James Kirkpatrick

Unfortunately, this is true. If you do not have the sensibility yourself, it is imperative for you to understand that others most certainly do. If all the world is clear-eyed about this, there is no problem as relations can then be negotiated reasonably and transparently. If any part of the world is not clear-eyed about this, it will be infiltrated, overwhelmed and destroyed by those who are clear-eyed but not charitable. The West today is on the verge of annihilation due to infiltration by groups with ancient values that care nothing for your charity but to exploit it. ABN

Honest feedback: Barriers to receptivity and discerning the truth in feedback

Abstract

Feedback is information provided to recipients about their behavior, performance, or understanding, the goal of which is to foster recipients’ self-awareness, and behavioral reinforcement or change. Yet, feedback often fails to achieve this goal. For feedback to be effective, recipients must be receptive and accurately understand the meaning and veracity of the feedback (i.e., discern the truth in feedback). Honesty is critically important for both receptivity and discerning the truth in the feedback. In this article, we identify barriers to receptivity and discerning the truth in feedback and illustrate how these barriers hinder recipients’ learning and improvement. Barriers can arise from the feedback itself, the feedback-giver, and the feedback-recipient, and both parties share responsibility for removing them.

link

This paper provides useful insights into how to give and receive feedback and what can prevent that from happening successfully. FIML practice, which can be thought of as a form of micro interpersonal feedback, overcomes all barriers mentioned in the paper. FIML works well because partners: 1) make a prior agreement to do it and how to do it; 2) ask for feedback that is immediately useful to them; 3) ask immediately upon noticing the need for feedback; 4) ask for very specific information residing solely in their partner’s working memory; 5) all of the preceding points contribute to small and easily kept honest bits of very reliable feedback. Since the topic of the feedback is very small and mutually agreed upon by both partners is can be understood as a significant kind of objective reality that exists between the two of them. This greatly promotes interest in the practice and honesty between partners. ABN

Game theory and trust

The game linked below explains some basics of game theory and also some basics of why FIML practice works so well.

The game can be found at this link: The Evolution of Trust.

I highly recommend playing this game. It takes about thirty minutes to finish.

For the first part of it, I was only mildly interested though the game is reasonably engaging.

When it got a point where communication mistakes are factored in, I sat up and took notice.

The game is a very simple computer model of some very simple basic choices human beings make all the time. Without giving away too much, even this simple model shows something I bet most of us can already see.

And that is: zero-sum games do not give rise to trust. Win-win games do.

What was most interesting to me is the game also shows that communication mistakes foster trust if there are not too many of them.

Accepting mistakes in communication requires trust. Mistakes happen. When two people accept that in each other and in themselves, trust grows.

This is a very important point and a foundation of FIML practice.

In fact, I would say that mistakes foster trust even more in FIML than other communication games. This happens because in FIML mistakes are isolated in such a way that they can be fully recognized and understood for what they are.

This provides a method for solving immediate problems while also building a foundation for the inevitable occurrence of future ones. Moreover, the kinds of mistakes people make become less stupid.

In many respects, the game of FIML is largely one of recognizing communication mistakes or potential mistakes as soon as they arise, within seconds of their onset.

By doing that FIML shows us how our deep psychology is actually functioning in real-life. Multiple insights into this aspect of psychology are transformational.

first posted FEBRUARY 11, 2020

Emotional “meaning”

