Hosted by journalist Ellie Flynn, the group of young people view the story ofAlex and Rachel over two days. The story unfolds in 6 parts and ends with an accusation of coercive control.
What is coercive control?
Coercive control describes a pattern of behaviour by an abuser to harm, punish or frighten their victim.
Coercive control was criminalized in England in 2015.
Over the last 18 months, coercive control has hit the headlines following the re-trial of Sally Challen over the killing of her husband.
In Hawaii the definition of domestic violence was expanded to include coercive control and on September 15, 2020 and in California coercive control was added to the Family Code on September 29, 2020.
During the coronavirus pandemic, called to the UK’s National Domestic Violence helpline rose by 49% percent and incidents of intimate partner homicide rose by 50%.
Different perceptions of coercive control
After viewing the story of Alex and Rachel, the group are asked if they can identify any signs of coercive control and vote on whether the behavior they are watching fits the crimes.
To some members of the group, the behavior the witness in the story of Alex and Rachel seems typical of any relationship but other participants think it crosses the line.
Do any members of the group have a good enough grasp on what coercive control is that they can to spot criminal behavior?
The program found that 70% of participants weren’t able to spot the red flags of coercive control.
After viewing and discussing each segment of Alex and Rachel’s story, barrister Clare Ciborowska, analyses the film the group has viewed and explains what coercive control is according to the law. She also answers questions from the participants.
On September 15, 2020, Hawaii became the first US state to adopt legislation against Coercive Control. Governor David Ige signed into law a historic amendment expanding the definition of domestic abuse to include “Coercive Control between family or household members for the purposes of insurance and protective orders.”
Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence
Rep. David A. Tarnas introduced House Bill 2425, which expands the concept of domestic violence to include Coercive Control.
“HB2425 adds Coercive Control to the definition of domestic abuse. It is a useful term to help strengthen our statutory basis for preventing domestic violence”, Rep. Tarnas said at the bill signing. “We need to address domestic violence because it is pervasive in our community. It is even worse now because of the economic impact fo the COVID pandemic.”
Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence. If we can identify it and stop it there, we can save lives.
Rep. David A. Tarnas
Rep. Tarnas described how he learned about Coercive Control through the advocacy of two constituents. “Officer May Lee in Waimea, first introduced me to this whole concept and educated me about how Coercive Control is the first step in domestic violence. If we can identify it and stop it there, we can save lives.”
The bill was inspired by Scotland’s domestic abuse prevention program, widely praised as the most cutting edge in the world.
“I want to acknowledge another constituent, Barbara Gerbert, [professor emeritus and chair of the Division of Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco] who has been working in domestic violence prevention research for years”, said Rep. Tarnas. “She was the first person to tell me about Scotland, where they incorporated Coercive Control into their statutes. It has shown to be very effective over time at reducing the incidence of domestic [abuse] cases that escalated into violence. They feel that it did prevent homicides from happening in an area where they had significant problems.”
Superintendent Gordon McCreadie, the former national lead for domestic abuse for Police Scotland, was delighted by news of Hawaii’s new Coercive Control Bill.
“When appointed in 2017, I never imagined that Police Scotland and partners including Medics Against Violence would influence legislative change in Hawaii on coercive control.”
Under the leadership of Superintendent McCreadie, 25,000 police officers were educated about domestic violence and coercive control in Scotland.
The groundwork for Hawaii’s Coercive Control bill
Through her extensive domestic abuse research, Professor Gerbert is a key figure in the advancement of the understanding Coercive Control in Scotland today.
Professor Gerbert explains, “In my research at the University of California, San Francisco, I developed a model of steps people could use to reduce domestic violence. AVDR: Ask Validate Document and Refer. My goal was to support and simplify what law enforcement, health care professionals, veterinarians, etc., could do.”
“In 2009, the newly formed Violence Reduction Unit in Scotland asked me if they could use my AVDR model,” says Professor Gerbert, “Scotland had a very high rate of all types of violence. In 10 years violence rates have decreased dramatically.”
In 2017, the short film Harderwasproduced as part of the training program. The clip illustrated some of the red flags of domestic abuse, specifically the omnipotence aspect of Coercive Control and what professionals can do when they spot it.
After many years of tireless research and advocacy, a broader understanding of non-physical abuse was achieved, pinpointing coercive and controlling behavior as well as ways that members of the community and law enforcement could intervene.
If you would like to see the definition of domestic abuse expanded to include Coercive Control in your state, reach out to your local representative. Write and tell them about the historic Coercive Control Bill in Hawaii and how you think it could benefit your state.
Coercive Control FAQ
What is criminal coercive behavior?
Coercive behavior is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
What is criminal controlling behavior?
Controlling behavior is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behavior.
Are there coercive control laws in the United States?
CO-PARENTING WITH A NARCISSIST is often said to be impossible. A popular quote by A. Price asserts that “A narcissist will never co-parent with you. They will counter parent. They don’t care about the emotional damage that the constant drama inflicts upon the children as long as it causes emotional damage to you.”
He received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the New School for Social Research and he is a specialist in the dynamics of personality, intergenerational trauma, and parent-child attachment.
In addition to his distinguished background, Dr. Kinsey is in private practice in New York City.
