The Milton Model: Magic of Language Patterns

The Meta model is a pattern that scrutinizes the surface structure of language to attain a knowledge of the deep structure behind it. In other words, the Meta model chunks down to recover the distortions, generalizations, and deletions. In that detail, it is specific and focuses upon the particulars.

The Milton Model – Mirror Image of the Meta Model

The Milton model is famous for being the mirror image of the Meta model. While the Meta model amounts down to particulars, the Milton model amounts up to yield ambiguities and vagueness. It necessitates the listener to use his unconscious mind to look for the meaning and to go into a reformed state or trance.

Trance in the Milton Model

Ponder about how many times you go into trance today. You’re actively undertaking a mission of some type, tied up in studying or in an outdoor activity, and you marvel where that last hours went. Here, your unconscious mind had taken over, and you’re running on autopilot; we call this the time distortion.

When you’re in a trance, you may not recall deliberately everything that occurred. You may have been hallucinating something that is not there or fails to perceive something that is there through hypnosis

Ericksonian Hypnosis and NLP

Customary hypnosis uses procedural inductions and direct suggestion. Ericksonian hypnosis, on the other hand, is natural and casual and is occasionally identified as the conversational hypnosis. Many of his methods are not what we might think as hypnotic, but they generate trance states, where we find unconscious choices and resources.

Erickson believed that the unconscious mind was positive, self-generating, and crucial to an effective change. An individual typically asks help from a hypnotherapist because their conscious resources are not functioning. Accordingly, the purpose of therapy is to get the conscious mind out of the way to access unconscious resources.

Erickson Had Years of Practice

In the development of the Milton model and connection to NLP, Dr. Richard Bandler deliberated the best and brightest therapists and counselors at their time. By the best and brightest, we’re not speaking about just anybody; we’re talking about the legends. They are Virginia Satir, Gregory Bateson, Fritz Perls, and Milton Erickson.

It wasn’t until Bandler had the opportunity to observe Erickson work; and there, he discovered Erickson’s verbal magic and hidden flavor. It was the time when he extracted the real power from Milton’s language that was not created in one morning in Erickson’s garage. He refined and developed these after talking to several and various patients. By the time Grinder and Bandler came and reverse-engineered these patterns (1975), Erickson had been refining the techniques for decades.

Overall, the concepts of confusion, utilization, rapport, pacing, and leading originated from modeling Erickson. But who is this man behind the Milton Model?

Who is Milton Erickson?

Milton Erickson is extensively recognized as one of the top hypnotherapists that had ever existed. It’s no wonder that the co-founders of NLP, John Grinder, and Richard Bander, decided to model him and figure out precisely what made him so great and respectable in the field.

Erickson powerfully believed that:

  • Every behavior has a definite purpose.
  • The presented behavior by the client is the best choice accessible to a person given the situations as they perceive it.
  • In working with clients, he valued the other person’s model of the world.
  • Resistance in a client is due to an absence of rapport. There are no resistant or persistent clients, only ignorant and inflexible therapists.

This man’s success was established on his capability to read non-verbal behavior. He also has the skill to develop a rapport with the clients, as well as ability with language patterns. Erickson had a strong reputation for obtaining a magical way of talking to his clients. It is as if his words were abundant with a mystic arras. He was a whimsical linguist, and out of his work arises something called the Milton model.

What is the Milton Model?

Simply put – the Milton model is secret magic that driven almost all of Erickson’s hypnotic interventions. It is a set of language patterns utilized to assist individuals in making desirable changes and unravel challenging problems. These patterns are all part of our daily language.

NLP delivers us with labels for the language patterns that allow us to classify them. Once understood, we can use them purposely to help us in reaching our desired outcomes from communicating with other people.

Milton model statements can be very influential, and NLP inspires you to use them with care, ecology, and ethics for others. Unless you plan to train NLP, you don’t need to memorize the names of all the patterns. To understand what they are, how they are used, and to have the ability to generate your own examples will be adequate to use them successfully.

Milton Model Language Patterns

While Bandler and Grinder divided the patterns so that we could understand the components, we commonly associate them. In fact, it is challenging to give discrete examples of each. The Meta Model makes vague language-specific. The Milton Model uses ambiguous language to access the unconscious.