  • I challenge readers to find an emotion that does not have “meaning.”
  • Emotions that have no meaning do exist, but are not common and are generally ignored.
  • What is “meaning” in this context?
  • Meaning here means, quite specifically, “that which is connected to (interconnected in) a semiotic network.”
  • Emotions arise due to bodily functions, metabolism, external events, communication events, life events, etc.
  • Once an emotion arises it is either discarded (given no “meaning”) or it is taken up into a semiotic network.
  • Once it is taken up into a semiotic network, an emotion will resonate within that network, have an import and “meaning” based on that network.
  • For example, a single impression of microaggression will almost certainly be defined by prior learning, by the prior existence of a semiotic network that accepts and defines this sort of perception.
  • That is to say, if the perceiver has been trained or self-taught to perceive and react to microaggression, their preformed sensibilities (its “meaning”) will respond to it, often far more strongly than conditions warrant.
  • A similar analysis applies to any emotion.
  • Watch yourself as you discard the brief feeling you might get from looking at a nondescript wall or a leaf curled on the ground. Compare emotional reactions you don’t discard, such as ones involving human expressions, tone of voice, things left unsaid, etc.
  • This shows that we will learn more about emotions by analyzing the semiotic networks that give them meaning rather than trying to trace them back to their intangible origins or follow their ambiguous development.
  • Emotions do develop as the networks that “hold” them develop and/or as the emotion itself is given greater or lesser prominence within its network(s).
  • In this sense, emotions can grow very large or become very small.
  • Ones that had meaning can and do disappear. But no emotion will appear and maintain itself for long without being taken into a semiotic network, given a meaning or assigned a meaning.
  • Notice how you have sensibilities and emotions connected to how you have been trained. And notice how these emotions and sensibilities are different from others who have not been trained as you have.
  • A trained gardener, salesperson, doctor, cook, surfer, etc. has emotions and sensibilities that are different from people who have not had their training, whether that training is formal or informal.
  • If you just spend time thinking about something you will be “training” yourself, developing different sensibilities and emotions about whatever it is.
  • Humans are semiotic animals that spend most of their time in semiotic environments.
  • A semiotic network communicates both with the self and with others.
  • Semiotic networks include everything that can be communicated, including language, ideas, emotions, beliefs, values, memories, skills, and so on.
  • If you were trained in a certain safety procedure and you agree with it (thoroughly putting out campfires, for example), it will drive you nuts to see someone ignore the basics. This is true for almost anything you were trained in and agree with.
  • Training gives us richer and different emotions, either in kind or in degree.
  • Training strengthens and broadens the semiotic network(s) holding or defining emotions, thus making them stronger, more sensible, more reasonable or, conversely, weaker, less sensible, less reasonable.
  • “Personalities” develop through training, some of it formal, much of it informal and idiosyncratic.
  • Some training is good and some of it is bad.
first posted MAY 5, 2015

This is also how psyops and mind-control work. ABN

How to really know another person

link to spotify

link to to other links

So often, we think we know what other people are thinking. But researchers have found that our attempts at reading other people go wrong more often than we realize. This week, we talk with psychologist Tessa West about what we can all do to read people more accurately.

link

This podcast provides a global view of a fundamental problem with human communication—we often do not understand each other. It also provides a global view of why mind-reading doesn’t work, no matter how you do it. The global-view conclusion of the podcast is the best way to know what someone is thinking is ask them.

I very much endorse everything I heard at the global level. I hope that readers of ABN will see that FIML is a granular level of asking another person what they think. FIML works especially well on the micro level of human subjectivity, which is always unique, always idiosyncratic. If you can follow the reasoning and conclusions of West on the linked podcast, I hope you will be able to see that FIML works with these same basic problems in intimate relations. FIML practice greatly improves intimate relations while at the same time greatly increasing our understanding of our own and our partner’s psychology. FIML does what it does so well it can be thought of as a form of psychotherapy. ABN

Fourth wave cognitive behavior therapy

The third wave of cognitive behavior therapy is a general term for a group of psychotherapies that arose in the 1980s, inspired by acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

To me, third wave therapies seem more realistic than older therapies because they accept emotions as they are and pay close attention to how they function in the moment.

The link above is well-worth reading. The frames of these therapies are also well-worth considering.

FIML, which I am calling a “fourth wave cognitive behavior therapy,” differs from third wave therapies in that FIML does not use a professional therapist. Instead, partners become their own therapists.

Moreover, how FIML partners frame their psychologies or generalize their behaviors is entirely up to them. Similarly, their psychological goals and definitions are entirely in their own hands.

At its most basic, FIML “removes wrong interpretations of interpersonal signs and symbols from the brain’s semiotic networks.”

This process of removal, in turn, shows partners how their minds function in real-time real-world situations. And this in turn provides the tools and perspectives to reorganize their psychologies in whichever ways they like.

FIML is based on semiotics because semiotics are specific and with practice can be clearly identified and understood. They give partners “solid ground” to stand on. Words, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions are some of the major semiotics partners analyze.