N.B. This interview aims to provide general information, not advice one should rely on. Please get the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking or refraining from any action based on the information in this interview.
Preventing personality disorders in children
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Welcome to Narcissistic Abuse Rehab, Dr. Kinsey, it’s an honor to have you here today to talk about co-parenting with a narcissist!
The first question is “I’m co-parenting with a malignant narcissist who was verbally & physically abusive to me in front of our children is it possible that my children risk developing personality disorders as a result of exposure to pathological narcissism?”
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Children learn first and foremost by what they see and what they observe. There are going to be lasting impacts of trauma in a context where there is emotional and physical abuse.
The question you’re asking is, “What are going to be the long term developmental impacts of that trauma?”
That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many variables. I think there are things people can do to buffer against the permanent arresting of development that can happen as a result of witnessing or seeing that type of abuse.
The first thing I would say is creating meaningful narratives around the experiences. Not walking away from it, not silencing it, not pretending as if it’s not happening. That’s a really important thing for kids. Kids need to know that they’re not experiencing an alternate reality from their parents.
And especially when the parent who is experiencing the abuse is the same-sex parent. There is a strong identification, i.e. the classic example of a husband abusing his wife emotionally or verbally. The child who is going to be most greatly impacted by that is going to be the one who is identified with the one who is being abused.
Of course, there are other problems in continuing the line of abusers down the line when the observer is identified with the abuser.
So I guess what I would say, going back, is just sort of validating the experience. Letting the child know that what they saw was really disturbing and it’s not okay what happened and that something is being done to protect or insulate the child.
One thing I can think of just at a very practical level [would be to say], “I know what you saw was really scary. Do you have any questions for me? Do you have any feelings about it?”
And also for younger kids watching for signs of the impact of the abuse in play is super important and not silencing the play when it shows up and saying in the language of the play, as well. So, if toys are fighting then you can sort of say, “Oh my gosh, they’re fighting. How scary.”
Things like that and just sort of validating that the child is seeing something that’s very hard.
Emotional abuse is a little bit more abstract and harder to pin down. But the other thing I would say, too, is that one of the biggest buffers against personality disorder development is having some sense of understanding of one’s feelings and the feelings of someone else.
And, I think a theme that we’ll touch on quite a bit throughout this discussion is the fact that narcissists are not devoid of feeling states.
To optimally protect kids, we need to help them develop an understanding of who that person is and what their emotional system is like and give them a context for understanding the behavior.
This is different from condoning the behavior. We can hold intention that the behavior itself, that the abuse itself, is unacceptable.
But, if a person is staying in that relationship despite the abuse, there’s already a way in which the abuse is being condoned.
So, at the very least, the child needs to have an understanding of who the narcissist is, why they are behaving the way they are and how it’s possible to still maintain a loving understanding of that person, even though they do very bad things.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: This is important because I think you saw yesterday on Twitter we were talking about gaslighting and having your reality invalidated. I think what you brought up is important because a lot of the times survivors who are co-parenting with a narcissist try to overcompensate for the dysfunction in the family. What I see when the overcompensation happens is that it feeds into creating a false reality for the child. Down the line, what I’ve seen, is that it affects the child’s judgment – it skews things because good becomes bad and bad becomes good.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Absolutely.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: That can become very problematic. But, let’s go over to question two because it gets a little bit deeper into this. I hope it’s not…well, it is probably a hardball question.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: That’s what I’m here for.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: The question is, “I am a survivor of narcissistic abuse and the atmosphere between my adult children & narcissist ex is cult-like. The children participated in the abuse when they were younger and refuse to have contact with me today. I’ve never met my grandchildren.
Why does my narcissistic ex have such a hold on my children when they know they abused me?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Hm.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: It’s a tricky one.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Yeah, and it’s much easier to understand intellectually than it is emotionally.
I think any time you try to put forth problem-solving strategies or easy ways of understanding these kinds of things it can almost invalidate the difficulty of the situation.
When you have children that you’ve nurtured & that you have loved with all of your heart & in some ways built your life around it’s almost impossible to come up with some emotion or visceral understanding of the situation. It’s so difficult to do.
I think it does help to have some context. The context that I would give people who are alienated from their children or who are caught up in the narcissist’s version of reality [is that] I think what you have to understand is the nature of the narcissist’s defensive structure. And we’re mainly talking about splitting, projective identification and these are kinds of jargony terms. But splitting means that the world to a narcissist and other borderline personality structures is divided into good and bad and the narcissist distances himself or herself from the bad as much as possible.
There is intense profound disgust for the bad & the bad always has to be outside of the narcissistic personality that means that there are scapegoats, it means there are demons, there are devils, there are people who are completely unworthy of association. And it goes back to what I was talking about before about how an identification often develops, especially with the same-sex parent.
If the same-sex parent is a narcissist then there is a tendency to emulate that way of dealing with problems, difficulties, and emotions. so, functionally, what this means is the bad that exists in everyone and especially exists in the narcissist is displaced or it’s placed into the other parent. Usually, these are things like vulnerability, weakness, unworthiness –”
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: You mentioned – in another discussion we had on this topic – you mentioned tenderness.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Tenderness, absolutely. Even really positive things, too, can be disowned in that way
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: And you described it in such an interesting way. You didn’t call it parental alienation at all. You described it as being “exiled from the narcissist child dyad.” I thought that was really interesting.
