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Understanding And Using The Milton Model 11: Negation

I’m not sure if I mentioned in an earlier article that the unconscious mind doesn’t process negation. By negation I mean the idea of ‘not’ something.

You know that British tradition where people take their young children to the supermarket to punish them? You know what I’m talking about – “Don’t touch those sweets!”

And the young child, who below the age of about six is really an unconscious mind on legs, just hears “touch those sweets” because you can’t form a mental image of ‘not’ something. And his unconscious mind goes “mmm, touch… those… sweets…” because that’s the internal representation that the parent has just installed.

And then he gets a stern telling off: “What did I just tell you? Don’t touch those sweets!” And the kid starts to cry, because now he’s in a double bind – he gets told off if he touches the sweets, but at the same time he really wants to because what his unconscious mind is taking from what the parent says is that image: “touch those sweets!”

The unconscious mind doesn’t process negation. Negation is a logical, conscious-mind concept that you can’t form a sensory internal representation of.

“Don’t think of a blue rhinoceros.” Now I’m not suggesting that you wanted to think of a blue rhinoceros, but actually, you had to form some sort of representation of one in order to process what was said.

A couple of implications: first, if you want someone to do something, tell them what you want to do rather than what you don’t want them to do, because telling them what you don’t want them to do just puts that internal representation in their minds.

When I was doing my NLP trainer’s training assessments, one of my friends said “Whatever you do, don’t get nervous, forget everything you know and and make a complete fool of yourself.” Very helpful*. What he meant was, “Maintain your state, remember you’ve got all the knowledge you need, and do yourself justice.”

Secondly, if you want a sneaky way of asking or getting someone to do something without appearing to do it explicitly – and I’m not suggesting you would ever do this in real life – you can use what’s called a “Negative Suggestion“. “Don’t buy until you’re absolutely ready”, “I wouldn’t want you to take this unless it’s the right thing for you”, “I’m not saying that these shares are always going to go up in value”. I’m not suggesting that you start thinking about situations where you can use negative suggestions – or am I?

* sarcasm

Previously in this series: Understanding And Using The Milton Model 1: The Hierarchy Of Ideas (Chunking)
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 2: What It Is And Why You Need To Know About It
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 3: Distortions
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 4: Generalisations
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 5: Deletions
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 6: Pacing
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 7: Ambiguity
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 8: Embedded Suggestions
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 9: Extended Quotes
Understanding And Using The Milton Model 10: Switching Referential Index

Next: Understanding And Using The Milton Model 12: Tag Questions

Practical NLP 2: Language ebook

For more about Milton Model patterns, and many other NLP language patterns, get my book Practical NLP 2: Language: How to use presuppositions, chunking, the Meta Model and the Milton Model in practice

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