Using real-world semiotics as an analytical basis frees FIML from predetermined frameworks about personality or what human psychology even is. With the FIML tool, partners are free to discover whatever they can about how their minds communicate interpersonally (and internally) and do whatever they like with that.

first posted DECEMBER 21, 2017

Semiotic valence

In a previous post, I introduced the concept of semiotic wells. A semiotic well is like a space-time “gravitational well” within a semiotic network. By this, I mean that part of the semiotic network has some heavy things in it—primary semiotics that pull other nodes within the network toward them.

For example, someone with the view that they have some sort of personality will tend to associate many of their perceptions and thoughts with the features of that personality. Their belief in their personality type will tend to make them see and understand the world in those terms.

I doubt that “having” a personality is all that much different from having a hobby. And I bet most people can move from one personality type to another about as easily as they can move from one hobby to another.

Of course there are constraints and limitations in the development of hobbies just as there are in the development of personalities.

We can gain profitable understanding of the mind by conceiving of it as a network of semiotic units. It is a network because the semiotic elements of the mind are all interconnected. It does not take much imagination to connect any semiotic element in your mind to any other. Apple-red-communism. Or apple-pie-American.

By association we can connect anything in this way.

Every semiotic element in the mind has a valence. In different contexts, the valences for any element will differ, and oftentimes they are neutral, but they are there. A semiotic well organizes valences as well as meaning, intention, belief, value.

For some people, speech is used to socialize, to make friends, to gain and keep access to other people. The valence of major parts of their semiotic network is aimed at socializing with others. People of this type are pleasantly excited when others compliment or reciprocate their social valences.

In contrast, for some other people, speech is used to share ideas, to analyze, to teach and to learn. The valences of their semiotic networks are primarily aimed at sharing ideas. People of this type are pleasantly excited when others reciprocate these valences.

Many semiotic wells and semiotic valences are formed accidentally, randomly, arbitrarily. Once we take on any bit of meaning, even if only slightly, there is always a chance that it will snowball into a significant semiotic well.

The Beatles alluded to this when they sang Had it been another day/ I might have looked the other way/ And I’d have never been aware/ But as it is I dream of her tonight.

This doesn’t just happen with love but with many of our other interests. We form semiotic wells—sometimes very quickly—for what are often very trivial reasons or no reason at all.

Much of what we are comes about through accident or chance. This happens because semiotics and the ways valences become attached to them are frequently very simple. Once a semiotic well begins forming it often grows, and as it does it pulls in or rearranges elements from other parts of our semiotic network.

Once a well is formed or given to us, it can greatly determine how we perceive the world and what we value in it.

This is why propaganda succeeds so well, and is sort of easy to do if you have a lot of money and access to important public forums. All a propagandist has to do is start your mind in one direction and then add more information and more valence. Most people see the world in terms of simple dichotomies, so all the propagandist needs to do is decide what they want and contrast it favorably against what they don’t want.

Want war? Make the public perceive the enemy you want as an enemy, then add info while increasing valence. Columnists will write many thousands of words about the desired war, but the basic sociology of it for the general public is always very simple.

Of course sometimes the trick fails. With Syria the basic formula—terrorists/poison gas/war—failed, probably because the public had been fooled too many times before with similar formulas (Sadam/WMD/war).

If you can see past words and feelings to the core of the semiotic well, you will see that many things in this world are quite simple. It is no accident that people communicate largely in very simple terms.

first posted MARCH 20, 2014

How (intimate) interpersonal language functions

Parentheses around the word (intimate) indicate a spectrum from less to more intimate, less to more psychologically important.

1) If we study how (intimate) interpersonal language functions, we will discover that it is significantly both defined and impeded by errors in listening and speaking.

2) The more intimate interpersonal communication is the more idiosyncratic it is.

Since (intimate) interpersonal communication is psychologically more significant the more intimate it is, it follows that it is very important to analyze and understand this kind of communication. It also follows that (intimate) interpersonal communication is harder to analyze from the outside the more intimate it is.

It is essentially impossible for an expert to tell two lovers what their words mean or how to understand their acts of communication.

Therefore, the lovers must do it themselves. The expert can only show them how to do it themselves.

3) This is a fundamental truth that rests in the nexus between language and psychology: the more intimate the communication the more important it is psychologically and also the more important it is that the communicators be able to analyze their communication satisfactorily and correct errors that inevitably occur.

4) How to do that can be taught. This is a good job for psychologists. Doing the analyzing and correcting is the job of the intimate communicators.