Dr. Michael Kinsey: Being within the dyad is, obviously, a very coveted place. You know with both of our parents there is such a deep need to be loved and accepted.
If a child is forced to choose they might choose the person that they feel they are most like or they’ll also choose the person who they feel is safer or who they feel is the more desirable one to follow.
In the case of the kind of scenario you’re discussing, it’s really a matter of survival. Being in the “in-group” of the narcissist is so essential to survival.
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: That’s very true and I think it’s a great answer. I think all of these questions I have for you are kind of hardball. I hope you’re ready for question three! And it’s about–
Dr. Michael Kinsey: –Well, you know, these are…in some ways… I was observing your twitter yesterday and there is so much terminology within this community that is new to me and I find it fascinating!
The softball questions aren’t going to help anyone and hopefully, there’s something in there that will be of use to people.
I think we were also talking yesterday about how in some ways these are going to be overgeneralized answers there’s so many nuances and variables and double binds that are built into these kinds of dynamics.
If something I say just doesn’t fit or it sounds like I’m oversimplifying things it’s because I am. What I encourage people to do is…I’m available online, you can reach out to me, you can touch base with me. Additional information is available on mindsplain.com.
Triangulation with the narcissist’s new partner
Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Let’s get into question three about counter-parenting or co-parenting with a narcissist: I am being triangulated with my ex narcissist’s new partner. They are telling our children that the new partner is a better parent because they are carefree, while I have been battling anxiety & depression. Ultimately, they want the children to move in with them. In your opinion, what is the best course of action for someone in my situation?
Dr. Michael Kinsey: I think that there’s the short view and the long view here. The short term view can be pretty discouraging. The kids may be believing it, they may be acting in line with what the alienating or narcissistic parent is feeding them.
But the thing to keep in mind with narcissistic people is that if you have an estranged relationship with them you are one of many people. The hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder is there are chronically strained relationships.
And the reason for this is that everyone ultimately has a fall from grace with a narcissist. So if you kowtow and you ingratiate yourself back into favor things can continue peacefully. But it will always happen.
People will always see through the façade at some point. Maybe at first just for a few moments. Maybe there will be a prolonged estrangement that develops between the narcissist and the kids. But there will always be an opportunity.
And so what I would advise people is to create a very welcoming, open, accepting, non-contentious environment for the kids to return to.
In many ways, that’s the best you can do.
You stay above the fray.
You don’t comment on it.
You don’t respond to it.
You speak to the kids.
You don’t speak to the narcissist through the kids.
You speak to the kids and you say, “It really hurts that it feels that way to you, that this other parent is better, but I’m your mother or father and I’m always here for you.”
Part Two of ‘Co-Parenting with a Narcissist’ will be published on May 22, 2020. You can find Dr. Kinsey on Twitter at @mindsplain He can also be reached through his website mindsplain.com.
IT IS NOT UNCOMMON FOR NARCISSISTS to manipulate others into relationships by making fraudulent claims about who they are, what they stand for, and by mirroring the goals of the targeted individual.
They deliberately make promises they don’t intend to keep and spin webs of deception for the sole purpose of exploiting the target and their resources.
In popular psychology, this deceptive tactic is called future faking. Narcissists profess a desire to build a long-term relationship with the target to obtain short term gain.
Once the target has extended trust to a narcissist, their good faith is weaponized and used to access their assets, e.g. sex, connections, status, goods, and services.
The narcissist’s agenda
Narcissists enter relationships with a self-serving agenda. In their estimation, whenever they interact with another person, they are either gaining power or losing it.
Once they have made up their mind to exploit someone, they disguise their malicious intentions by mimicking love for the person they are targeting.
Early in the relationship, they spend hours asking the target about their hopes, dreams, and goals. The target mistakes this for interest when, in fact, the narcissist is data mining to discover the target’s likes and dislikes. With this information, the narcissist can craft a tailor-made false persona in the image of the target’s soul mate.
Misled by the narcissist’s pretense, the target invests themselves and their resources in the relationship. They may move in with the narcissist, marry them, and have children with them. All the while, though the narcissist is going through the motions, they remain detached.
The discard phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle
The discard phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle often comes as a complete shock to the narcissist’s partner. While they are blindsided by the narcissist’s betrayal, the biggest shock is the ease with which some narcissists abandon their progeny.
So why do some narcissists discard their children?
The reasons why may be rooted in the narcissist’s dysfunctional family of origin. These are high conflict family units with power imbalances, rampant denial, low empathy, and little to no boundaries.
Children not accepted or loved for who they are in a narcissistic family. They live in a gaslit reality where the only love they receive is conditional upon their performance in the roles assigned to them by the narcissistic caregiver(s).
In a dysfunctional family, these roles are:
The Caretaker – this child is given adult responsibilities at a young age and parentified.
The Hero/The Golden Child – this child tries to make the family seem normal and trouble free.
The Lost Child – this child is introverted and flies under the radar.
The Mascot/The Clown – this child distracts from the issues in the family,
Psycho-emotional abuse describes any non-physical pattern of behavior that intentionally harms an individual’s mental state and undermines their ability to reach their full potential. It is a portmanteau of psychological and emotional abuse.
