What Are Flying Monkeys?

What Are Flying Monkeys?

By this point, you are probably sick and tired of hearing me discuss flying monkeys. But you really cannot understand narcissism and narcissistic abuse without exploring the supporting role the monkeys play in harming the victim. I plan to post many times on various topics concerning flying monkeys, so this post will just cover the bare-bones basics.

Dr. Ramani explains the role and recruitment tactics of flying monkeys exceptionally well in this video – much better than I can.  

She rightfully points out that the term flying monkey stems from the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. In this movie, flying monkeys were recruited by the Wicked Witch of the West (who in this analogy is the narcissist) to do her dirty work that she did not want to do or could not do alone. Now, these flying monkeys did not know Dorothy or her friends. Nonetheless, they were willing to torment and harass them. Sometimes flying monkeys know you quite well, sometimes only a little, and other times not at all. However, the narcissist is able to plant his seeds into their ears, often over time, gain their empathy, and get them to do his will – and that will is more often than not directed at harming/ revictimizing his victim.

In narcissistic abuse dynamics, flying monkeys can be friends, family members, or acquaintances who are influenced or controlled by the narcissist to carry out their wishes, spread misinformation, or engage in various forms of manipulation or harassment against the narcissist's target.

That is the hardest part of the flying monkeys - they are mostly people you and the narcissist know and who acted and behaved like they were your friends until they turned on you and became a tool of the narcissist. These individuals may not necessarily be narcissists themselves but may be easily swayed or manipulated by the narcissist's charm, coercion, or lies. Flying monkeys can significantly exacerbate the harm caused by the narcissist, as they may lend credibility to the narcissist's false narratives or provide additional avenues for the narcissist to exert control over their victim. Recognizing the role of flying monkeys in narcissistic abuse dynamics is important for understanding and addressing the complexities of such relationships.

One thing I noticed about my narcissist’s flying monkeys is that not one of them bothered to ask me my side of the story. Some of these people I had known for years. A few were at my house 2-3 times a week, let their kids sleep over at my house regularly, asked me to care for their kids when they were sick, etc.  I have text messages sent to me by some of the flying monkeys days before my second assault asking me to hang out with them, watch their kids, host a sleepover, etc. There was zero indication that they didn’t trust me and, by all accounts, they acted like I was their friend.

For a long time, I thought that there must be something wrong with me.

Did I say something to offend them? Was I unkind and didn’t realize it? However, the more I think about it and talk it over with my friends and therapist, the clearer it becomes to me that their willingness to be recruited as a flying monkey is a testament to who THEY ARE, not to who I AM. I have repeatedly said through this entire ordeal “I didn’t lose one friend, I found out who my fair-weather friends were and who my true friends were.” I am much better off to have the former out of my life and to be surrounded by a group of people who deeply care for me and my best interests. Let the flying monkeys sulk in their misery together while we live our best lives.

One tactic the narcissist will use to recruit their monkeys is to make you out to be a very difficult person, and maybe you are higher maintenance than others. As an INTJ, I am sort of set in my ways. I stand up for what is right and don’t shy away from an argument. Also, I did appear to be the party pooper since I was always the one turning down invites to go to bars and breweries because of my narcissist's drinking problem.

My narcissist was acutely aware of these qualities and dynamics and, then, used them to paint a misleading narrative that I was the difficult one in the relationship while he was easygoing, fun, and carefree. This leads people to begin to turn a skeptical eye on the victim and not the abuser. They begin to look at the victim with suspicion because the narcissist has planted seeds in their ears.

Interestingly, none of my alleged faults and undesirable personality traits that my narcissist told people to gain their support and paint him as the victim came out until AFTER my abuser was hulled off to jail for the second time.

Then, suddenly, I began to hear things about my relationship that were news to me. I was accused of being unfaithful (actually he was the one who cheated on me multiple times with his students and people at our church). I was accused of being mentally ill (he was the one in intense therapy for alcoholism and lying). I was accused of being opportunistic (he was the one who demanded I pay him for nonsensical things after he assaulted me). I was accused of trying to harm his children (when the only person who ever harmed his children was my narcissist while I went out of my way to love, protect, and provide support and care for them as they traversed one obstacle after another due to their parents’ repeated selfish choices).

I realize now that what he was doing was projecting. I have a whole blog post on projecting, but in the meantime, here is an excellent video on projection.

 

Narcissists often project and, if you listen to them closely, what they accuse you of is more often than not a confession of their own actions. 

For example, my narcissist would accuse me of cheating (out of nowhere), for me later to find out he was looking at half-nude pictures of one of his students (he was a professor). If you are on to their nefarious ways, then being aware of what they are saying provides you with invaluable insight into their own warped way of thinking. Projection is a key piece of data about the narcissist’s inner world. When you call them out on their tendency to project, it is common to be called crazy or paranoid or insane (three common terms a narcissist will use to discredit their victims).  

Projection is universally witnessed in all narcissists. Not all people who project are narcissists, but all narcissists project. To be fair, we all project from time to time, particularly when we feel vulnerable, anxious, and fatigued. When a normal person projects and gets called out on it, they typically take a step back and reevaluate why they said or thought what they did. Often, someone who does not display narcissistic traits will realize that they are projecting, apologize, and change their course of thought. This is not the case for narcissists. First, the narcissist will project frequently and even under the best of situations. Second, they will rarely or never critically reconsider their words and thoughts to see if, in fact, they are projecting. Instead, they will double down on their projection and move into denial or gaslighting – two very important terms for understanding a narcissist which I will explore later in greater depth.

