If you are acrophobic or are scared of heights, then taking automated virtual reality (VR) based psychological therapy may help reduce the phobia, say researchers.
According to the study, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, the participants took part in activities during the VR session that challenged their fears and helped them learn that they were safer than they thought.
“Immersive VR therapies that do not need a therapist have the potential to dramatically increase access to psychological interventions,” said lead author Daniel Freeman from Britain’s University of Oxford.
“As seen in our clinical trial, VR treatments have the potential to be effective, faster, and more appealing for many patients than traditional face-to-face therapies.
With our unique automation of therapy using VR, there is the opportunity to provide really high quality treatment to many more people at an affordable cost,” Freeman added.
For the study, 100 people with clinically diagnosed fear of heights, who were not receiving psychological therapy, were divided into two groups and were given either the new automated VR treatment or usual care, which was typically no treatment.
Participants were given six VR treatment sessions roughly for 30 minutes each for two weeks where they wore a VR headset.
Throughout various activities, starting with simpler tasks, such as watching a safety barrier drop gradually, leading to harder tasks like walking on a platform over a large drop, the virtual coach offered encouragement, and afterwards explained what the participants had learned from their activities and asked whether they felt safer than before.
The virtual coach also encouraged participants to try real heights between sessions.
At the end of the treatment and at follow-up, participants from the VR group reported that their fears have reduced as opposed to the control group who rated their fear of heights as remaining similar.
Since the beginning of creation, when the first flicker of self-awakening dawned on man, his attention has been more and more concerned with the problem of his own worldly existence and exploring about the cause and source of all creation.
Ancient and modern sages asked, “What is that, the knowledge of which makes everything else known?” and in the same breath replied, “Knowledge of the higher self, the true man”. So the supreme knowledge is that which deals, both in theory and practice, with man’s true nature and his relation to God. It is in fact a natural science without hypothesis which will not change with time.
Man is composed of body, mind (intellect) and soul. We are extremely careful to develop ourselves physically and mentally, but understand very little about the soul, which is the power ruling both the body and the mind. Physical joys are not lasting, and there are limitations of body and mind that we cannot ignore; so we must search for the perennial source of joy and peace within ourselves. Self-analysis is the first step in this direction.
We wish to enter the kingdom of God and we can do so with the help and guidance of one who has himself entered and who can guide us do it.
Saints say that nature has designed man to leave his physical body at will, transcend to higher spiritual planes, and then return to the body. They help each aspirant personally and each receives a practical experience, however little it may be, during the very first sitting at the time of initiation. A person who is competent to give a man this personal experience of withdrawal or separation (temporary) from the body, and who can thus put him on the way back to God, is a genuine Master, Saint, or Satguru.
The first-hand experience we receive, through the kindness of a real saint, is in itself the solution to the problem of death. We fear death because of the agony and suffering which it brings, and also because of the uncertainty that lies ahead in the beyond. We fear illness because it brings us near death’s door; so we struggle to live though we know that our end is certain. This is the natural course of things and we cannot avoid it.
What then is the remedy? There is only one way out of this abyss of despair: to adopt and accustom ourselves, during our lifetime to nature’s process of the withdrawal of the spirit current from the body, while still in a conscious state. This may be done with the help of a Master, and may be accomplished without any suffering or trouble whatever. This is not only a possibility but is a remarkable fact. The mystery of life and death is solved easily with the help of a Master Saint, who will give you an experience of the process and put you on the highway to the inner realms.
What is there to be gained by this process? This cannot be described in words. At the time of initiation, the aspirant sees the real light within him, whereas normally the inner eye is covered by a thick veil of darkness. Liberated from the body, he knows that he is soul, an inseparable part of the eternal spirit, and so he presses onward to his original source. The world appears as a dream to him, but under the instructions from his Master, he returns to his mundane life, wise and fearless in the discharge of his duties.
US pull-out from Afghanistan
The US decision for decreasing its military presence in Afghanistan from more than 14,000 troops to about 7,000 is most likely the result of its backdoor negotiations with the Taliban’s representatives in Abu Dhabi, organized by Islamabad between the US envoy and the Taliban. The withdrawal of troops has caused serious concern for US high-level officials and called a “big mistake” and “calamitous” by James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral. “It would lead to the resurgence of the Taliban, who would welcome al-Qaeda back with open arms,” James is cited as saying. Moreover, a number of US lawmakers are of the view that since Donald Trump never set foot in a conflict zone, he lacked the credibility to make decision about the troop pull out in Syria and Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, Afghan officials, who had not been warned or consulted about the drawdown, believe it will not affect the security situation in Afghanistan. Unlike the withdrawal of US-led NATO troops in 2014, Afghan grassroots also seem less concerned as the news could not attract much attention on social media. The drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan was predictable since Trump, declaring his strategy about Afghanistan and South Asia last year, said, “Shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of DefenseMattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts.”
