Makeover of the mind

Written by Kali Pearson
Part 1 | Part 2

When Smallman enters Cannon’s small, green-walled office, she sits in a comfortable recliner. After a few minutes of small talk between the pair, the entrepreneur rests her feet on a matching ottoman and closes her eyes. Cannon plays calming music on a portable stereo and leads Smallman through a relaxation exercise. “Notice how good you feel,” Cannon coos. “You are feeling safe and secure. Now find the place deep within you, in your chest and throat, where you carry your fear and anxiety.” For the next hour, Cannon questions Smallman about the source of her current anxiety, leading her back through times when she felt similar unease. Smallman is intructed to lift a finger whenever Cannon hits upon one of these stress points; Cannon responds each time by telling Smallman it’s something “you don’t need anymore” and to “leave it behind.”

After three hour-long sessions over the course of a few months, Smallman believes she has discovered the distant cause of her paralysis: family and friends who used to imply that a woman had no place in business. As Smallman tells it, she had subjugated these messages by entering predominantly male fields and approaching business with a less emotional, “male” frame of mind. But when she conceived Merry Diner, a charity-related endeavor that mattered to her on a deeply personal level, her long-forgotten anxiety bubbled to the surface.


Workaday stress makes a terrible bedfellow. Entrepreneur Brenda Smallman employs this five-step visualization exercise to get a better night’s sleep:

Go to bed: Climb on in and turn off the lights. Let your body relax and close your eyes. Give yourself a few minutes to settle in and get comfortable.

Imagine a box: It can be large or small, plain or ornate. It’s entirely up to you.

Pack the box: As visions of deadlines, marketing and the bottom line start to dance in your head, grab them and place them in the box. It might take a while to corral all of them, but just be patient.

Close the lid: You aren’t throwing the thoughts away; you’re just putting them in safekeeping for whenever you’re prepared to welcome them back.

Retrieve your thoughts: When the squawk of your alarm clock subsides, open your box and hit the road. You’ll be well rested and ready to take on your day.

The diagnosis sounds plausible, but what about a cure? Cannon uses more hypnotherapy to help Smallman overcome her emotional roadblocks. Visualization exercises are central to the process. “Think of a time when all your smarts, your intuition, your training, came together and really, really worked,” says Cannon in one meeting. When a smile creeps across Smallman’s lips, Cannon presses three fingers on the intersection of Smallman’s thumb and forefinger. Anytime she feels doubt, Cannon tells her, pressing this spot will remind her of her capacity to succeed. “This is what business owners like best about hypnosis,” says Cannon. “Once you’ve done it, you can apply the techniques yourself whenever you need to.”

After nine months of weekly visits with Cannon, Colin Doe hasn’t barked once — but he has solved his procrastination problem. In fact, it took only a couple of sessions before the Alvotech president concluded his problem was less about stalling than his tendency to take on too much. “With things that I would have just jumped into, I’m more willing to take a step back and think in more depth about the situation,” he says. “When you know how to relax, you’re going to take the time to analyze the situation better.” He continues to see Cannon for the deep relaxation he achieves during the sessions, which helps him think more clearly during his long hours at work. It’s not what people think,” he asserts. “It’s like that feeling when you get into a hot bath.”

For her part, Smallman reports hypnotherapy has helped her beat insomnia and kick the day-to-day anxiety that tied Merry Diner to the launch pad. “Things have really gained momentum,” she says. After a conservative launch in Richmond Hill, Merry Diner has caught on in London, Oshawa and across the Toronto area. More than 150 restaurants are participating in the program, and Smallman has hired four employees.

Could hypnotherapy work for you? Cannon says it’s 90% effective for overcoming obstacles such as quitting smoking or improving mental focus. “For life change, it is very, very successful,” says Cannon. She cites a recent thank-you card from a client who got into medical school after failing the exam three times, unable to control her panic to the point of blacking out. Such fixes can be quick: although the number of treatments varies by person and problem, Cannon says, three sessions is enough in most situations. (Cannon charges $150 for an initial 90-minute session, and $120 for every hour thereafter; her staff therapists charge less.)

“Almost immediately after the first session, I started to feel more relaxed and unburdened,” says Smallman. “I had been through all kinds of training in terms of meditation and yoga and things like that, but the hypnotic process has stuck with me. I’ve absolutely been able to retain it. For me, that’s amazing.”

Part 1 | Part 2

© 2003 Kali Pearson

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com