FLYING MONKEY is a term used that generally describes someone who, knowingly or unknowingly, enables the destructive behavior of another. It is commonly used in the context of narcissistic abuse in reference to people in the manipulator’s social circle who make it possible for them harm others without being held to account.
Flying Monkey Meaning
Flying monkey (noun): a person who is an abuse enabler. They makes it possible for one person to harm another by making excuses for them or acting on their behalf. They encourage perpetrators of abuse and shield them from the consequences of their behavior.
Synonym: enabler, hatchet man.
Flying Monkey Narcissist Meaning
Flying monkey narcissist (noun): is a term used to describe a narcissistic person who takes on the flying monkey role. Narcissism is a trait that exists on a continuum, and it is something all people have to a greater or lesser degree. Narcissistic abusers are skilled at appealing to narcissism in others as a means to recruiting them into their cause.
Rose McGowan says Harvey Weinstein did not respond to her accusations directly. She alleges that he had his flying monkeys Lisa Bloom and David Boies hire Black Cube to undermine the publication of her book.
Most people don’t realize it but in the film ‘Mean Girls,’ Cady Heron was Janice Ian’s flying monkey.
My youngest brother Chuck said he had my back but it turns out that he was our older brother Drake’s flying monkey.
Signs of Flying Monkey Behavior
Here are some behaviors commonly seen in flying monkeys:
Turning a blind eye – Flying monkeys ignore the narcissistic person’s aggression.
Vouching for the narcissist – Flying monkeys excuse and justify the narcissist’s behavior. If the narcissist commits a crime, the flying monkey provides them with a false alibi.
Smearing the recipient of the abuse – Flying monkeys participate in character assignation. They echo the narcissist’s talking points without verifying it. They don’t bother to seek out the recipient of the abuse and listen to their side of the story. Flying monkeys are instrumental in narcissistic scapegoating, i.e. DARVO.
Data mining – Flying monkeys often act as spies for the narcissist. A common tactic they use is pretending to be a friend to the recipient of the abuse only to pump them for information and report back to the chief abuser.
Acting as the narcissist’s emissary – Flying monkeys can also take on the role of the narcissistic person’s proxy, acting as their ambassador to carry messages to the recipient of the abuse. They may also negotiate or aggress on the narcissist’s behalf.
IN THE CONTEXT of narcissistic abuse, flying monkeys perpetrate secondary victimization on the targeted person. This article revisits their origin story to answer the question, “How is a flying monkey destroyed?”
What are Flying Monkeys?
Flying monkeys are aggressive enablers, who shield the narcissist from being held to account. During the love bombing phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse, they support the narcissist by lending them credibility. They are also active in devaluation and discard phases of the abuse cycle, acting as informants, lieutenants, character assassins, and enforcers of the narcissistic person’s agenda.
The Flying Monkey Origin Story
The concept of flying monkeys comes from the L. Frank Baum children’s novel, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.’ It tells the story of Dorothy Gale’s dramatic foray into the enchanted fairyland. A tornado causes her house to land on Nessarose, the Wicked Wicked of the East. As the Winkies rejoice over the demise of their oppressor, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, appears to claim her late sister’s magical ruby slippers to consolidate her dominance in the realm. However, in an unexpected turn of events, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, intervenes and casts a spell placing the coveted shoes on Dorothy’s feet. Thus begins Elphaba’s vendetta against Dorothy in the Ozian saga.
In her effort to retrieve the ruby slippers and become omnipotent, Elphaba commands her army of flying monkeys to terrorize Dorothy and thwart her from achieving her goals. The Wicked Witch of the West used the flying monkeys to abuse Dorothy by proxy. In the real-world, enablers of narcissistic abuse exist within a similar power dynamic. For this reason that author Sam Vaknin borrowed the term flying monkey to describe them.
What Caused Elphaba To Attack Dorothy Gale?
Before we consider Baum’s idea of how the flying monkey is destroyed, it might be helpful to recognize why the Elphaba sent the flying monkeys after Dorothy in the first place. The Wicked Witch of the West saw Dorothy as a threat to her identity and status. Dorothy’s kindness and empathy made her a preferable steward of power to Elphaba who was notoriously dictatorial.
When Glinda rewarded Dorothy with the coveted ruby slippers, Elphaba experienced a narcissistic injury and set her mind to sabotaging Dorothy’s rise to power. From Elphaba’s point of view, bringing Dorothy down was as an act of self-preservation. As is the case with most narcissistic people, Elphaba was frightened of her rival.
Like Dorothy, many people who experience narcissistic abuse do not see their own power and are oblivious to the fact that highly narcissistic people feel threatened by them on some level despite their posturing and bravado. Fear is one of the driving forces of the narcissist’s effort to exert control over them.
Why Are Flying Monkey’s Loyal To Narcissists?
According to Baum, the actions of flying monkeys are not necessarily personal. They are obedient to whoever is the power holder within their hierarchy.
Baum wrote that flying monkeys recognized a magical Golden Cap as the ultimate symbol of power. In the ‘Hidden History of Oz: An Introduction to Oz Before Dorothy,’ author Tarl Telford reveals that Baum’s notes detail the cap was created by Gayelette, an enchantress at the Ruby Palace. Whoever wore the Golden Cap had command of the Flying Monkeys and could ask them to do their bidding, whether for good or for ill.