But the time-sensitivity made this decision unpredictable and unbelievable as Trump added three major points in his strategy regarding Afghanistan: First, seeking “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made”. Second, he warned about the horrible consequences of rapid exit adding that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda”. He also disapproved of his predecessor for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq. Third, he stressed the serious security threat as he stated that “20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Now US officials espouse the very three facts Trump maintained in August 2017, in turn, Jim Mattis resigned as a result of Trump’s decision on military drawdown.
Whether or not the decision about troop withdrawal is the product of a backdoor deal with the Taliban, the insurgents will interpret it as their own triumph. But, unlike the Taliban, being generous on the negotiating table will lead to horrible consequences. I believe that since the conditions are not mutually accepted, the withdrawal of US forces will be one step forward, two steps back.
Contrary to emerging optimism, the Taliban still seek to play a foul game on the table through holding out against negotiating with Afghan government or accepting any conditions set by their US interlocutor. The Taliban are fighting against Afghan government and killing Afghan soldiers and civilians, however, claim that their insurgency has nothing to do with Kabul government but with foreign forces – this is ridiculous and reaching an agreement with such a groups seems unlikely.
Perhaps, troop pulldown may not affect the security situation in Afghanistan as last-year increase could not mitigate the insurgency, it still has its adverse effect.
For example, it will, on the one hand, prompt the Taliban to haggle over higher price on the table and, on the other hand, spread a stronger sense of fear and disappointment in the public air. Thus, Trump had better not follow his instincts in such significant issues and should be sure this is an honourable result, worthy of “the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure” made in the past 17 years. Being at a crossroads, Trump’s administration has to make the right decision.
The 17-year conflict has inflicted casualties on both sides without any light at the end of the tunnel. The continuation of war will lead to further casualties and destructions without any end. With this in mind, all insurgent groups, mainly the Taliban, need to stop their militancy and settle their issue through meaningful negotiations.
Swine flu also known as H1N1 has once again taken lives in Kashmir with over 22 deaths recorded so far at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura.Swine flu is now considered a seasonal flu which mostly survives in cold humid conditions. Since September last year, over 1400 samples had been tested and more than 270 samples were found positive. Besides that at least 117 patients had been admitted in the hospital since September. In Kashmir, the situation turned worst during last season when 30 swine flu deaths were reported at SKIMS between October 2017 and February 2018. Doctors in the hospital have warned that H1N1 is a contagious disease and can transmit from one person to another.
They have asked for taking precautionary measures to escape the disease. This is matter of serious concern. The even more alarming is the shortage of medicines. Report says that the valley hospitals are without proper medicine. Barring SKIMS and SMHS hospital, there is no flu vaccine available in any hospital in the valley. This leaves SKIMS and SMHS as the only testing and treatment centre. Experts say that the swine flu outbreak can be contained but only if medicines reach the affected on time. When the hospitals are not equipped with the testing and treatment drugs, how the disease could be contained. There is every reason for the people to feel panicky and authorities need to take the problem seriously and equip hospital with adequate medicine before the panic take over the valley. The panic has gripped even the medical fraternity as well as the lack of relevant vaccines has put the lives of doctors at risk.
Doctors at SKIMS, who are dealing with patients at the Emergency and the OPD of the hospital, too are vulnerable to the disease and could catch infection in the absence of immunization and protective gear. Doctors and other hospital staff are not provided with personal protection equipments while dealing with H1N1 patients thus putting them also at risk of contracting the virus. There are no H1N1 vaccines which are to be given to high-risk persons with diabetes, elderly, children below 5 years, pregnant women, chronic diseases, immuno compromised and healthcare workers as the virus can be fatal in them. The designated laboratory for testing at SKIMS does not have the desired Biosafety-3 level for handling and processing H1N1 samples which is dangerous to staff and community. No sensitization and awareness programmes are conducted in hospitals with the result majority of H1N1 patients are overlooked. What is even more criminal is the silence by the concerned authorities.
They have maintained complete silence over the deadly contours of the disease and the non-availability of the medicines.It is no less than criminal that despite these disturbing realities, some sections in the government would give false hope to people and come out with advisories of ‘no-panic’. The state administration should, in first place, take note of health hazards in the wake of fast spreading swine flu and activate the administration to take necessary measures, provide relevant vaccines and other medicine and expertise for the disease.