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Vol.18, no.1
February/March 2015

 

Freedom of Mind 
Story By: John Wythe White
Photos By: Olivier Koning

It was a common sight on O‘ahu’s North Shore: a tall, lanky young surfer with spiky blond hair launching himself from the waves, hurling his body and his surfboard into the air. Aerials are common in surfing, but this rider—Flynn Novak—was attempting something no one had ever done before: taking off on a wave, launching himself and his board up and over into a 360-degree aerial back flip, then landing perfectly back on the wave to continue the ride. Novak had been working on the maneuver unsuccessfully for eight years when a friend suggested that he should see Dr. Stann Reiziss, a local hypnotherapist who was renowned for his work with athletes.

Novak took his friend’s advice and went to see Reiziss. The doctor first helped Novak relax into a receptive state, then asked the surfer to picture himself successfully completing the maneuver. Next he taught Novak self-hypnosis exercises. When Novak tried the flip again, he executed it precisely as he’d envisioned it. “It was déjà vu,” he says. “The day I did it, I had first imagined exactly what it was going to look, feel and end up like. Thirty minutes later it actually happened. It was eerie because I felt like I was creating that reality instead of just having external conditions come together to make it happen.”

Novak now accomplishes what’s become known as the “Flynnstone Flip” on a regular basis. And he still uses the exercises Reiziss taught him, but not solely for surfing. “I don’t like to refer to it as hypnosis,” he says. “It’s the power of creative visualization, how to imagine what you want and make it happen. Dr. Stann helped me realize that I have a lot more power than I give myself credit for, and that imagination is my biggest tool.”

Waialua resident Lorenn Walker is an extremely fit 62-year-old: a compact, slender woman who’s exchanged her body fat for muscle. For the past fourteen years, she has participated in the Maui XTERRA, an off-road triathlon that includes a nineteen-mile mountain bike ride. She went to see Reiziss to help her continue to meet the challenge of the race as she ages. “The method he taught me is ‘review, preview and do,’” she says. “I review by watching videos of top mountain bikers. I preview by imagining myself doing it. Then I do it. It’s more robust than visualization because a facilitator leads you through the process, offering suggestions to your subconscious. But envisioning it isn’t enough. You have to go do it.”

That kind of self-empowerment is what Reiziss is looking for. “It’s my intention to teach everybody self-hypnosis techniques in the first session,” he says. “It’s a magic show where the magician gives away all the tricks. I try to cut them free as soon as possible yet always be available.”

Reiziss is 71 now, with a stocky build, short gray hair, a broad smile and a demeanor that exudes self-confidence and empathy. As a child growing up in a rough Bronx neighborhood, he would outrun bullies; later, after he learned to box thanks to Golden Gloves, he would confront them. He was fascinated by the idea of hypnosis, admired Houdini and wanted to hypnotize people into leaving him alone; it wasn’t until later, he says, that he realized that “hypnosis is power over yourself, not over others.” In college, when the coach kicked him off the swim team for smoking, a psychology professor helped him use hypnosis to kick the habit and get back on the team.

As a young man Reiziss moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. He was there to work as the principal of an elementary school that was dealing with year one of mandatory busing to facilitate segregation. He was quite a sight around town: a Yankee hippie with long black hair, sideburns and a thick moustache. Clad in a fringed buckskin jacket, he rode a Suzuki Enduro motorcycle to work, often accompanied by his Irish Setter, Gemini, perched on the gas tank, front paws on the handle bars.


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