RED WING -- Dawn Bennett did not always plan to write a book about touch.

Bennett went to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to study international business. While there she met classmates who introduced her to therapeutic touch, a type of energy work. This began Bennett’s journey into massage therapy.

She left the university and went to massage school. She graduated in 1997 and has practiced massage therapy for 23 years.

From massage, Bennett began to focus on emotional healing with her clients. She explained, “I realized that so much of the work that we do on the body also has an emotional component. Because we store a lot of our emotions in the tissues, and our memories and our traumas and our fears and all that kind of stuff.”

Along with practicing massage therapy and teaching it at Minnesota State College Southeast, Bennett began speaking at women's groups about the importance of touch after reading an article in The New Yorker. She recounted to the Republican Eagle, “in that article, they quoted a lot about how much touch helps with connection, with trust, with altruism, with teamwork, how important it is not only for us as infants, which is I knew a lot about that, but also how important it is for brain development in 8-year-olds, and how important it is for adults to feel less socially excluded as well, and teens and you know, everybody to feel socially excluded. And the research that they quoted really fascinated me.”

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Dawn Bennett. Photo provided by Bennett.
Dawn Bennett. Photo provided by Bennett.

After presenting on touch, Bennett began receiving requests to write a book on the topic. At first she was skeptical about the idea thinking, “I'm just a massage therapist, right? Like what can I write that hasn't been written? I'm not a scientist.”

This changed when she met a woman who suggested that the book did not have to be solely scientific. Rather, she should include her own experiences with touch.

Bennett was still unsure about writing a book when she scheduled time to work in Europe.

“But,” said Bennett, “then my work permit got denied. So it felt like everything just lined up. And so I spent my time in Europe writing the book on touch.”

Now, Bennett has published “The Touch Crisis: Navigating the Tricky Terrain of Bringing Healthy Touch Back to Our Culture.”

When asked for a summary of the book and an explanation of what the “touch crisis” is, Bennett explained, “the touch crisis is really about how we’ve become separated from healthy touch as a culture, and how we’ve become separated from our own level of communication around our wants, needs and desires around touch." Bennett later added:

“How do you nurture yourself with the need for physical contact instead of feeling isolated to help with your depression or anxiety? So that is really my focus of the book is how do you understand what it is that you want and need and communicate that outward, but also be able to respect what others want and need? Without taking it personally? I think that's the real crux of the book. It's kind of a book about communication that uses physical contact as an example, really.”

Bennett is already working on two more books relating to touch. One is focused on individuals in relationships and the other is about parenting.

“The reason why I'm writing two books at the same time as because they're, they can be quite intertwined,” Bennett said of the topics. She explained that what children learn about touch in their formative years affects how they will think about touch during the rest of their lives.

“I say letting go of some of this fear of physical contact, and ... find comfortable ways to touch, it is good for everybody's well being, and their immunity. I think that's a really important piece that is easy to forget about," she said.

"The Touch Crisis" can be found at Fair Trade Books in Red Wing and on Amazon.