstrate the technology and process in front of audiences at WNYC studios and the Minnesota Orchestra. Gracefire develops educational programs and does clinical research on the real-time neural dynamics of recovery and resiliency, including the neurofeedback program Dessa used. She is also a published author, rides motorcycles, drinks tea, and designs therapeutic interventions using 3D brain imaging technology.
So what does this mean for the rest of us? For those who want to forget or rewire the way we think of someone we loved but can’t?
According to Gracefire, “There is no way to completely eliminate the experience. Anyone who is trying to get over a relationship would typically take the recommended approach; do different things with your energy and time, create new experiences, go visit new places."
However, she said, there are people out there who will have more difficulty moving on than others, sometimes due to underlying conditions that are present in our system or environment which impede our ability to shift attention or adapt to a new situation. For those people who don’t have that resiliency to bounce back, seeking help is necessary.
Additional support may be needed, and that’s where neurofeedback can help identify the brain patterns and create more cognitive and emotional flexibility. “Neurofeedback, due to new technological advances, is much more affordable and more available than it was ten years ago,” Gracefire said.
Meaning, with the right therapist and time, you too might be able to rewire your heartbreak.
Dessa’s situation was unique. Distancing herself from the emotions associated with her heartbreak was more difficult than usual because she constantly revisits them while performing music she has written over the years. Her decision to pursue an unusual approach to healing through innovative scientific investigation resulted not only in the emotional changes she desired, but also a great adventure for the rest of us to read.
To read more about Dessa and Penijean’s journey, check out Dessa’s new book My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love, and ask your local bookstore if it is carrying the release.