This kind of abuse can occur within a variety of contexts. For example, it can take place in intimate partner relationships, in family relationships, in friendships, in the workplace, etcetera.
Above all it is used to manipulate and control another person or people.
Other definitions of psycho-emotional abuse
Dr. Marti Tamm Loring defines psycho-emotional abuse as, “An ongoing process in which one individual systematically diminishes and destroys the inner self of another.”
Professor Dorota Iwaniec describes it as hostile or indifferent behavior which:
Damages the individual’s self-esteem,
Debases their sense of achievement,
Diminishes their sense of belonging,
Prevents their healthy and vigorous development, and
Takes away the individual’s well-being.
Characteristics of psycho-emotional abuse
Psycho-emotional abuse is subtle and can be tricky to spot – even by the person experiencing it!
Abusers often disguise their malice as good intentions, which confuses the person they target and deceives most bystanders.
At times, the aggression is overt and takes place in front of witnesses. However, in these instances most people do not understand the nature of this kind of aggression and so they fail to recognize that abuse is taking place.
Some of its characteristics are:
It is a pattern of behavior.
The harm it causes is deliberate and intentional.
The target experiences the behavior as harmful.
The abuse may be overt or covert.
It may or may not occur in the context of conflict.
It may not immediately seem aggressive.
The aggressor may camouflage the abuse as caring, love, or humor.
The targeted person’s vulnerabilities are exploited to cause them to feel confused, insecure, and unsure of themselves.
It may manifest as neglect.
The abuse causes harm to the targeted individual’s well-being.
Abusers are cunning enough to understand that psychological abuse is a bloodless crime which usually enables them to escape accountability for the harm and devastation they cause.
This is because the theatre of the abuser’s aggression is not visible to the naked eye.
While the recipient of the abuse has no physical symptoms, the emotional wounds may be catastrophic.
A common occurrence is when an aggressive and/or narcissistic person feels intimidated by the presence of someone who they believe has qualities or privileges they do not. They may seek to resolve these painful feelings by asserting dominance over the person they regard as a threat.
In some instances, the abuser is externalizing their toxic shame and placing their burden on the victim. In this way, the abuse strips away the authentic identity of the target and assigns to them a new one that encompasses the parts of the abuser’s persona which they despise and reject.
What are the effects of psycho-emotional abuse?
The cumulative effect of psycho-emotional abuse is the erosion of the recipient’s self-worth and trust in their judgment.
They use a variety of tactics to convince the person they target that they brought the abuser’s aggression on themselves.
They defend their aggression and escape accountability through the process of scapegoating. This is done by using the targeted individual’s vulnerability to excuse the abuse. By blaming the person they victimize, they absolve themselves of any wrongdoing.
Abusers often silence targets by using threats and intimidation. They enlist agents to gang up on the target. The result is that the targeted individual may experience fear, anxiety, dread, and panic.
Prolonged psycho-emotional abuse can lead to adverse health outcomes. It may cause chronic anxiety which can impact the targeted person’s physical and psychological well-being. Over time, this may cause depression, complex post-traumatic stress, and auto-immune disorders.
Comparisons to Coercive Control
Coercive Control and psycho-emotional abuse are both power- and control tactics.
Psycho-emotional abuse may refer to harm inflicted on men, women, and children by abusive men, women, and children.
Coercive Control originated as a descriptor, Dr. Evan Stark, used to describe the entrapment and subjugation of women. It points to a specific kind of gender-based violence, namely how abusive men prevent women from “freely developing their personhood, utilizing their capacities, or practicing citizenship.”
Coercive Control may include isolation, monitoring, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and bodily harm.
Dr.Stark underscores that Coercive Control is more akin to hostage-taking and kidnapping.
“We must stop characterising Coercive Control as only psychological abuse,” Forensic criminologist Dr.Jane Monckton Smith of Gloucestershire University explains, “Psychological abuse is a method used by controlling people to exert and maintain control. Coercive Control is a campaign made up of any or all of these things which then trap people in a relationship, and make it impossible or dangerous to leave.”
Gaslighting is the distortion of another person’s reality. It’s purpose is to undermine their sense of self-mastery. It is a feature of Coercive Control and psycho-emotional abuse.
The United Kingdom recognizes Coercive Control as criminal behavior. Laws prohibiting coercive and controlling behavior came in to force in 2015. The legislation is gender-neutral and applies to anyone experiencing entrapment and domination.
FLYING MONKEYS ARE ENABLERS who act on behalf of narcissists. They are usually friends and relatives who serve as surrogates, emissaries, fixers and drones in the narcissist’s network. Moreover, they make it possible for narcissists to carry out their campaigns of abuse by proxy.
A person may rationalize playing the flying monkey role for a variety of reasons. Here are some examples:
Necessity – They may feel beholden to the narcissist because they are a relative or friend.
Acceptance – They may long for attention and validation from the narcissist.
Avarice – They may benefit from enabling the narcissist.
Schadenfreude – Some people genuinely enjoy inflicting pain and suffering on others.
Manipulation – They may be empathic people with poor boundaries who buy into the narcissist’s schemes and mischief-making.