Victim-survivors often describe secondary-victimization as more painful than the first instance of narcissistic abuse. It’s hard to make sense of the flying monkeys aggression when you have done them no harm. It can be helpful to recognize that their behavior is not about you, it is about their survival within their social circle.
Returning to ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ Baum wrote, “Dorothy went to the Witch’s cupboard to fill her basket with food for the journey, and there she saw the Golden Cap. She tried it on her own head and found that it fitted her exactly.”
In other words, Dorothy was destined to hold power. In the first instance, she is given the charmed ruby slippers by Glinda and in the second instance she unwittingly takes it by pilfering Elphaba’s Golden Cap which fits her as if it was made for her.
However, Dorothy does not realize the cap’s power until she is made aware of it by the Queen of Mice. Once Dorothy learns the secret of the Golden Cap, she realizes she has the power to command the army of flying monkeys and their attacks cease. In a surprising turn of events, once Dorothy realizes her power, the flying monkeys carry her to Emerald City and where she is made a Princess of Oz by Ozma, Queen of the Realm.
The moral of Baum’s story is that the solutions to our problems often exist within us. Dorothy was an ordinary person who prevailed in a power struggle with the most fearsome character in Oz. She accomplished this by using her tactical skills to build a social circle of her own. Through her good nature and building connections with others, Dorothy successfully realized her full potential in spite of the Elphaba’s aggression. Moreover, by courageously realizing coming in to her own power, the flying monkeys chased their allegiance and served her.
Flying monkeys may be on a mission is to bring you down but your power lies in your choices. For example, you can see them for what they are and remember that their aggression is not about you.
Dorothy did not waste time or energy trying to convince the flying monkeys that they had a terrible master. Instead of fighting them, she invested her effort with people who believed in her. She did not allow attacks from the narcissist or the flying monkeys to sway her from her goals. Dorothy stayed close to people who cared for her and continued building friendships with people who wanted to see her shine.
As U.S. president Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
Flying monkeys may not ever be your friends but are destroyed the moment the person they target realizes their own agency. Remember, they submit to whoever wears the Golden Cap. Dorothy didn’t seek sympathy or vindication from the flying monkeys, instead she seized power and fulfilled her destiny. Walking in purpose, setting goals, staying productive, and adding value to relationships are the components of a real-world Golden Cap.
Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse. In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org. In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.
FLYING MONKEY is a popular psychology term that refers to an enabler of a highly narcissistic person or someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A flying monkey is an agent who acts on their behalf.
What are the main types of flying monkeys?
There are usually two main types of flying monkeys in a narcissistic person’s orbit. These are:
The benevolent enabler, and
The malevolent enabler
The benevolent enabler
A benevolent flying monkey is someone with a sociotropic nature that makes them an easy target for manipulators. Sociotrophic individuals suffer from the so-called “disease to please,” which means that they tend to put the needs of others ahead of theirs.
Often they unwittingly aid and abet a narcissistic person’s campaign of emotional abuse because predatory manipulators are quick to sniff out a sociotropic person’s powerful longing for external validation.
Benevolent flying monkeys are not consciously trying to cause harm. A benevolent flying monkey is likely to have been subjected to the narcissistic person’s love-bombing and gaslighting tactics. They are usually acting in good faith based on the narcissist’s persuasive vilification of the person they’ve targeted for abuse.
The narcissistic person will have used the DARVO tactic to manipulate their perception of events and the people involved so much so that the benevolent flying monkey wrongly views the victim-survivor as the perpetrator of the abuse. Once the narcissistic person has effectively pulled the wool over this person’s eyes, they triangulate them into the conflict and with strong incentives to protect and “rescue” the narcissist.
The malevolent enabler
A malevolent flying monkey is misanthropic in nature. They are bad faith actors who knowingly participate in narcissistic abuse because inflicting harm on others gives them a sense of power. Malevolent flying monkeys tend to identify with highly narcissistic people and NPDs because they are equally narcissistic in their own right. They usually share the same attitudes and beliefs and feel a sense of belonging in the narcissistic person or NPDs in-group.
Because a malevolent flying monkey is morally bankrupt, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. In fact, they are usually fully aware that an injustice is taking place. However, these types relish an opportunity to deny dignity and justice to someone who they feel is “not like them.”
Malevolent flying monkeys function as gatekeepers. Often they are foot soldiers of a larger system of oppression, i.e. sexism, racism, etc. and they engage in the conflict for the sole purpose of protecting a hierarchy that serves them.
How do narcissists recruit flying monkeys?
Narcissists successfully seduce flying monkeys into their ranks by appealing to their narcissism. Narcissism is an expression of self-idealization. It’s a trait that all human beings have to a greater or lesser extent.
Benevolent flying monkeys are generally prone to vulnerable or covert narcissism, while malevolent flying monkey’s narcissism is more like to show up as grandiose or overt narcissism.
Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse. In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org. In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.
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.
Karpman, Stephen B. A Game Free Life: the Definitive Book on the Drama Triangle and the Compassion Triangle by the Originator and Author. Amazon. Drama Triangle Productions, 2014.
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