The Milton Model

The Milton Model comes from observations of Milton Erickson MD by Richard Bandler and John Grinder who founded the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.  

Erickson observed that although he knew what he did, to explain it was much too difficult for him.



The warning message that we sent … was an ambiguity that would be clearly understood

Alexander Haig


Contrast the Meta Model

In volumes I and II of Patterns of Hypnotic Techniques, Bandler and Grinder (and in volume II Judith DeLozier) achieve what Erickson himself could not in that respect. 

The Meta model is a model of language about language; it uses language to explain language.  

It examines the surface structure of language in order to gain an understanding of the deep structure behind it.

So the Meta model chunks down in order to recover distortions, generalisations and deletions.  

In that respect it is precise and concentrates upon the specifics.

The Milton Model – mirror image

The Milton model is a mirror image of the Meta model.  Whilst the Meta model chunks down to specifics, the Milton model chunks up to produce vagueness and ambiguities.  

It requires the listener to use his unconscious mind to search for meaning (known as transderivational  search) and to go into an altered state or trance.

The Milton Model and trance

Think about the number of times you go into trance today.  

You are busily undertaking a task of some kind, engaged in a sport or studying, and you wonder where that last hour went.  

Your unconscious mind had taken over and you were running on autopilot.  This is known as time distortion.

When you are in trance you may not remember consciously everything that happened (known as amnesia).  

You may have been able to hallucinate something that isn’t there or fail to see something that is there.  

I negatively hallucinate my cuff links when they are six inches away from where I normally leave them although they are clearly within my vision.  

It is possible to regress (or go back in time) or progress (imagine a future event).

Have you ever suffered an injury in a sporting event, or when you have been busy around the house and not known about it until you see the evidence in the form of a large bruise or blood running from an open wound?  It is only then that it seems sore or you notice the throbbing.  This is known as anaesthesia.

 Double binds

There is an assumption contained in the sentence.  My mother was very good at double binds when I was a boy.  “Are you going to the shop for me before lunch or afterwards?”  

The hypnotist might say, “One of your feet will feel warmer than the other.  It may be the left foot or it may be the right.”

Examples:  “Would you like to order the book now or later?”  “Will you finish reading this article in the next few minutes or come back to it tomorrow?”  “Will you look at the rest of this website today or come back to it over time and again over the next few weeks?”

Tag questions

“Conversational postulate” is merely a command in disguise.  That is to say, it takes the form of a question but it is telling you what to do:  “Do you see what I am saying?”  “Do you feel prepared to sign our agreement now?”  “Wouldn’t you like to go for a walk in the countryside today?”  “Will you just let go now?”  “Can you imagine how good you will feel?”

The Milton Model - Conversational postulates

“Conversational postulate” is merely a command in disguise.  That is to say, it takes the form of a question but it is telling you what to do:  “Do you see what I am saying?”  “Do you feel prepared to sign our agreement now?”  “Wouldn’t you like to go for a walk in the countryside today?”  “Will you just let go now?”  “Can you imagine how good you will feel?”

Selectional Restriction violation

We have all heard expressions like, “What did his actions say to you?”  Of course, his actions cannot speak.  We use this sort of picture language all the time.  

You’ve heard a mother say to a child, “How is teddy feeling today?”  We are suggesting that an inanimate object has feelings.

“The walls have ears”.  “The cream trifle was calling to me from the refrigerator.”  “My car knows the way to the shops;  it goes there every day.” 

The Milton Model - Quotes and extended quotes

Using a quote moves the attention of the listener away from the speaker.  I love to use them.  

Once that attention is moved it is easier to get information into the unconscious mind because the listener is focusing inwardly.  Extended quotes aid that process.

“Billy said that you knew somebody who had told Fred that the car worked perfectly properly last time he drove it.”  

“My sister tells the story about her husband’s friend who liked to imagine flying with her in his aeroplane.”  

It is difficult not to go into trance while focusing on sentences like these.

Phonological ambiguities

Words that sound the same but have different meanings.  They may be spelt the same or differently, but they sound the same.  

Again, once the transderivational search for meaning commences, the listener goes into trance.  

Examples:  there/their;  plane/plain;  son/sun; rite/right; not/knot.

The Milton Model - Syntactic ambiguities

The Milton Model

“They are visiting relatives”.  Are “they” visiting the relatives or do “the relatives” visit?

“Flying planes can be dangerous”.  Think about that one.

“Hypnotising hypnotists can be tricky”.  Another one to ponder!

Scope ambiguities

The older boys and girls.”  Are the girls old as well?

“The intruding sounds and pictures”.  Do the pictures intrude as well?

Punctuation ambiguity  

These may be sentences that run on with a linking word such as:  “I can see the time on your watch my eyes now.”   

Another type of punctuation ambiguity is known as the improper pause.  It occurs when … I … don’t … uh … complete … uh … the … sentence.  It very quickly induces trance.

I have a friend who constantly starts a sentence, begins another after a few words, then another and then another, and never comes back to his original thought. 

Or, if he does, I am no longer there because I have long since gone into trance.

The Milton Model – other examples

These are all examples of the type of language used in the Milton model.  

You might also like to read about embedded commands in a separate article on this website.  

Re-read the examples above and then see how many others you can write out for yourself.




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