5) If (intimate) interpersonal communications are not analyzed and corrected; if errors are not discovered and removed from the system, the psychologies of both communicators will be harmed.

6) Conversely, if (intimate) interpersonal communications are analyzed and corrected; if errors are discovered and removed from the system, the psychologies of both communicators will be benefited.

7) Indeed, removing error from an (intimate) interpersonal communication system will result in gradual optimization of both the system and the psychologies of the analyzers.


8) In sum:

  • communication error is inevitable in (intimate) interpersonal communication systems
  • it is very important to correct these errors
  • and to analyze them and the communication system itself in the light of these corrections
  • this optimizes both the communication system and the psychologies of both communicators

There is no other way to accomplish such sweeping improvement in both communication and individual psychology. There is no outside way for intimate communications to be analyzed and no one else to do it but the intimate communicators themselves.

This is a fundamental truth that applies both to intimate communication and psychology. And this makes perfect sense because psychology is determined by intimate communication and vice versa.

first posted JANUARY 6, 2019

UPDATE 09/17/22: FIML is by far the best way I know to accomplish this. In fact, I know of no other way. TBH, I know I am giving away something extremely wonderful for free. All you have to do is take it and use it. That’s all I want. ABN

Whole brain transformation through micro accumulations

Can we achieve whole brain transformation through an accumulation of micro inputs?

In other words, can we achieve deep transformation by gathering many small bits of information? Or by many small insights?

To ask is to answer. Most deep transformation happens this way.

We see something, see it from another angle, see it again and again, and eventually a transformation happens. It takes time.

We don’t usually make deep changes in a single moment with no prior accumulation of bits of knowledge or insight. What happens is the bits accumulate into a large enough mass of information and we “suddenly” change.

Changes of this type can occur within skill sets, within thought and emotional patterns, and within our general psychology.

An example of this kind of change happened to me recently.

For years, my partner had been telling me that I have a “positive neurosis” about some friends of ours. (A positive neurosis is an “overly-optimistic mistaken interpretation of something.”)

And for years, she tried to convince me that I was making a mistake. My mistake persisted for a long time because we rarely saw those friends.

Persisting for a long time was sort of good because it showed me how deep-seated this mistake was and that I have made it in many areas of my life.

My positive neurosis was that I thought these friends were extremely open to freewheeling discussions where almost anything can be said.

“No, they are not like that. You just think they are like that,” my partner said.

It came to pass that I found out she was right. Those friends do not like that sort of discussion. They do not even understand what the point of it could be.

So I changed. I made a deep transformation in how I see them, how I see myself, and how I see other people in general.

I now know that I have to be more careful in how I speak and in what I assume about others. Some people are discomfited by freewheeling talk and suffer from it. Not my intent! A positive neurosis to think otherwise!

This realization came about slowly—first through a long accumulation of bits of information coming from my partner and then by a more rapid understanding that what she had been saying was right when we had a chance to spend some serious time with the friends in question (who are still friends, I think).

My partner got me to see that through an accumulation of many FIML queries and follow-up discussions about those friends. Even though I never agreed with her, I did store her views away in my mind.

When circumstances were right, I saw she was right and I was wrong and changed.

I do not feel ashamed or sad or humiliated. I simply realize that I was wrong.

An accumulation of many micro bits of information caused a deep transformation in my mind as soon as conditions were right.

FIML shows us that finding out we are wrong about stuff like that is great, wonderful, the best thing.

I am going to suffer less and our old friends, and others, will too. A mistake I have been making and that was a fairly large part of my mind is gone and now I am free to fill that space with better stuff.

Most FIML queries are about the two partners who are doing FIML. What happened above is a type of FIML that involves our understanding of other people.

The one above bore good fruit because the long time duration forced me to see how deep my mistake was.

first posted MAY 8, 2016

The value of introversion, and probably reclusion

Do reclusive and monastic religious practices foster wisdom about the human condition?

A new study indicates that they may.

