The Wicked Witch of the West dispatches them to do her evil deeds.
In fact, in the film The Wizard of Oz, the only purpose of flying monkeys is to carry out her commands. They’re so loyal, all she has to do is wave her arms around and demand something and, mindlessly, off they go to make it happen.
Has she cast a spell over them? Are they just as evil as she is?
At least in the film, we never learn. But they dwell with her in darkness and they do whatever she says.
Does this sound familiar?
The narcissist in your life likely has a group of “flying monkeys” around him or her as well. According to the narcissistic abuse dictionary, the term “flying monkeys” refers to:
“All of the people (friends, family, exes and other admirers) in the narcissist’s “fan club” who do the bidding of the narcissist because they are blinded by his or her charms.”
They can, quite literally, attack.
The comparison to The Wizard of Oz might be comical if the damage flying monkeys can inflict was not so harmful in and of itself, on top of the narcissist’s own abuse.
What Are Flying Monkeys So Important for the Narcissist?
There is a psychology behind being a flying monkey that motivates them to think and act as they do. Without it, the narcissist would be unlikely to thrive and cause as much harm for many reasons. Flying monkeys provide many advantages.
1. Narcissistic supply and support
Flying monkeys provide attention (narcissistic supply) and support the narcissist’s entitled beliefs about himself/herself.
A narcissist will keep people around who agree with him or her and make him or her feel good about him or herself.
We all tend to gravitate toward people who like the same things that we do and who have positive energy, however, most of us will not abandon friends or view them as enemies if they don’t tell us what we want to hear.
Narcissists take to the extreme the idea that their friends must agree with them and make them feel special. They are constantly on guard, analyzing the comments and behaviors of the people they interact with for signs of disrespect. And it doesn’t take much for something to make the cut.
If you’re not with them–you’re against them.
Those who don’t recognize their “greatness” and sing their praises, they view as jealous or envious–or just not up to their level. It’s an exhausting game of ego-preservation.
My ex-boyfriend once received a verbal invitation to a party from a friend through another friend instead of directly through the first friend. He took this as a personal slight, believing he should have been personally invited.
He could think of no other alternative explanation for why the first friend didn’t contact him personally to invite him. He not only refused to attend the party, but demoted that person in his life, began to criticize the person randomly, and refused to interact with him for months, believing him to be jealous.
The criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder spell out very clearly the desire to be constantly and excessively admired, an entitlement to obedience and compliance with their ideas and expectations, and a delusion that people are envious of him or her.
Flying monkeys enable narcissist’s bad behavior.
They ignores the warnings and red flags that something isn’t right about the narcissist. Yet they know damn well some of the things he or she does aren’t normal or acceptable and may be flat-out immoral.
They provide him or her with “outs” or excuses and sweep things under the rug anyway.
My ex-boyfriend’s friends would say things such as, “He’s just really passionate. You know how he is,” after he would explode at me over something minor or verbally assault me.
Or “He doesn’t like to be left out of things” when I’d start describing my nights out with friends and he would get a sour look on his face and walk out of the room and ignore me for the rest of the evening.
“He was drunk.”
“He was young.”
“He didn’t know how much he loved you. But he does now.”
Even: “Well, you let it happen.”
But never consistently: “He shouldn’t have done that.” or “He needs to stop.”
Flying monkeys may also engage in neutralization, throwing their hands up and saying, “Well, there’s two sides to every story,” or worse, put the blame on the victims.
They listen to the sob stories when the narcissist tries to paint himself or herself as the real victim and may unwittingly or even knowingly help him or her engage in damaging actions.
Or perhaps they just turn a blind eye and refuse to speak up and call the abuse out for what it is.
This is a very important role for flying monkeys. It is arguably the most important.
It requires the least amount of work on their part and provides the most amount of overarching support to the narcissist’s ability to engage in the abusive and damaging behavior.
The narcissist needs all of these people who provide a cover of normalcy.
They allow the narcissist to believe that what he or she is doing is justifiable, and help him or her with impression management that the lifestyle he or she is leading is normal.
“He’s a good guy, he just has problems.” “He’s such a good guy.” How many times did I hear this, even as the things I uncovered that he had been doing spiraled more and more out of the realm of normalcy?
How many times have you heard it?
Narcissists and sociopaths are great at seeming like tortured souls.
Actually, they’re behaving more like corrupt magicians by first making decisions that inflict horrific pain on others which then tends to throw things around them into chaos and then convincing others they don’t understand the magnitude of those decisions and don’t have control over them.
Flying monkeys are willing to do the narcissist’s bidding and act on the narcissist’s behalf.
Flying monkeys will also view the narcissist as special and enable him or her, yet they go one step further and will actually carry out the will of the narcissist on occasion, as in the metaphor of The Wizard of Oz.
In the true sense of the term “flying monkeys,” they may act as an extension of the narcissist, parroting his or her manufactured feelings toward a victim. They may act on the narcissist’s wishes regarding a target. This is called abuse-by-proxy.