The narcissist amplifies their flying monkey recruitment tactics when they are going to be called out or made to look bad. After my narcissist assaulted me the first time, he really put effort into creating his flying monkeys. He knew that if he assaulted me again, I would not lie to protect and cover for him. Rather than addressing his drinking problem which was largely at the crux of his violence and most of our marital issues, he took another approach. He began to put more innuendos and plant more seeds into the ears of his recruits. In all instances, the narcissist will paint themselves as the victim or the hero, but never the one who did any wrong (even when they are arrested for domestic violence).

For example, I mentioned that he had one friend, Allison, whose wife, Cathy, was bipolar.  As far as I can tell, Allison and I were on very good terms and, often, I would defend her and Cathy in public and private settings when people spoke ill of them. To gain Allison's trust, my narcissist started to paint me in the same light as her bipolar spouse. He even went so far as to take pictures of my medicines for OCD/ anxiety and insomnia and show them to her as ‘evidence’ that I was insane (and because I only take my medicine as needed, I had a backup supply, so it looked like I had 10 different medicines when, in reality, I was taking one pill for sleeping and one pill for anxiety). Now, for the entire time we were living together we were in intense counseling for his drinking and lying. Never once did my alleged mental health issues ever surface – not once – because I didn’t have mental health issues and there was no concern. Often, he would leave all four of the kids (my two kids and his two kids) alone with me, sometimes overnight, while he went on a trip or to a conference. Never did I leave my children alone with him because of his drinking problem. Yet, once he assaulted me for the second time and I did not cover for him, he took those pictures of my medicines and showed them to his friend along with a made-up sob story about how I cheated on him (since her wife cheated on her) and acted crazy (since her wife was bipolar).

Had even one of his flying monkeys (read about all the types) talked to me and listened to my side or even strategically questioned my narcissist, they would have quickly seen that his story did not add up.

A friend might have asked, “If Ekho was crazy, why did you allow our kids to sleep over at your house all the time?" or "If Ekho was crazy, why did you leave your kids alone with her constantly while you went on trips and out with friends?”; or “If Ekho was crazy, why didn't you get her mental health help and, instead, assaulted her?”

His story just did not add up at all, yet, as far as I can tell few or none of his recruits even took the time to think about these seemingly obvious glitches in the matrix. I don't think they cared. They wanted to love and support him, and they had no problem making me out to be the villain in order to do so.

One of the best things you can do so that you are not recruited to be a flying monkey is to ask questions. If you must get involved in this type of conflict, then be an adult.  First, we are not in middle school. Take the time to ask both people their sides of the story. Second, ask a lot of questions. If someone brings it up, then they have to be willing to have questions asked. A good rule of thumb is that the truth doesn’t mind being questioned, but a lie does. Ask questions – and if the answers don’t add up or the person gets mad – that is a good indicator that you are being recruited to be a flying monkey. Also, be wary if someone’s experience matches yours almost too closely.

By grooming and launching their flying monkeys, the narcissist is mobilizing people around the victim.

I remember it all feeling so surreal as people I used to depend on and count on as friends – one by one – stopped responding to me and clearly were siding with my narcissist. For example, one woman that I went to lunch with once a week for years suddenly stopped texting about our lunch dates or responding to my messages. She worked with my narcissist and, perhaps, she just didn’t want to get in the middle. Nonetheless, it was hurtful to see my normal social circle slipping away. (On the other hand, my true friends really showed up for me in a way I never would have imagined, and I am forever grateful for their love, support, and care.)

Another tool the narcissist uses to recruit flying monkeys is gossip and innuendos. The narcissist will share some tidbit of gossip with recruits who are more prone to be intrigued by it. Interesting, almost all of my narcissist’s flying monkeys are women and a very specific type of woman. They were women who did not get a lot of male attention and were by and large miserable in their own lives. Again, hurt people hurt others and broken people break others. I think every one of his successful recruits was a hurt, broken woman. Jennifer's (monkey type: Brown-nose Bunny) husband cheated on her for years and flew off to another nation to meet his mistress behind her back. Amara (monkey type: Co-Conspirator Cockroachwas born with a cleft pallet and treated terribly by her husband, kids, and coworkers. Fanny (monkey type: Patriarchal Pig) was a victim of domestic abuse herself, and she told me at one point “I never got justice and you shouldn’t either” and would constantly discourage me (and even get mad at me) if I spoke with my lawyer and did not take her advice on how to proceed with my divorce. Allison (monkey type: Co-Conspirator Cockroach) was an alcoholic whose wife Cathy constantly cheated on her and had bipolar disorder. I really cannot think of one of his monkeys that had what I would call a good, meaningful life. Nonetheless, watching someone you once hung out with and called a friend being turned into a flying monkey is downright devastating.

Here is the good news. Flying monkeys are only valuable to the narcissist as long as they are doing his bidding.

Once they are no longer of service, the narcissist will discard them just like they discard their victims. Moreover, returning once more to the analogy of Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, what ultimately killed the Witch and made her flying monkeys scatter? A bucket of water. Something as simple as a bucket of water can break the spell of the narcissist and make the monkeys scatter. I will explain in a later section how I managed – with the help of some very trusted and true friends – to throw a proverbial bucket of water on my narcissist, sending his monkey’s scattering to the wind. They don’t bother me as much anymore and, for the most part, they seem to be ashamed of their behavior. They avoid me like the plague. Thank goodness.

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