Flying monkeys and the cycle of narcissistic abuse
Flying monkeys are usually active in every stage of the cycle of narcissistic abuse:
In the idealization or love bombing phase, flying monkeys may be used to provide social proof for the narcissist. At this stage, it’s their job to convince the target that the narcissist’s false self is real.
Flying monkeys help the narcissist accomplish this by vouching for them and helping them appear to be believable, trustworthy and stable. Flying monkeys also provide false verification for the scapegoat stories/smear campaigns the narcissist has crafted to discredit their previous victims.
During the devaluation phase of narcissistic abuse, the behavior of flying monkeys is similar to canned laughter on a sit-com. In other words, the flying monkeys encourage and echo the abuser’s negative sentiments about the person the narcissist is denigrating.
They also cover for the narcissist while they are grooming a new source of attention and adulation i.e. narcissistic supply.
In the discard phase flying monkeys enable the narcissist to control the narrative and escape accountability. Once again, this is done by providing the narcissist with social proof of their scapegoat story/smear campaign which is now directed at their current target.
Flying monkeys provide a narcissist with an alibi for whatever narrative they invent about themselves or the people they target.
They enable the narcissist to use a gaslighting tactics like DARVO against the target. DARVO is an acronym for:
Deny the abuse took place.
Attack the individual confronting the abuse.
Reverse the roles of
The final stage of the cycle of narcissistic abuse is the hoover maneuver. In this stage the flying monkeys enable the narcissist to hook the target and reel them back into the relationship so the cycle of narcissistic abuse can begin again.
This may be done by carrying messages from the narcissist to the target. For example, flying monkeys often surface when the recipient of abuse has ended contact with the narcissist. The flying monkey may befriend the target to extract information about them for the narcissist.
Alternatively, malevolent flying monkeys may slander, harass, stalk and assassinate the character of the target to such an extent that the recipient of the abuse may feel that the only way to put an end to their torment is to resume contact with the narcissist and plead with them to make it stop.
Types of flying monkeys
Narcissists assign different kinds of flying monkey roles to people depending on the individual’s motives.
There are two main subgroups of flying monkeys: benevolent and malevolent.
Benevolent Flying Monkeys
Benevolent Flying Monkeys have four main characteristics.
The harm they inflict is largely unintentional.
They are susceptible to manipulation.
They have poor boundaries.
They are people pleasers.
As people pleasers, it is easy for narcissists and psychopaths to manipulate benevolent flying monkeys into doing their bidding. All they have to do is appeal to their empathy and/or fear.
The benevolent flying monkey turns a blind eye to the narcissist’s history of odious behavior. They justify this action with self-deception and put their trust in platitudes like everyone makes mistakes, everyone deserves a second chance, they’ll grow out of it someday, and love conquers all.
Benevolent flying monkeys are likely to be triangulated because have a desire to be seen as heroic. They are blind to the true nature of their role as flying monkey. Instead, they view themselves as the peacemaker, the rescuer or savior.
The Meddler is usually someone seeking the thrill of the rescuer role. They are usually reacting to the theatrics of a narcissist. To cast someone in the role of Meddler, a narcissist may go to them and claim that their target has abused them. Because Meddlers lack boundaries, narcissists can easily overwhelm them by pouring out a never-ending litany of woe peppered with threats of self-destruction.
Meddlers are often in awe of narcissists and find their endless drama titillating. However sometimes exhausted Meddlers interfere in an attempt to stop the narcissist’s whinging.
The Empath can also be triangulated by a narcissist. An unseasoned empath is easily be seduced by the narcissist’s manipulation tactics, especially pity plays and love bombing
Highly empathic people often have a blind spot for the scheming nature of a narcissist as they are unable to conceive that anyone would deliberately conjure up the mischief and mayhem that narcissists revel in.
Narcissists corrupt empathic people by mirroring their good-natured persona back at them. Thus, empathic people identify and bond with narcissist’s false persona. Seeing their reflection in the narcissist, the unseasoned empath extends trust but fails to verify the facts. In other words, they do not do their due diligence and dismiss the other person’s side of the story.
When a narcissist is mirroring an empathic person, their empathy can be weaponized. The Empath believes, “this person is similar to me, therefore I will treat them the way I would like to be treated, I will give them the kind of support I would like to have if I were in their shoes.”
To live a life free from manipulation and enabling toxic people, Dr. Paul Bloom’s proposes rational compassion as opposed to unbridled empathy.
Empathy is a disaster in this complicated and interesting world. It has several problems. It is biased. We feel more empathy toward people who look like us, who share our skin color or our ethnicity; who are attractive rather than ugly; who are close rather than far. It’s innumerate. We feel empathy for the one but not for the hundred. Thirdly it can be weaponized.
Paul Bloom, Yale University.
Dr. Bloom points out that empathy can be biased whereas compassion is just.
The Coward is recruited to do the narcissists bidding because they feel intimidated and afraid of the narcissist. The Coward may feel that they stand to lose some advantage by failing to keep the narcissist happy. Their self-interest readily overrides their conscience.
In many instances, the coward relies on the narcissist in some way i.e. they may be employed by the narcissist or they may wish to access privilege through their connection to the narcissist.