The Milton Model (Reversed)

These are the Milton Model language patterns that are also part of the Meta Model.

Language Pattern Process
Mind Reading I know you are curious to
Lost Performative Relaxation allows your creativity to flow
Cause Effects Feeling your feet on the pillow makes you at ease
Complex Equivalence Breathing in and out, becoming more relaxed
 Presuppositions   Do you realize you are already in a trance?
 Universal Quantifiers   Every breath takes you deeper into a trance  
Modal Operators   You should begin to feel a tingling
Nominalizations You may feel a particular sensation
Unspecified Verbs That relaxes you  
Simple Deletions Remember a time when….

Additional Milton Model Language Patterns

Aside from the ten Meta Model language patterns, there are other Milton model language patterns that Milton Erickson introduced. These are:

  • Negative Commands
  • Metaphors and Stories
  • Ambiguities
  • Causal Linkages
  • Conversational postulates
  • Embedded Commands
  • Negative Commands
  • Selectional restriction violation
  • Tag questions
  • Double Bind
  • Quotes Pattern

1. Negative Commands

Negative commands are, well, commands delivered in negative form. It is desiring something to happen by uttering what you don’t want to occur, evading a direct control.

When someone says, “don’t think of the blue skies,” you have to think about the color blue, the sky, or both to understand. The explanation of what is happening here is relatively simple. Negation does not exist in the primary experience of feelings, sounds, and sights. It occurs only in secondary experiences – symbolic representations such as language and mathematics.

More examples of Negation

  • Don’t think about me too much while I’m away.
  • Do not decide right away.
  • Don’t think of the delicious meal that we’re going to enjoy later.

To successfully utilize negative commands, the principle is as follows:

  1. Take action or statement you want the person you are working with to perform.
  2. Take that statement and add “do not” or “don’t” in the beginning.
  3. There you have it! You just generated your own negative command.

2. Metaphors and Stories

Metaphors are potent ways to connect to someone’s unconscious mind. Erickson used this technique to pace an individual’s experience, confuse their conscious mind, and enable them to look for solutions or resources.

Strictly speaking, a metaphor, simile, and an analogy are different, but in NLP, they are used similarly. The goal is to transfer meaning from one situation or thing to another.

Uses of Metaphors and Stories
Prompt emotional states Let listener to access mental resources
Diminish resistance to change or new ideas Reframe a circumstance
Establish rapport Entertain
Interpose training Halt negative states


The Construction of a Metaphor

There are several ways in forming metaphors, which rest on whether you’re using it for a stage induction or for assisting a person or a group to overcome a challenge. In generating a basic metaphor, use the following guidelines:

Shift the focus. Nobody likes to be told; they prefer to discover the answers for themselves. Through changing the attention of the story, it lessens the resistance by letting the listener map their own implications.

Get them to search for their unconscious. Through using unspecific descriptions, your metaphor will prompt a trance by instigating the listener to go inside and fill in the details from their mental map or experience.

Pace the Structure. For the metaphor to become active, it needs to have a similar structure as the problem it sets out to obtain perspective. So if a listener faces an encounter and doesn’t know how to resolve it, then the subjects of the metaphor will also face a battle. Here, the difference is the result.

A Resolution. The metaphor needs a resolution that will add resources to the client, which is often in the form of a reframe of what the circumstance denotes.

Shallow-Metaphors: First Type of Metaphor

The shallow metaphor uses explicit comparisons. As they are direct, they are also less beneficial as suggestions for change. When a person says “this game is like watching grass grow,” it draws over the implication of an unspoken action (watching grass grow) with one that you don’t have experience of (the game). Under this type of metaphor, there are two variations of stories – Life Influencers and Life is like.

Life Influencers. Stories are everywhere in our childhood. The fairy tales we see as a child deliver us approaches to get through life – for better or for worse.

Life is like. All people improve personal and unconscious metaphors to direct us through life. When generalized, they entirely become establishing guidelines for our lives. Some of these derive from our memorable childhood fairy tales and few from popular culture — stereotypes in television and movies, and the lives of several folk heroes and celebrities, for instance.