Insights into social psychological phenomena have been thought of as solely attainable through empirical research. Our findings, however, indicate that some lay individuals can reliably judge established social psychological phenomena without any experience in social psychology. These results raise the striking possibility that certain individuals can predict the accuracy of unexplored social psychological phenomena better than others. (Social Psychological Skill and Its Correlates)

In an article about this study, its authors say that introverted people tend to be better at observing others because they are good at introspection and have fewer motivational biases. Here’s that article: Yale Study: Sad, Lonely Introverts Are Natural Born Social Psychologists.

first posted MARCH 17, 2018

Free energy principle & interpersonal psychology

To be very brief, Karl Friston’s “free energy principle” says that the brain is an “inference machine” or “prediction machine” that uses Bayesian probability reasoning and is motivated to act by an inference seeming not true or “surprising” to it.

More can be found here and here.

The free energy principle is a straightforward way to explain what FIML (note: this link will lead to recent posts and reposts, including this one, but just scroll down a bit for more)  practice does, how it does it, and why it works differently than any other form of psychotherapy and in many significant ways why it works better.

A psychological “complex,” “neurosis,” “personality disorder,” or “persistent thought,” call it what you will, affects human behavior by being or having become a nexus of thoughts, ideas, perceptions, feelings, interconnected neurons and chemistry.

The same is true for any personality trait or skill, including very positive ones.

In Friston’s free energy terms, the psychological elements described above are surrounded by Markov blankets.

That means they are isolated or protected systems with their own variables. These protected systems (protected by Markov blankets) are hard to change because they have their own sets of rules and habitual inputs and outputs.

And that makes them stubborn candidates for most forms of psychotherapy, especially psychotherapy that requires a therapist. One reason for this is time & expense. A second reason is it is difficult for the patient to change without therapeutically experiencing for themself the complex or trait in real-world situations.

The key here is therapeutic experience in the real-world of the unwanted trait or complex that requires change.

The third reason most psychotherapies are ineffective is very subtle incisiveness in real-time is needed to penetrate psychological Markov blankets.

What FIML does is penetrate the Markov blanket enshrouding a complex with a series of small pricks. Each prick in the blanket is small, but each prick also allows some of the valence (gas) inside the blanket to escape.

FIML slowly punctures the Markov blanket with many small pricks, eventually causing it to collapse.

Once it has collapsed, the energies that were trapped inside it can be used for other things. In this way FIML optimizes even non-neurotic psychology by removing pockets of inefficiency held within psychological Markov blankets.

By using only small pricks to penetrate Markov blankets, FIML allows people to gradually and painlessly see what needs to be changed, why, and how to do it. Since FIML works in real-time real-world situations, even very small insights can bring about large changes.

first posted NOVEMBER 23, 2019

How to observe the semiotics that form the basis of your consciousness

A few days ago, I posted the essay, How semiotics can help us understand ourselves.

Today I want to discuss how you can grasp the semiotics that form the basis of your consciousness.

I am sure you already understand a good deal about yourself, but my guess is your understanding is probably in the form of a group of abstractions, such as—“my personality is thus-and-so”; “since I had this sort of childhood/education/etc., I am now outgoing/fearful/frugal/etc.”; “I believe in personal responsibility/behavior/etc.”; “my mom was a religious nut so I am an atheist, etc.”

In the post cited above, we used the terms signaling system and semiotics more or less interchangeably. A signaling system emphasizes what the message is and how it is sent, while semiotics emphasizes how the message is interpreted.

If we think of our minds as being signaling systems that are constantly referring to whatever semiotics we interpret as “true” or “real,” we can get a very good idea of how they function in the moment by observing what they are referring to in “the moment” (1-10 seconds, or so). By observing our minds closely, we can learn what semiotics cause us to have emotional responses or to interpret things in the ways we do. We can see how our mental/emotional signaling system builds up within us the appearance of a self with a biography, a personality, needs, fears, desires, goals, and so on.

If, for example, at some point in your life you learned and accepted as real a semiotic that you are stupid, you can spend hours, even decades, analyzing your feelings without getting any results. But if you can actually watch your mind as it signals to itself the semiotic “I am stupid,” and if you can see while that is happening that the signal is a mistake, then your mind will tend to stop sending you that signal.

If you can repeat that experience a few times—that is, catch that same mistake a few times—your mind will almost certainly stop wasting its resources thinking you are stupid. It will do this almost effortlessly because the mind is efficient and won’t waste time doing something it knows is a mistake.

So how do you do that, how do you catch the mistakes? You probably have already tried to catch them through introspection, reading, or discussing them with friends with less than satisfying results.