Malevolent flying monkeys
Malevolent flying monkeys share several common characteristics, as well.
The harm they inflict is intentional.
They take genuine pleasure in destroying other people.
They have are amoral.
They are highly anti-social.
Malevolent flying monkeys are divided into three common classes: the Scandalmonger (Sadist), the Narcissist, and the Psychopath.
The Scandalmonger is always up for the sadistic power trip of destroying another person. They are recruited into the narcissist’s triangulation efforts because they relish the thrill and brutality of scapegoating.
Scandalmongering is antisocial behavior and it is done without conscience. This type is callously treacherous. Often they make a pretense of sympathy and solidarity with the target in the aftermath of the devaluation or discard stage of narcissistic abuse.
Their aim is to weaponize the trust of the target. Anything the target confides in them will immediately be conveyed to the narcissist and used to inflict greater harm to the target.
If the scandalmonger believes that the narcissist has a high enough status, they don’t bother pretenses and go straight for the target’s jugular by gleefully participating in the narcissist’s smear campaign and assassinating the target’s character.
In both instances, scandalmongers are uninterested in the target’s point of view because their goal is to silence them. Scandalmongers don’t care about what is right or what is fair. They are happy to shoot first and ask questions later – if at all.
Scandalmongers experience a profound Schadenfreude at being able to participate in the destruction of another person.
The Narcissist often finds themselves in the role of flying monkey because they are part of a narcissistic collective or hierarchy. Thus, the flying monkey narcissist barters their loyalty in exchange similar favors from their brethren.
A narcissistic collective is elitist in nature and operates under the belief that its members are superior to others. Examples of how this plays out on the can be seen in tribalism, racial superiority, sexism, gangs, sororities, fraternities, cliques, etc.
Narcissists participate in drama triangles because they wish to be in the good graces of a narcissist overlord and/or they are buying insurance for the day they may need social proof from the narcissist collective when they wage a smear campaign of their own.
Furthermore, narcissists may be triangulated if the victim-survivor has special traits or status triggers a narcissistic injury. Narcissists delight in the destruction of people for no other reason than the fact that they have qualities or a position that the narcissist covets. Ganging up on such a target with another narcissist allows them to feel superior to the target. Thus, they are able to resolve the envy that triggered the narcissistic injury in the first place.
The Psychopath is recruited by the narcissist to play the role of enforcer. They know exactly what the narcissist is doing to the target and they know it’s wrong. They are enlisted to slander, harass, stalk, smear, bully and, often, physically assault the target on behalf of the narcissist.
They are the most dangerous of all the flying monkeys.
Common Flying Monkey Behaviors
Have Your Say
Now, it’s your turn! What is your experience of flying monkeys? Were they benevolent or malevolent? Do they fit any of the descriptions of the flying monkeys in this post? Share your experience in the comment section below.
Flying Monkey FAQ
What is a flying monkey?
A flying monkey is someone who acts both as an enabler and a participant in a campaign of abuse by narcissist against a targeted individual.
How do narcissists get flying monkeys?
Narcissists get flying monkeys by appealing to the flying monkeys ego and self-interest. That is to say, the narcissists provides the flying monkey with some sort of benefit. An example of a benefit is acceptance in the in-group with the narcissist. The benefit could also be access to resources and privileges the flying monkey might not enjoy otherwise. It could also be that the flying monkey wishes to please the narcissist and incur their favor because it feeds the flying monkeys ego.
Why do narcissists send flying monkeys?
Narcissists send flying monkeys after the people they target in order to conduct campaigns of abuse by proxy. In other words, they flying monkeys to continue to harm the targeted individual.
How do you deal with flying monkeys?
The best way to deal with flying monkeys is not to engage or have contact with them. If circumstances force you into a situation where you must interact with flying monkeys use low contact strategies.
How do you disarm a flying monkey?
The best way to disarm a flying monkey is not to respond to their provocations. Disengage from any interaction with them and leave whichever space they occupy. If this is not possible, use low contact strategies.
How do you spot a flying monkey?
Acquire a general understanding of typical flying monkey behaviors and tactics. Some of these are enabling, manipulation, victim-blaming, intimidation, gaslighting, harassment, sabotage, spying, and gossiping.
What is a flying monkey narcissist?
The term flying monkey narcissist a Popular Psychology construct used to describe an individual with narcissistic personality disorder who acts both as an enabler and a participant in a campaign of narcissistic abuse conducted by another narcissist.
In dysfunctional families with malignant narcissists or psychopaths at the helm, it is not uncommon for the abuser to target and weaponize children to further isolate the recipient of the abuse.
Why are children targeted for Coercive Control?
Abusers seek to maintain total dominance over the people they target by isolating them. Manipulation of the victim-survivor’s perception is easier to achieve without outside influences, which could be accessed through children or the child themselves.
Therefore, it is in the interest of the abuser to undermine the authority of the victim-survivor in their parental role and willfully sabotage the relationship between the targeted individual and their children.
Dr. Katz’s study found that children raised in a coercive and controlling ecosystem suffered from entrapment similar to the targeted parent.
In his research Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book ‘Coercive Control’, found that this kind of abuse has a far more damaging and pervasive effect on the a targeted individual than acts of physical abuse.