Examples of Stories
 Life Influencers  Life is Like
A handsome prince that is always rescuing the princess. Life is like a jungle. It’s the survival of the fittest.
A beautiful girl who leaves  the ball at midnight. Life is just one long treadmill.
The princess kissed a frog that turned into a handsome prince. Life is a vast, never-ending journey.

These stories can have sneaky and subtle effects on what is a sufficient life and how we see ourselves. The analogies and stories we use affect our interpretations of our situations. If we consider connecting in terms of a battle, then every communication may appear to us as an attack that needs an offensive and defensive.

Deep-Metaphors: Second Type of Metaphor

With the deep metaphor, we map the resemblance of the pattern and relations. Dreams are deep-metaphors; they are the language of our non-dominant or unconscious mind. This is the reason why dreams are challenging to understand and interpret. We cannot merely use the same rules of meaning and logic of a literal world. They are about relations, connections, and sensations.

The Delivery of a Metaphor

Metaphors must be significant; it needs to pace the features of the listeners’ experience, intellectual level, and present situation. Great narrators collect information about their client, not only pacing content but also pacing their delivery. There are no two similar individuals, and so, a single story may differ in detail and length reliant on how a person receives it.

3. Ambiguities

Ambiguities are words or phrases that convey more than one connotation. In NLP, they are used as stylish language techniques to confuse a conscious mind. This method confuses the conscious mind as it then attempts to figure out which meaning is suitable or proper.

There are four types; these are the syntactic, punctuation, phonological, and scope.

Syntactic Ambiguity

The syntax is the rules of language, which makes us understand a sentence. A syntactic ambiguity happens when a word’s syntactic function cannot be distinctively determined from the direct context.

Sentences like “they were milking cows” are syntactically ambiguous. We don’t know whether the person is denoting to milking a cow or the variety of cow. The statement “She owns a flying jacket” is not something usual, but is that a jacket for flying in, or a real flying jacket? Another sentence is “they are visiting friends.” Here, have they gone to visit friends or are their friends who are visiting?

There are two patterns of syntactic ambiguity; these are Verb + ing + noun and the nominalization of a noun.

Verb + ing + Noun Nominalization of Noun
Investigating FBI agents can be dangerous.  The touch of the man.
They are walking dogs. The feeling of the couch.

The hypnotist may develop each of these syntactically ambiguous instances by using the following methods:

Step 1. Classifying the message that you, as a hypnotist, desire the client to obtain.

Step 2. Employing the message into one of the syntactically ambiguous patterns listed above.

Punctuation Ambiguity

A punctuation ambiguity ensues when one sentence ends with the word that starts the next. This is relatively an excellent way to direct a client into a trance, as you can remain in speaking without ever finishing your sentence.

For example, Erickson might say: “I love going to the sea what images you get when I say the word fun.” We can decompose this ill-formed surface structure into two well-formed one with the shared pivot word sea. In this case, the statements become “I love going to the sea,” and sea (see) what images you get when I say the word fun.

More examples of a punctuation ambiguity include:

  • I just bought a new phone what I am doing.
  • Notice what your hand me the remote.

All circumstances of punctuation ambiguity produce ill-formed surface structures. This method is beneficial, and typically, the client either replies instantly to the command specified or halts processing with the customary linguistic processes almost directly.

Phonological Ambiguity

Phonological ambiguities are words that have the same sounds but have diverse denotations and can be used in very different ways.

Phonological Words Sentences
Sea and see She can hear the sea in this shell. Do you see this shell here?
Right and write It would be right for you to practice and write these patterns regularly, right?

In an instance where someone says, “you’ve resisted with this situation for the last time,” and you respond “no/know more.” In this case, the response is useful, particularly if “know more” is conveyed as an embedded command.

Scope Ambiguity

A scope ambiguity transpires when it is not clear how much of a sentence a verb, adjective, or adverb relates to. One of Erickson’s much-loved scope ambiguities is linked with age recession. He will, in the process of training, look expressively at the client and say, “speaking to you as a child.” With this statement, the ambiguity is whether the phrase as a child denotes to the client or him; hence, the result is a scope ambiguity which prompts age recession on the client’s part.

