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  • Writer's pictureKathy Rolfe

Narcissism and the Flying Monkeys: The Blind Followers of the Narcissistic Abuser

Narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. Behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.


The funny thing about narcissists is to the outside world they are often regarded as wonderful, helpful, good-natured people. To their partners, and behind closed doors, they are a nightmare.


Unmasking Narcissism: The Nightmare Behind Closed Doors

A pile of raisins positioned so it looks like they are looking in a mirror. In the reflection, you see grapes.

Narcissistic abusers suck their partners into the seemingly never-ending cycle of idealize, devalue, discard...around and around they go. Luckily, some of the survivors manage to get out. For many, it is not without battle scars - emotional, physical, mental. And just when they think it’s over, the survivors have a whole new battle on their hands.


When an abuser sustains a narcissistic injury – an injury sustained by abandonment or criticism - they seek revenge. “How dare” their partner leave them? In the process of the survivor leaving, the abuser risks being exposed for who they really are. In response to this narcissistic injury and need for self-preservation, based typically on their need to respond to their pain, humiliation, and desire to maintain their mask (AKA fabricated persona), the narcissist gets proactive. 


Narcissism: The Recruitment of Flying Monkeys

Sandra Brown (2010) said in the discard stage the narcissist will make it their mission to try and damage the things that are important to the survivor. Their reputation, their career, their support systems, their financial security, their relationships...and they won’t do this alone.


They recruit. They gather a team of people who see the mask and believe that this is the narcissist’s genuine self. These recruits become active participants in the abuse of the survivors by demeaning, verbally abusing, spreading rumours, posting slanderous comments on social media, etc.


The term “flying monkeys” refers to those people. This is a term taken from the Wizard of Oz whereby the Wicked Witch puts the monkeys under her spell and they unwittingly do her evil bidding. Flying monkeys will side with the abuser even when there is glaring evidence that counters the narcissist’s constant and inaccurate victim narrative. They afford the abuser the ability to be shielded from taking accountability by enabling, excusing, and blaming. This results in confusion and an exacerbation of the trauma on the part of the survivor. 


Understanding the Mindset of Flying Monkeys

Why do people become flying monkeys? There are a few reasons:


  1. They are abusers themselves. Abusers abuse. The end of the relationship has nothing to do with them. But unnecessarily inserting themselves into the dynamic gives them a false sense of superiority and offers a copious amount of narcissistic supply – satisfying their own unmet need for supremacy and dominance. 

  2. Poor mental health. Flying monkeys are typically very gullible, easily manipulated, and can be very unwell themselves. Many have low emotional intelligence and lack critical thinking skills that cause them to blindly accept the narcissist’s version and not consider other possibilities. While participating in the abuse, some may even believe they are being helpful. 

  3. Enmeshment/need for acceptance. While many flying monkeys may have seen the narcissist’s mask slip prior to the end of the relationship, they become willfully blind and are willing to overlook even observed or reported previously abusive behaviour to remain enmeshed and/or codependent with the narcissist. They simply refuse to believe that they have been tricked and the narcissist’s true self is the one behind the mask. This willful blindness can also arise because they need something or gain something from the narcissist. In return, they receive something that serves their own selfish needs - favours, jobs, or their own narcissistic supply. 

  4. Low self-esteem. Many flying monkeys have a low self-concept and a need to feel powerful, even if it results in them participating in abuse.


Protecting Yourself from the Narcissist’s Flying Monkeys

If you are dealing with this, here’s how to protect yourself from Flying Monkeys:


  1. Boundaries. Maintain firm boundaries and whenever possible go “no contact” with a flying monkey. Good riddance to the flying monkey!

  2. Use your grey and yellow rocks. If your circumstances are such that you cannot fully go “no contact” with the flying monkeys, use your rocks. What are rocks? Let me explain... Be a grey rock, meaning be as boring as possible. Giving short answers that contain little to no explanation or verbiage that offers the flying monkey (and by proxy your abuser) to get their supply by using your words as weapons is best. If at all possible, do not engage in additional conversation and stick to the facts. Yes, no, and maybe are answers. Not offering supply will cause the narcissist and their monkeys to get frustrated and bored and ultimately seek out someone else to abuse. Grey rocking is very robotic in nature. Comparatively, yellow rock is a more polite version of grey rock. The rules remain the same - engage as little as possible - but it includes being polite. Yellow rock includes statements such as “please” and “thank you”, mostly to demonstrate to your children and/or other loved ones that you are not being cold, you are simply not offering much more than simple manners. See the end of this post for two great videos on grey and yellow rock techniques. They are definitely worth a watch!

  3. Lean on your support systems. As a survivor of narcissism who is being targeted by flying monkeys, it is easy to hyper-focus on the feelings of abandonment and betrayal. At the end of an abusive relationship, survivors learn quickly who they can rely upon and who their true support systems are. Stay focused on those who love and support you. 

  4. Find peace in knowing that narcissists don’t change. Their abusive cycle will continue forevermore and therefore they have no “long game” in their lies and deception – they are and always will be abusers They may have convinced everyone that “this time” it’s the survivor’s fault, but they will continue to abuse. It’s who they are…they literally can’t help it! Their mask will continue to slip, and the flying monkey may one day realize they have been totally and completely duped. At some point the flying monkey may even become the target! A word to the wise – if and when these flying monkeys come crawling back to apologize, circle back to point #1 and don’t engage. It’s their loss, and they can live with the fact that they continued to hurt a survivor of abuse and a really good person. Again – good riddance!

  5. Document, document, document. Keep a log of all interactions and occurrences. You could potentially pursue civil or criminal remedies. 

  6. Remember the bottom line. Remain grounded in the fact that you escaped a toxic, abusive relationship. You are a good person and don’t deserve their abuse. 

  7. Seek therapy. Find support in a trusted therapist. Our team members at Balance are experienced in working with disorders like narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and are here to help!


Resources

If you're looking for more information, check out the resources below.



References

Brown, S. L. (2010). Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissist. Penrose.


 

Disclaimer

Information provided through Balance Psychological Services' blog posts is meant for educational purposes only. This is NOT medical or mental health advice. If you are seeking mental health advice, please contact us directly at (587) 985-3132.

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