If there ever was a contest on interesting and versatile career graphs, Sanjay Burman would definitely be a top contender. As someone who “sold” his high school to Pepsi, apprenticed at the Toronto Film Festival at 14 and produced his first national show on the CBC at 16, he came to know the world of communications and people rather early on. And even though he completely changed tack in 2003 to learn hypnotherapy and subsequently become a practitioner of the same, he still remains in the area of communications and human interaction. Burman specializes in treating addictive behaviour and offers regression therapy at his clinic. He also owns BurmanBooks.Inc, which he launched in 2004.
Generation Next had an opportunity to interview this dynamic healer-entrepreneur.
GN: Tell us more about the story of you selling your high school to Pepsi? What happened there?
Well, I was the President of the student’s association and I guess you can say I got bored in school very quickly, and I saw a man coming in with a suit and followed him to the office. He had an envelope with Pepsi on it and left it for the Principal, and I got hold of it and it said they wanted to put Pepsi machines inside the school.
I called them and said I have the right to negotiate this, and they agreed to the terms I proposed. I also said “We’ll have posters in the girl’s and boy’s washrooms and we want ten thousand dollars for that. And they agreed. And I said we want to have new computers with a Pepsi logo and they agreed. Every time I asked for more, they would keep saying yes. Finally I said “We want a Pizza Hut and a cafeteria and all, and they agreed! And it turned out to be a $1.2 million deal.
GN: You have had diverse career roles in your life so far. One can see change is the only constant with you. Does that mean you thrive on change or are you content where you are now?
I think you have to change. Especially right now, it’s a scary time—a lot of people are out of work and a lot of people are scared about the future. I think I am given too much credit for change because it’s actually my team that will push me to change. Once we are forced to make the change, I go crazy and continue forward. But I, like everybody else, am a little hesitant to change, and that’s the problem with human behaviour. Even cockroaches are better than humans and dinosaurs because they adapt so quickly to change. And if we were to do that, we would thrive. No matter what your environment was, you could always do really well.
GN: What have been some of your biggest lessons from all the different fields you have worked in? Can you specify which field taught you what?
I think the biggest thing I have learned is that you don’t know anything. So if you start off a conversation saying “I know,” “I know,” “I know,” you are going to look like an idiot. The best thing is to listen. In publishing, I learned that there are always opportunities. You are beginning to see in the papers and in the media that less people are buying books and some people are downloading now. There are always opportunities within that. You just have to keep your mind and your eyes open. In making movies, nothing ever goes according to plan—every movie, every TV show starts off the same way, then changes slightly. So never think that because you’ve done it a hundred times, it’s going to be the same every time. Every time, it will be somewhat different.
GN: Your present vocation—hypnotherapy is very different from everything else you have done before. How did you come to it?
I had left the movie industry for a while. I was disheartened with what I saw and what I was becoming. Literally two days later I met with a woman who started talking to me and said “I want you to learn something,” and I had no idea what it was. But she said, “You’re unemployed anyway,” and so I went to her school and I had walked into a hypnotherapy class. And they were showing open-heart surgery with no anesthetic, people remembering languages they haven’t spoken since they were children, and I just said I want to learn that! And I started getting really engrossed into it, and I saw there were immediate results. While going through the process of learning, you’re also dealing with your own stuff, your own psychological issues, and dealing with that cleared up a lot. It’s almost like letting go of the baggage, which was weighing you down.
GN: Share with us some of your experiences of hypnotherapy. How exactly does it work? Can you describe how you conduct a typical session with a client? What all does it involve?
You have three parts in a brain—if you want to think of it as three circles inside each other, the biggest circle on the outside is your conscious state, where your ego is; the second ring inside would be your subconscious, which is where your habits are formed, where your earliest childhood memories are, and in the direct centre is your unconscious—that’s where your biological functions happen. Though basically you are resistant to change, to learning something because of your ego—your ego has planted in your head that this is the way things go and therefore it will not change.
So when I access your brain through whatever way your brain processes information, the conscious state or ego shuts down, in which case your eyes close. You’re still awake and aware of everything that’s going on. You’re almost in a meditative state, but deeper than meditation. And inside there, in the subconscious is where you can change, you can see things differently; you’re more adaptable because it only ages to the age of 12. So it’s like telling a 12-year-old, “You are good at this,” or “You don’t need to smoke,” “You can learn this language very quickly, and it believes you because a child believes you. When you open your eyes after the session, your ego or your conscious executes it like it’s always been there, so the change had happened, your ego recognizes it, and your body executes it.
GN: But can you have this access to someone’s brain/functioning instantaneously or do you need to sit with them for some sessions to listen to whatever issues they may be having?
It depends on how much you’re willing or want to change. If you really want to change, you let go and you don’t try to control everything, the change will happen immediately. I have an aunt who stuttered very badly from the age of 6. She’s now in her 60s. And I couldn’t take her stuttering anymore so I told her to come in. it took us an hour, but she doesn’t stutter at all anymore. Whereas I’ve had some drug-addicts or some alcoholics come in and it takes them three sessions to overcome it.
GN: What kind of feedback do you receive to your work?
99% is positive. People have changed—my aunt doesn’t stutter, alcoholic or drug addict patients don’t have any worries or concerns anymore. I’ve had people achieve whatever they wanted out of life. I was in front of the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and 100% of the people achieved their goals at the end of eight weeks when we had done the sessions together.
GN: What will be your advice to someone to beat fear? Without getting into therapy what is the first step someone can take?
The first thing to understand is that your fear is like fog. It looks like something with substance, but the minute you start driving through it, you don’t even realize you are in the middle of the fog, it doesn’t look like anything. The way you do that is by actually evaluating why is it that you are afraid. And then when you come to an answer, you ask it again, until you get down to the very core of what it is. At that point you realize it actually doesn’t exist.