Example of an Ambiguous Statement Why it is Ambiguous
The older men and women came to join the program. Is it older women and older men, or only the older women?
 Disgusting boys and girls attended the party. Were the girls disgusting? Or only the boys?

4. Causal Linkages

Causal linkage or modeling is a simple way of suggesting that there is a cause-effect connection between something that’s happening and something a therapist desires to arrive. It encourages the client to react as if one thing occurred and indeed instigated the other. For example,

  • Your new outfit will make all the girls like you.
  • Acquiring this asset will make you in demand with employers.
  • Buy these headphones, and you won’t ever have to care for annoying again.

Three Types of Linkages

Simple Conjunction. This is the weakest type of linkage, which connect otherwise unconnected things. This consists of wordssuch as and, not, and but.

Implied Causative. This is the type of linkage where we directly create a connection. They contain words such as before, after, while, so, will, and during.

Direct Cause-Effect. This is the most reliable type of linkage where we declare the causality. Words such as because, will make, forces, and requires comprise this linkage.

 Sentence Example of the Types of Linkages
Simple Conjunctions  Implied Causatives  Direct Cause Effects
You are waiting for here, and you feel excited. As you wait here seeing the people, you will feel more excited. Waiting here, seeing the people outside will make you even more excited.

5. Conversational Postulates

Conversational postulates are requests for information or action which marks as yes or no questions. It is a question which entails a yes or no answer but demands a particular behavior.

A question can be posed in hypnosis but is actually an order. “Do you have to stand there?’ is a request for a person to move. Moreover, “could you pass me the food?” for instance, is a request for action and not an inquiry about capability.

When you ask a young girl, “can you get Barney?” She will say yes, which means that she’s capable of getting Barney. Conversely, when you ask an adult the same question. generally they get up and get him.

More Examples of Conversational Postulates

  • Could you begin to relax while counting backward from ten?
  • Do you know what today’s date is?
  • Can you listen to me?
  • Can you imagine some peaceful place?

In a trance, when saying, “can you move,” a person understands this literally and responds yes. In a conscious state, that person will typically move. This pattern is a technique to escape generating resistance.

6. Embedded Commands

Embedded commands contain constructing suggestions indirectly inside a broader statement. Through making your voice lower, slower and louder, most statements can include an embedded command. With embedded commands, you can set in a word or phrase within the longer sentence in an approach that the unconscious mind catches the embedded suggestion.

Analog Marking

NLP calls the embedded commands as analog marking. Analog communication is when you deliver a message without words. Through patterning out non-verbally portions of a conversation, the unconscious mind classifies and comprehends this portion differently. This pattern can be interactive as in body language, movement or using voice speed, volume, and tone. For instance,

 Sentence Example Meaning or Emphasis
You can go to him when you’re ready.   Go to him could be used with a body movement.
My boyfriend certainly knows how to feel good about himself.  Feel good can be emphasized by talking slightly louder, slower, or faster.
 John, sit down and have fun.    Sit down and have fun is marked out as a command.

Command Structure and Tonality

The structure of command is known as the imperative form. In English, it is structured by a verb and an optional object. In the tonality of command, however, you must convey the command portion of the sentence as a command. In language, there is a big difference between “you are going now.” and “you are going now?

To carefully understand the differences, here are the guidelines:

  • A statement has no modulation at the end,
  • A question has an intonation or rising tone at the end; and
  • A command has a falling modulation at the end

Embedded Commands are Morally Ambiguous

Because commands can be well hidden within the sentences, they will appear like they are coming from the core of your target’s mind. As they will feel as though they are approaching from within them, they will avoid any usual conscious resistance. Meaning, you’ll need to be very cautious not to influence anyone to do things that will interrupt their ethics and morals.

7. Selectional Restriction Violation

A selectional restriction violation is a technique, wherein it gives things and beings the human qualities or abilities that they can’t by description process. For instance, men can’t get pregnant, and trees cannot feel happy.

An individual’s unconscious mind needs to discover some ways to make sense out of accounts like these. Men can’t get pregnant, so it must be a metaphor. Accordingly, trees can’t feel sad, so this must relate to an individual.

