Keep the Change:
Breaking Through to Permanent Transformation

by Becky Tirabassi

Integrity Publishers, 2003. ISBN 1591450519.
Reviewed by Linda Wisniewski
Posted on 11/13/2003

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Body Language

There is nothing in Keep the Change that Becky Tirabassi hasn't tried. The techniques she outlines for sticking with positive changes in your life have been proven to work by the author herself. Unlike other self-help books, the main focus of this sequel to her earlier book, Change Your Life, is the backsliding after we break a bad habit or begin to pursue a dream.

Tirabassi is not a psychologist. She is a woman who has struggled with alcoholism, anger, promiscuity and suicidal depression. She has been in recovery for twenty-five years. Story Circle readers will be pleased to find that the book contains lots of writing assignments. Tirabassi claims that "the most life-changing daily exercise to which I subscribe is the activity of journaling." She uses journaling to relieve obsessive thoughts and as a tool for planning. She also advocates using it as a conversation with God and to evaluate your life, goals, character and relationships. There are sample journal pages in the back of the book and a personality profile quiz. If you like to take the tests in women's magazines, this is the book for you.

The author uses the four personality types as defined by Fred Littauer. After you take the test and determine whether you are sanguine (popular), choleric (powerful), melancholy (perfect) or phlegmatic (peaceful), you will be able to identify and maximize your strengths and tame your weaknesses.

The eight chapters are a fast read and urge the reader to take an honest look at herself, define her problem and devise ways to resist negative thoughts and develop a strategy to "keep the change." Tirabassi suggests you take the book on a one-day private retreat so you can read it all at one sitting.

Except for the personal stories from the authoršs life and others, there is probably nothing here you haven't heard before. The difference, and the key to successful change says Tirabassi, is the collection of exercises which enable a lifetime commitment to the process. She encourages readers to join a support group, write in a daily journal, and even e-mail her with plans and progress reports.

Why is such a book necessary? Why do people backslide? Tirabassi believes it is because they try to change behavior while still believing certain lies about it. Alcoholics believe the lie that they can cut back on drinking. Procrastinators believe the lie that they can allow interruptions and still get their work done on time.

In a chapter on "harnessing the pain," readers are encouraged to remember the shame and despair that propelled them to change in the first place. The pain, says Tirabassi, is "your ticket out of the mess."

One chapter lists commonly believed lies about anger, alcohol, drugs, sex, overeating, procrastination, parenting, marriage, forgiveness, failure and faith. The book describes how people lie to themselves by blaming others, numb the pain instead of harnessing it, and fall victim to negative thoughts, which leads to a squandered life. In the final chapters, the author advocates replacing the problem behavior with a new, healthier lifestyle and writing a strategy to share with family and friends.

Love is a great motivator, says Tirabassi. One of the deepest motivations for change is to express and experience deeper love for others, for God and for oneself. Her final words, on the subject of never giving up, are inspirational and heartwarming.

I had a slight problem relating to some parts of this book because I don't share the author's religious perspective. The story of an adopted child who is grateful that her birth mother went "From Shame to Sacrifice" seemed to be a pro-life message that was out of place here. God is continually referred to as "He," and my personal connection is to the Divine within each of us. Tirabassi's personal transformation, as she contemplated suicide, occurred when a church janitor told her that God loved her. This moment was so powerful it completely changed her life. Her mission is to bring this message to the world. Even for those of us who find it hard to relate to her outlook, there is much in this well-written book which will help us on the path to lasting change.

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