Dr. Stark’s research found that the violence model of domestic abuse was too limited to gauge the extent of injury because much of suffering inflicted on survivors was not prohibited by law at the time.
“Over the years, we’ve been able to amend the understanding of partner abuse that limited it to violence,” Dr. Stark told Welsh Women’s Aid, “And we’ve talked a little bit about the extent to which it involved Coercive Control. We rejected the violence model in part because we heard from women themselves about the range of harms they were experiencing beyond violence.”
The impact of Coercive Control on children
Child abuse occurs mainly in connection to domestic violence. Dr. Stark’s research found that in 45% of domestic abuse cases, the abuser was hurting the spouse and the children. Exposure to and direct abuse were harmful to children.
Dr. Stark explained, “As I began to interview children and looked at the research of Emma Katz and others – which was based on my work but went way beyond it by looking at the qualitative effected of Coercive Control on children. It really became clear to me that children were being coercively controlled as well as women.”
The study showed that child abuse is closely linked to the abuse of the targeted parent.
Dr. Katz’s study found that children raised in a coercive and controlling ecosystem suffered from entrapment similar to the targeted parent.
The abuse children experienced at the hands of an abusive parent were low-level assaults, comparable to the abuse inflicted on the targeted parent.
The research findings were the same regarding the sexual assault of children.
Batterers would weaponize children. They would use them as spies. They would use them as co-abusers.
Dr. Evan Stark
According to Dr. Stark, “There was sexual assault of children, some of it dramatic, but most of it fell on a continuum of sexual coercion: touching, inappropriate dressing [of] boys as well as girls.”
The research also found that children experienced the same patterns of isolation, intimidation and control as the targeted parent.
Children are weaponized in coercive and controlling relationships
The evidence gathered by the researchers discovered that children were often “weaponized” against the targeted parent by the abuser.
Abusers use Coercive Control tactics to modify the identity of the child and turn them against the targeted parent.
Dr. Stark explains, “Batterers would weaponize children. They would use them as spies. They would use them sometimes as co-abusers if they were older children. They would use them as pawns in court processes as ways of extending their abuse.”
What can be done when children are targets of Coercive Control?
Raising children with a high conflict personality, such as a narcissist or psychopath, can be extraordinarily challenging.
This is especially true, for survivors who have left the relationship and are targets for their abusers vindictiveness.
Have you or someone you know experienced coercive and controlling behavior? Does Dr. Stark’s descriptions of the power dynamics in a dysfunctional family resonate with you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
SOMETIMES IT CAN SEEM as if narcissists possess such extraordinary manipulation skills they appear to bend reality to their will.
This is made painfully clear when they inflict harm on someone and, astonishingly, escape accountability by flipping the script and blaming the person they’ve wronged.
Narcissists are expert at erasing the pain they cause from the narrative. They wipe their hands clean by projecting their malice, aggression and treachery on to the target.
The more malignant a narcissist is, the less of a conscience they have. This makes them able to blame the survivor with such ease and skill that, once the narcissist has spun their web of deception, the survivor appears to be the aggressor and the narcissist their hapless victim.
In many cases, survivors are left reeling as their abuser blithely revises the fact of their aggression, twisting the truth into a narrative that bears no semblance to what actually transpired.
This is because narcissists have mastered a tactical maneuver that effectively grooms individuals and, indeed, entire social groups by controlling their perception of events.
The name of this strategy is DARVO.
What is DARVO?
DARVO is an acronym for Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim and Offender. It is a defense mechanism used by manipulators to evade accountability for the abuse they inflict on others.
The term was first presented in a 1997 article by Jennifer J. Freyd, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon and founder of the Center for Institutional Courage.
According to Dr. Freyd, “The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim – or the whistleblower – into an alleged offender.”
Denial is used by the abuser and bystanders in their clique. It usually sounds like:
Ididn’t do anything, but if I did, it wasn’t that bad.
It never happened, but if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
Thus, the abuser is able to craft a scapegoat story which is used to cultivate biases against the target and rally bystanders to their cause.
“This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of ‘falsely accused’ and attacks the accuser’s credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation,” explains Dr. Freyd.
In a DARVO climate, no amount of evidence will suffice as proof of the abuser’s transgressions. The target will not be believed within a social circle that has been groomed by a narcissist, psychopath or other manipulator. On the contrary, the target will be subjected to a terrifying campaign of victim-blaming by the group.
Once the abuser has successfully secured the bystanders’ support and conditioned them to perceive the survivor as the perpetrator, the clique collectively subjects the survivor to the merciless process of scapegoating.
If the survivor lives through it, they are usually driven into isolation and social death. Other outcomes can include homicide or death by self-annihilation. The narcissist, psychopath or manipulator’s endgame is the complete destruction of the target.
DARVO as a collective grooming tactic
The cognitive distortions created by DARVO cultivate an ecosystem of moral corruption. Members of the peer group are encouraged by the narcissist to engage in polarized or black and white thinking.
The group’s empathy for the narcissist is weaponized and used to encourage negative biases about the recipient of the abuse. Narcissists, psychopaths and other manipulators do this in order to ensure that members of the dominant clique become indifferent and callous about the betrayal of the survivor.