Because the listener comprehends that the designated thing can’t primarily sense these feelings, they will personally ascertain with the emotions. This is particularly correct when the speaker uses a change in tonality consistent with an embedded command.

8. Tag Questions

In a Milton model tag questions, you add tag questions to the end of a regular sentence that turns it into a question. When someone responds to a request by doing the opposite or polarity response, this pattern becomes valuable. They are also exceptionally convenient for training, hypnosis, public speaking, and other types of communication.

When you ask tag questions, the individual or patient you are connecting with looks back to the preceding statement to consider it. Through this, it deepens the message, making it more likely to be recalled and applied into the future. Of course, there are many situations where we want to come across as dependable with a touch of power, but it can be challenging too.

Examples of Model Tag Questions
You know it’s relaxing to go there, don’t you?  This is something that will hurt you, isn’t it?  
You’re thinking about our future, aren’t you?   Video games are great, aren’t they?
You understand, don’t you?   You’re exploring the beautiful city, didn’t you?

Making Use of Time Shifts

People also use tag questions to shift time perception subtly. Here, you use a tag question to change the time shift of the client’s matter and focus from the present to the past. For instance, you can say, “yes, that’s an awful situation, wasn’t it? It’s good to get some distance from it, haven’t you?

Tag questions are indisputable, don’t you think?

9. Double Bind

The double bind is a dominant conversational practice that gets you a quick agreement. They are sentences that propose the client to choose or do one of two things. This method, however, is an illusion of choice since either selection is in the way that you want them to go. Erickson used binds to prompt trance and provide suggestions chiefly with polarity and resistant reacting patients.

Double binds work like this: which would you rather do, 1st choice or 2nd choice? Where both choices point to the same thing. As an example, “Son, do you want to go to bed now or play ten more minutes of your game before going to bed?” In this case, either way the child picks to go, it leads him into one destination – going to bed.

More Examples of a Double Bind

  • Would you like to do gardening or housework before shopping?
  • Would you like to take me to dinner or have a romantic night before you go to the party with your friends?
  • Do you want to help me wash up or tidy your playroom before watching cartoons?

Catch 22: A No-Win Situation

Catch 22 is another term for double bind; it plays a no-win situation. It works like this: someone offers you two selections (either of which is disagreeable), and for some reason, you can’t just decline to choose.

Consider a situation when kids are small. The supremacy difference typically means they’re not in the right position to decline the choice. Another circumstance is when being a customer, you sometimes really need a particular product – it’s 3 am, and that is the only place that sells what you need. In these cases, you have no choice.

10. Quotes Pattern

Model quotes are statements that have one or more quotes that are tangled with each other and with the story, becoming vague as to what they mean. In other words, they set in a suggestion that covers who is saying what and to whom.

In the quotes pattern, you’re putting recommendations in either a direct or an indirect quote from another individual. A direct quote is the exact words from a source, while an indirect quote is the fact or idea of that source. You use your own words, but the concept is derived from the original source. For better understanding, here are some examples of both types.

Direct Quote Example Indirect Quote Example
My best friend used to tell me, “you don’t have to control everything.” My best friend used to tell me that I don’t have to control everything.
I met my boyfriend this morning, and he said, “You look gorgeous today.” I met my boyfriend this morning, and he said that I look gorgeous today.
My friends told me, “you need to loosen up when you go out.” My friends tell me that I need to loosen up when I go out.

Quoting what other individual said provides an indirect recommendation to our unconscious mind. We can also use it to admire or insult anyone without them realizing. Overall, quotes pattern is a useful pattern in avoiding to build a resistance.


Erickson used language in a creatively ambiguous method so that the clients could receive the implication that was most appropriate for them. He utilized and induced trance states, empowering clients to ascertain resources and overcome their problems.

In connection, the Milton Model is a way of creating sentences that are deliberately vague and artfully ambiguous. The client needs to fill in the details and vigorously search for the meaning of what they hear from their situations and experiences.

In other words, the practitioner delivers the context with as little detail as possible, giving them the structure and leaving them to pick the image to put in it. When the client does this, it safeguards they make the most applicable and instant meaning from what you say.