And what’s even harder to do is catch mistakes that you are not even aware of. How do you catch them?

I don’t think you can do it all by yourself. And I don’t think you can make satisfying progress by discussing these matters even with very wise friends. You can’t do it yourself because you can’t see yourself, and you can’t do it through long discussions because the signalling system works too quickly for that.

If you don’t cut in quickly and observe what it is doing, you won’t be able to change it easily.

Here is a way to look at that. Have you ever had a clock or mirror on the wall that was removed; maybe the mirror fell or the clock broke. At some point, the object that you had been used to seeing for years was gone. For some time after that, you probably turned unconsciously more than a few times to look at the now absent mirror or clock. That gives a strange feeling because at moments like that we see how deeply unconscious signs (the clock or mirror) affect our sense of who we are.

After a while we get used to the bare wall, but the lesson in how deeply signs operate within us should be clear. The other lesson of how we can indeed change our reference or expectation from a wall with a clock or mirror to a wall without either should also be clear.

At first, the mind is surprised, but after a while, it accepts that there is no clock on the wall with little fuss.

When two people do FIML (note: this link will lead to recent posts and reposts, including this one, but just scroll down a bit for more) practice, they help each other remove broken clocks and mirrors from the walls of their minds. FIML strongly emphasizes catching the signal and the semiotic it is referring to as quickly as you can. If partners can isolate their signals quickly, they will find that they are dealing with very small and discrete signs that very, very often are not true.

Normal people live in vague worlds where they grope toward each other like ghosts in the fog. How can we understand each other or ourselves if we do not pay attention to the small signals that are, arguably, the most important units of interpersonal communication?

And how can you pay attention to them if you don’t catch them quickly in the moment? If you try to understand yourself through long explanations and stories, you will only be understanding the underlying semiotic library that your moment-by-moment signals are referring to. If you catch those small signals as they happen in the moment, though, you will come to understand how and why that library is being accessed and how that affects you.

When your partner shows you that one of your signals was wrong and that it was referring to a part of the library that had no proper bearing on that moment, and when they show you that again, and again, that particular signal will stop firing. And there is a very good chance your library will change as well. It will change you deeply to see that.

first posted SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

More thoughts on “Empathy”

It seems that many individuals who self-describe as “empathetic” think of empathy as a talent they have for “reading people”, or knowing what others are thinking without having to ask. I think this is a huge mistake that can actually lead such people to have less empathy over time. To me it seems much more appropriate to think of empathy not as a talent one possesses but as a desire to understand other people. If we think of it this way then the ever-problematic “I know” becomes “I want to know.”

If empathy is conceived as an interest or desire, it is more likely to be developed and pursued. If, however, it is conceived as a static quality or talent, it will be taken for granted, misapplied, and probably warped into just another form of hubris.

I wonder what a self-described “empathetic” might learn from FIML. I have a feeling many of them would find that they’re not so good at “reading” others after all. Perhaps they are just adept at getting along in some sort of professional capacity and have generalized their confidence about that to other social realms.

As FIML has shown me and my partner over and over again, we are comically substandard at knowing what the other is thinking. But I hope the fact that we want to know means we have empathy for one another.

Be sure to read or re-read our previous post entitled “Theory of Mind and FIML” for a much more comprehensive treatment of this subject.

first posted  

This image is profoundly misleading because it leaves out a major factor

A major cause of anger and all other emotional reactions during interpersonal communications is mistaken interpretations, either wrong or distorted. This can also include positive interpretations.

For Buddhists, the second skandha (sensation) is the proximate cause of how we perceive (third skandha) forms (first skandha). The fourth and fifth skandhas (mental activity and consciousness) are how we consolidate or more often reconsolidate the original mistaken or distorted sensation. For more on this see: The Five Skandhas.

For non-Buddhists, if you watch your mind closely you will notice there is a short delay between receiving an impression and reacting to it, interpreting it.

For everyone, if you can be mindful of the second skandha (sensation) as it occurs and then interrupt the habitual firing of the next three skandhas by doing a FIML query, you will begin to truly observe how your mind (and your partner’s mind) really works. Each interruption of this type improves your mental and emotional functioning because you will observe an objective bit of reality and correct toward it. For more information see: Disruption of neurotic response in FIML practice and How the brain processes new information. ABN