The list of things that they may be tapped to do can include:
- attacking the victim physically or verbally or making threats
- smear campaigns against the victim, by spreading gossip planted by the narcissist
- hoovering on behalf of the narcissist
- ostracizing the victim
- sabotaging the victim’s recovery
- spying on the victim and reporting back to the narcissist
Because of flying monkeys, the victim can be abused twice: once by the narcissist and again by his or her fan club.
The abuse can come in multiple forms. Obviously, it can come from direct attacks.
More insidiously, however, it may result from additional gaslighting that further neutralizes the narcissist’s behavior and twists the victim’s reality.
Flying monkeys may have a desire to protect the narcissist at all costs, and that loyalty is what the narcissist depends on.
Yet, because narcissists are generally unable to have close attachments, they have no more loyalty to their flying monkeys than they do their relationship partners.
They will not hesitate to betray or mistreat them in the same ways or for the same general reasons as they do their partners– for example, if they perceive one of the fan club members has disrespected them (see #1).
Or merely for enjoyment or if they think they can get away with it. My ex-boyfriend had a habit of trying to hook up with girls his friends had dated or were interested in, for example–but then denying it, claiming that it was the girls who were interested in him and not the other way around.
They’re just so attractive that other people can’t seem to stay away from them, right? It’s other people always causing the problem–never the narcissist. The friends seem to buy it every time.
But doesn’t that sound so familiar?
Why Are Flying Monkeys So Loyal?
Why are flying monkeys so loyal to narcissists? Especially when narcissists are not necessarily loyal to them.
Understanding the dynamics of the relationship between a narcissist and his or her flying monkeys can be important because it’s easy to get angry at the flying monkeys for “not seeing through” him or her.
I believe, however, that is plays right into the hands of the narcissist by turning our attention elsewhere and taking it off him or her.
Why are they so loyal to the narcissist?
Could it possibly be the same reason that we were so loyal to him or her at one point?
Could it be that they also have cognitive dissonance and want to believe that he or she is the good person that the narcissist keeps trying so hard to convince them that he or she is?
We wanted to believe it so badly.
How are we so different from all of the other people drawn into the orbit?
Does that make what the flying monkeys do to us or anyone else on behalf of the narcissist “right?” No… it does not.
However, if we want to understand the influence of a narcissist, we perhaps have to look no further than ourselves.
Flying Monkeys Reveal the Spell Narcissists Cast
There were times when my ex-boyfriend could not keep his own friends “in line” and there would be a falling out. He would have to “come up with some kind of excuse with them over it, and things would be smoothed over.
Other times, they would also witness some of his most egregious behavior toward me that he spontaneously displayed and the friends dropped their scripts about what a nice guy he is. They were in shock– just as I had been at times when the mask had dropped.
Sometimes they spoke up to me with different lines beyond the usual excuses:
- He’s an a******.
- Just lose all contact with him.
- You don’t deserve this.
- Get a restraining order.
- Stop coming back to him.
And a couple of times, they asked me the question: why do you keep coming back to him?
The million-dollar question, one I know now is because breaking up with a narcissist has to come in stages.
The blindness of his friends in understanding the answer to that question was the same blindness I had for a time in understanding their own loyalty to him. But now I know.
Other people are attracted to narcissists for the same reason that romantic partners are.
Narcissists can be charming, charismatic and mirror back to you positive things about yourself, and they make you believe that you have found someone that you can be yourself around.
They make grand promises and occasionally deliver.
They are good with words and great at denying, blame-shifting and gaslighting.
They can be a lot of fun to be around when you can come up with the right excuses to write off their “quirks.”
I came back for the same reasons you’re going to write off in your head everything you’ve seen tonight.
I came back for the same reasons you’ve always ignored all the red flags that happened before he even knew me, but everyone swept it under the rug every time he did something terrible.
I came back because he’s not like that all the time, so you just accept the excuses because he’s got you wrapped up in the game and you’re being gaslit too.
I came back for the same reasons that you sit around hoping you’re wrong that something’s not right every time you hear another crazy story involving him, even though you know deep down you’re not wrong and you wonder how long you can go on fooling yourself.
And yet it’s easier to believe that you’re wrong about how bad it is than to have to consider that everything you know about him could be a lie.
If you really want to believe people are essentially good but they just make mistakes–especially if the person in question is someone you know and care about–you will go to great lengths to protect that belief.
In fact, the more “mistakes” that person makes and the deeper the rabbit hole goes, the harder you may fight to maintain that belief because it’s almost too scary to believe how absolutely wrong you were not because your ego demands to be right, but because then you’d have to accept how close to darkness you’ve actually been sitting the entire time.
Narcissists have criminal mindset behavior in a social setting and they don’t discriminate.
If flying monkeys want to know why victims stay in relationships with narcissists, all they need to do is take a look in the mirror. If victims in relationships with narcissists want to understand the loyalty of flying monkeys, well… we already do. We must cut off all contact with them and stop expecting them to “see the light.”
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