The desensitization of the group opens the door to the objectification of the targeted individual and once this is accomplished every kind of violence becomes acceptable.
Examples of this can be seen in manifestations of anti-semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia.
Why do bystanders participate in collective betrayal?
In other words, bystanders yield to betrayal blindness in the interest of looking out for themselves and to avoid the loss or pain they might risk if they sympathized with the target.
They assign more value to their relationship with the abuser so it follows that it’s in their best interest to empathize with the narcissist not with the survivor.
In fact, in many cases bystanders may stand to gain more social capital if they lend their support to the narcissist. So it is usually a combination of greed for gain and an instinct for self-preservation that eclipses any ethical or moral considerations in the bystander.
In other words, members of the clique adapt to conflict within the group by “turning a blind eye,” to the harmful behaviors of the narcissist.
The longterm effects of DARVO on survivors
Many survivors feel psychologically obliterated by the trauma of experiencing DARVO. It can have disastrous consequences for the survivor’s mental health. For example, it can cause severe anxiety, panic, depression, and post-traumatic stress which, in turn, can adversely impact the survivor’s physical wellbeing.
DARVO invalidates the survivor’s lived experience. It inflicts further pain and suffering as the wronged party is cheated out of any measure of justice. Instead, in addition to the original violation, survivors are persecuted and blamed in spite of the fact that they are the wronged party.
Rejection from their peers and the narcissist’s immunity to being held accountable is a constant cascade of salt poured in the survivor’s wounds, causing them to be repeatedly re-traumatized.
GENDER STEREOTYPES often make it difficult for men and boys to recognize when they are targets of narcissistic abuse. The prevailing assumption is that men cannot be victims of domestic violence – this is false. Current research shows that 1 out of 7 survivors are male.
The belief that men can never be victims can create perilous blind spots, leaving them unable to recognize when they are targets for narcissistic abuse. Often male survivors remain in denial until the damage to their health and quality of life reaches a critical level.
In domestic abuse discussions, the convention is that men are assigned one of two roles: they are either the protector or the aggressor. Misleading social norms erase the fact that men can also be victims of psychological and physical violence.
Society acknowledges male privilege while sometimes ignoring the reality that some men do not have equal access to these advantages. A variety of socio-economic factors determine the degree of a man’s privilege such as race, class, ability status, and sexuality. Male privilege is not fixed or equitably distributed. It fluctuates.
The assumption that all men have equal access to male privilege can blind us to the existence of power dynamics in which men are at a disadvantage.
Male survivors often slip through the cracks
This injustice often causes male survivors to slip through the cracks where they don’t receive the care and support they need to recover from the abuse and its consequences. In many instances, the male survivor’s anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress goes untreated and can escalate into serious health outcomes, including auto-immune disorders like lupus and fibromyalgia, substance dependency, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).
Narcissistic abuse against men and boys can encompass emotional, physical, and sexual violations. It can occur in heterosexual or LGBTQ relationships.
Some common signs of narcissistic abuse are:
Charm then harm – The abuser blows hot then cold. They are nice one moment and nasty the next. This tactic is called intermittent reinforcement and its purpose is to confuse the target and condition them for ever-increasing maltreatment.
Coercive Control – This is characterized by mind-games, degradation, isolation and the regulation of the target’s life. It is akin to hostage-taking. The target is subject to the approval or condemnation and subsequent punishments of the abuser.
The abuser may call you names, put you down and insult you. They may stop you from seeing family and friends. They may also control your finances and use fits or anger and rage to intimidate you.
Narcissistic abuse can be physical as well. It can manifest as physical assault or rape. The more pathological the abuser is the more likely they are to hit, kick, bite, scratch or shove you. They may threaten to hurt you, your children or your pets and they may act on these threats. They may threaten to publically humiliate you.
Though they choose to inflict the abuse on you, they blame you for their actions.
If you are experiencing narcissistic abuse, remember you are not alone.
Phone Hotlines for Male Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse
ManKind confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence. Call 01823 334244.
Samaritans provide non-judgmental listening services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call their helpline 116 123.
Resources for Male Survivors
Here is a selection of web-based resources for male survivors of narcissistic abuse:
1in6.org The mission is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives. Our mission also includes serving family members, friends, partners, and service providers by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community. They operate an anonymous online chat.
Male Survivor (USA) We help facilitate healing for men from all walks of life.
Male Survivors Partnership (UK) a space that’s been developed to provide information and support to organizations working with male victims/survivors of sexual abuse, rape, and sexual exploitation; and provide male survivors themselves with a single point reference to national and local support services.
ManKind (UK) supports men suffering from domestic abuse from their current or former spouse or partner (including same-sex partner), including physical, psychological and verbal abuse. ManKind operates a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence. Call 01823 334244.
Men And Boys Coalition (UK) is a network of organizations, academics, journalists, professionals, and leaders committed to highlighting and taking action on the gender-specific issues that affect men and boys.
RAINN (USA) Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800 656 4673 (USA) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
Safeline (UK) provides individualized, specialist support for survivors of sexual abuse or rape regardless of their gender, disability, economic status, creed, and age.
If you know of any resources for male survivors of narcissistic abuse that are not listed here please share them in the comments section and we’ll add them.