Karena Kilcoyne on How to Rise Above Your Story
January 25, 2024
Karena Kilcoyne is a former trial lawyer who specialized in criminal defense, including complex white-collar and civil litigation in federal and state courts. Later in her practice, she worked as in-house counsel for a publicly traded worldwide manufacturing company.

In her new book Rise Above The Story, former criminal defense attorney Karena Kilcoyne shares an evidence-based framework that shows how we can transform the way we live by taking charge of our story, letting go of limiting beliefs, challenging negative self-talk, and building the road to self-love and self-awareness. Below, find two excerpts.

The truth is that healing takes as long as it takes. Our story is layered with thin pieces of pain and thicker layers of trauma. Each part must be examined with patience and empathy.


Later in the book, I’ll share various modalities that will help you release the suppressed emotional energy of your story. But right now, I want to share an effective and easy exercise I use several times a day. I call it “I see you,” which is a phrase I use when talking to my husband, friends, and dogs. It’s how I convey that I see who they are, what they want, and how they feel. It’s how I let them know that I value who they are to me. I’ve taken this powerful concept and applied it to my emotions. Let’s give it a try.

When you feel an emotional storm brewing, when your anger, fear, rage, or disappointment is churned up, stop everything you’re doing. Go somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Wait for those fiery emotions to get right up to the top of your being. Visualize them scurrying around frantically.

Then, in the most loving way you can, say, “I see you.” And then wait. Breathe deeply a few times and check back in with your emotions.

If they’re still buzzing around, ask them, “Why are you so upset, my sweet?” Then breathe and wait until the answer appears.

When the reason is clear, show compassion. “Now I know why you’re here and what you’re trying to protect me from. I see you. I honor you and I thank you.”

Then visualize the emotions flowing from your body just as they flowed in. Let the emotions flow in and out, over and over again, until your body is washed clean of them. With practice, you will begin to see that your emotions are not the truth. They are not you, and they are not the situationc Your emotions are an expression of your interaction with life. They are meant to be felt and released—never, ever suppressed.

This is how we shift from our emotional brain to our thinking brain. This awareness creates the pivot point needed to stop being the victim of our emotions and instead be the conscious curator of a peaceful and happy inner landscape. This is how we keep our story from taking a toll on our body.


The final step in extracting our true self and releasing our story is forgiving ourselves for the narratives we wrote and grieving the time we spent living inside them. Once my healing set course, I’d find myself caught up in the inner dialogue of Why did it take me so long? What did I miss out on during the years it took me to rise above my story? But this is just another story we tell ourselves—that we were wrong, silly, or weak for allowing our story to limit our lives for so long.

The truth is that healing takes as long as it takes. Our story is layered with thin pieces of pain and thicker layers of trauma. Each part must be examined with patience and empathy. For me that meant countless com- passion meditation sessions and therapy appointments. It also meant that I would have to finally grieve the original traumas as well as the decades I lost staying entangled in my stories.

My sweet dog Finn initiated this part of my healing because in losing him, the watershed of all my repressed emotions finally opened. Once he died, I couldn’t contain my grief. When the walls that kept me scared and emotionally confined eroded, grief roared through me endlessly. Like waves rolling onto shore, some crashing and others gently breaking, my dance with grief was raw and cathartic. That grief flowing through me was one of the first times I felt alive. I’d been living a repressed, unexpressed life, but in the throes of immense sorrow, I knew that to save my life, I had to let it all out. The sadness. The anger. The shame and the rage. I had to grieve not having parents, losing my childhood, and all the years afterward when I lost myself.

Grieving was a long process for me. It would take weeks and some- times months to pull certain emotions from the depths of me. But what’s on the other side of grief is the crispest, brightest light. It’s there, waiting to embrace you with warm, loving energy. We are all children of the Divine, and our purpose here is to feel everything we possibly can. That’s what being human is—to work through the pain to find the joy. To dive into the darkness to recover the light. Our goal is not to avoid feeling or to shy away from pain. We are here in this life to walk right through the middle of pain and anguish, believing that we are worthy of the beauty on the other side. Every friend, lover, parent, animal, bug, sunray, moonbeam, and rainbow is there to offer us wisdom. We won’t ever know pure joy unless we’ve been swallowed by misery and rescued ourselves from its depths.

Only when you experience the full redemption of grief will you stand in the presence of grace. And that, my beautiful friend, is the key to a meaningful life.

Reprinted with permission from Rise Above the Story: Free Yourself from Past Trauma and Create the Life You Want by Karena Kilcoyne (BenBella Books, 2024)


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