Narcissistic Personality Definition

Narcissistic Personality Definition

Narcissistic personality definition is exquisitely distilled into a simple explanation by Dr. Craig Malkin as, “an addiction to feeling special.”

Dr. Malkin is a clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. He is also the author of the book Rethinking Narcissism. Decades of clinical experience, research, and distinguished analysis have made him a world-renowned expert on the topic.

Indeed, it is useful to conceptualize narcissism in succinct terms because it encourages us to take the next step to a greater understanding and a clear definition of narcissistic personality disorder. This is important because many people experience prolonged interactions with pathological narcissists as relationships of inevitable harm.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) defines narcissistic personality disorder as:

  • Possessing a grandiose sense of self. In order words, narcissists boast of exaggerated accomplishments and expect to be viewed as superior without commensurate achievements.
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of limitless power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • The belief that they are special and should only be associated with other special or high-status individuals.
  • A need for excessive admiration.
  • A sense of entitlement. 
  • Interpersonal exploitation.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Envy of others and a belief that others envy them.
  • Arrogance and haughtiness.

How narcissists groom people for exploitation 

In the idealization or love bombing phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse, narcissists have an uncanny ability to disguise themselves as your soulmate.

It is a bit like being caught in the high beam of an oncoming vehicle on a dark night. Idealization is the first instance of gaslighting in the cycle of narcissistic abuse. It distorts your vision. The euphoria of the love bombing is designed to override your instincts.

A love bombing narcissist tends to have an uncanny ability to identify the places in the human spirit that are unnourished. They know that a hungry heart is willing to sacrifice a lot to experience satiety.

To learn more about how pathological narcissism can play out as aggression and abuse in the context of romantic relationships, I reached out to Madelaine Claire Weiss. She is a Psychotherapist and Executive Coach trained in Organizational Dynamics at Boston University and Psychodynamics at Harvard University, where she was the Administrative Director of Group Mental Health Practice. She was also the Associate Director of the Anatomical Gift Program at Harvard Medical School. In addition to this, she delivered training programs at the Center for Workplace Learning and Performance.

Understanding narcissistic personality disorder

Manya Wakefield: In your opinion, what are the most important things to know about narcissistic personality disorder?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: When we talk about narcissistic personality disorder, we are talking about specific patterns of repetitive behavior that are destructive to self and destructive to the well-being of others. It is a mental condition that presents as:

  •  an inflated sense of importance,
  • a craving for excessive attention and admiration,
  • dysfunctional relationships,
  • and low empathy for others. 

Manya Wakefield: Can you describe why people targeted by narcissists may have a blindspot for the manipulation taking place in the early stages of the relationship?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It starts deliciously! You are certain the universe put this person on this planet just for you. This is the one you have been waiting for forever, who finally gets you like never before.

Manya Wakefield: How do narcissists ingratiate themselves with their targets.

Madelaine Claire Weiss: The narcissist lures and lands the giver of narcissistic supplies with incredible charm.

Narcissists seek supply to stabilize a fragile self

Manya Wakefield: Can you describe how narcissists extract ego boosts or narcissistic supply from the people they target?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Narcissistic supplies can include attention, admiration, approval, adoration, and other forms of sustenance essential for the narcissist to stabilize the fragile self and fill up the emptiness inside.

Manya Wakefield: Most survivors are radiant people. What makes someone bright and talented susceptible to the manipulation of a narcissist?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: There may be gifts, endless compliments, so many calls and texts, so much gorgeous attention, that you have no reason not to believe this person isn’t crazy about you. You have finally found your soulmate, and nothing will ever take you apart.

Manya Wakefield: How can someone tell if they are experiencing narcissistic abuse?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It starts to hurt. Little by little, this person invades your life until it shrinks so small you can’t even find yourself in it, let alone the family, friends, outside activities, and interests you used to enjoy.

The aftermath of narcissistic abuse

Manya Wakefield: What is the most harmful aspect of narcissistic abuse?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Narcissistic abuse becomes a physiological peptide addiction – an addiction that must be broken.

Manya Wakefield: What is your best advice to someone caught in the grip of narcissistic abuse, who is essentially battling an addiction?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Break the addiction in the best way you can. There are techniques for this. Good health and happiness are waiting for you on the other side.

Manya Wakefield: After narcissistic abuse, people tend to blame themselves. What do you think is the most important thing for them to understand about what happened to them?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It’s not just you. It happens to many people – up to 158 million Americans.

Manya Wakefield: Is there an empowering central lesson survivors of narcissistic abuse can take away from their experience?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Know this: the charming narcissist doesn’t target just anyone. Typically, you have to be pretty amazing in some way that the narcissist is not, to make the narcissist look and feel good. So go ahead and be flattered, but know this, too. 

Madelaine Claire Weiss’ new book ‘Getting To G.R.E.A.T.’ will be released in 2021. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

The Narcissist’s Flying Monkeys

Traits and Characteristics of Flying Monkeys

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:

  1. Idealization
  2. Devaluation
  3. Discard
  4. Hoover
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
  • Victim and
  • Offender

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.
Benevolent Flying Monkeys | Narcissistic Abuse

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 mistakeseveryone deserves a second chancethey’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 | Benevolent Flying Monkey | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

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 | Flying Monkeys | Narcissistic Abuse

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.

Coward | Flying Monkey | What is an enabler of narcissistic abuse?

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 | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Malevolent flying monkeys are divided into three common classes: the Scandalmonger (Sadist), the Narcissist, and the Psychopath.

How do flying monkeys enable narcissists?

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.

Narcissist | What is a flying monkey?

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.

Psychopath | Flying Monkey | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab | Enabler

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

How do flying monkeys enable narcissists?
  • Gossiping
  • Spying
  • Gaslighting
  • Manipulation
  • Harassment
  • Sabotage
  • Enabling
  • Intimidation
  • Victim-blaming

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.

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