One of the reasons that protecting yourself and healing from narcissistic abuse is so difficult is because of how good narcissists are at turning your friends, family members, and colleagues into flying monkeys.

A flying monkey is someone who a narcissist manipulates into helping them abuse another person. They are designed to isolate, discredit, and silence the person that the narcissist is abusing. Flying monkeys are a tool that narcissists use to intensify the anguish of narcissistic abuse.

This article is going to teach you everything that you should know about flying monkeys. But first, here is a short clip (see below) from our interview with Karina Ramdath, a Registered Social Worker and Therapist, with incredibly helpful information about protecting yourself from flying monkeys.

Karina Ramdath, a Registered Social Worker and Therapist, Explains How You Can Deal With Flying Monkeys

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The Term “Flying Monkey” Comes from the 1939 Film The Wizard of Oz

In the 1939 film called The Wizard of Oz, the main character, Dorothy Gale, was being harassed by the flying monkeys (in the movie they are called winged monkeys) of The Wicked Witch of the West. These flying monkeys were essentially the minions or henchmen of The Wicked Witch of the West and blindly followed her orders.

The term "flying monkeys" is a brilliant choice of words when describing the people that narcissists manipulate into helping them abuse another person because they too blindly follow the narcissist's orders.

In recent years, some mental health professionals have stated that the term “flying monkeys” should be changed to “narcissists’ agents” because the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz don’t talk and their motivation for doing The Wicked Witch of the West’s dirty work isn’t clear.

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In our article Where Does the Term Flying Monkeys” Come From? there’s more helpful information about this but the intentions of a narcissist’s flying monkey is very clear. They are helping the narcissist abuse other people because they believe the narcissist’s twisted narrative, which we will speak about more in the next section.

To Identify a Flying Monkey You Have to Know the Relationship They Have With the Narcissist

When you’re in the midst of the narcissistic abuse cycle, spotting flying monkeys can be incredibly difficult simply because they are often people who you once trusted (i.e. family members, friends, and/or colleagues). This can make it hard to determine whether or not the suspected flying monkey has your best interests at heart.

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There’s a lot more information about this in our article How to Spot a Flying Monkey but generally speaking, the best way to spot a flying monkey is to uncover the relationship that they have with the narcissist in your life and then figure out the narrative that the suspected flying monkey supports.

The reason that uncovering the narrative that the suspected flying monkey supports is so important is because there are three types of flying monkeys: Manipulated Flying Monkeys, Forced Flying Monkeys, and Natural Flying Monkeys (see below)

When you grasp a comprehensive understanding of the relationship that the suspected flying monkeys have with the narcissist, you are going to have a much better chance at determining whether or not they are one of the three types of flying monkeys we listed above.

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With that being said, if you believe that the suspected flying monkeys in your life doesn’t fit any of the definitions we provided but still feel like they might not have your best interests at heart, they could be a narcissist enabler! Our article What Are Narcissist Enablers? has a lot of helpful information that you may find helpful.

Ok. Once you have uncovered the relationship that the suspected flying monkey has with the narcissist in your life, it is time to figure out which narrative they support. You can do this by having a conversation with them about the abuse/manipulation you are experiencing.

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Our article How to Explain Narcissism to Others teaches you exactly how to do this but it is very important that you steer clear of vocabulary that is associated with narcissism (e.g. narcissist, love bombing, future faking, narcissistic abuse, gaslighting, breadcrumbing, etc.) when explaining the abuse/manipulation that you are experiencing.

The reason for this is that there are many people in this world who will shame, invalidate, devalue, and degrade you for "diagnosing" your abuser. While it is true that only a mental health professional can diagnose someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), you have the right to call someone's behavior narcissistic.

So, when explaining the abuse/manipulation that you are experiencing to others, make sure that you focus on the characteristics, personality traits, and behavior patterns of the narcissistic person in your life instead of bluntly calling them a narcissist.

Generally speaking, if a conversation that you are having with a suspected flying monkey becomes irrational, hostile, and one-sided, that’s a pretty good sign that they support the narcissist’s narrative.

If the conversation you’re having with the suspected flying monkey is engaging, meaningful, and mutual, it is a good sign that you are speaking to someone who isn’t just blindly following the narcissist’s narrative and could potentially be a supporter.

Narcissists Recruit Flying Monkeys By Spreading Lies and Gossip About the Person They Are Abusing

A question that many people who have experienced narcissistic abuse have is, “How did the narcissist turn so many people against me? Why do they believe everything that he/she says?”

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The answer is that narcissists spread lies and gossip about the people that they are abusing to recruit flying monkeys. We talk about this a lot in our article How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys? but the reason that narcissists are able to convince so many people of their twisted narrative is because of their public persona.

You see, the people that narcissists abuse are often the only ones who know how abusive and manipulative the narcissist really is. Everyone else often sees a charming and charismatic man or woman.

When this is combined with the fact that the mental and physical health of those being abused by a narcissist gets worse and worse throughout the relationship, the lies and gossip that narcissists spread become highly believable.

For example, if you relied on a maladaptive coping behavior (i.e. drinking, self-harm, gambling, etc.) to manage the abuse/manipulation that you are experiencing, all the narcissist would have to do is say something along the lines of “Hey I am so sorry to bother you guys but (your name) has started drinking and gambling a lot recently. He/she has become so abusive and I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?” to recruit a flying monkey.

In a short clip (see below) we have a really good example of a narcissist using lies and gossip to recruit a flying monkey from our friend Heather Kent, Registered Psychotherapist & Trauma Recovery Specialist, that will help you grasp a comprehensive understanding of how narcissists get flying monkeys.

An Example of Flying Monkeys Being Used to Create Guilt from Heather Kent, a Registered Psychotherapist & Trauma Recovery Specialist

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Narcissists Use Flying Monkeys to Isolate, Discredit, and Silence the Person That They Are Abusing

A top priority for a narcissist is to keep their charming and charismatic public persona intact. They do not want the world to know that they are abusive and manipulative because it would prevent them from getting the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control, also known as narcissistic supply, that they desperately need to feel emotionally stable.

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In our articles How Do Narcissists Use Flying Monkeys? and Why Do Narcissists Need Flying Monkeys? there’s a lot of helpful information about this but when a narcissist fears that the person they are abusing could potentially expose them to others, they will use flying monkeys to isolate, discredit, and silence them.

This process can be extremely aggressive (i.e. spreading lies and gossip that destroys the reputation of the person they are abusing) or it can be quite passive-aggressive (i.e. victimizing themselves to manipulate others into believing that they have been wronged).

Use the Gray Rock, Yellow Rock, Firewall, Low Contact, or No Contact Method to Disarm a Flying Monkey

Generally speaking, the best way that you can protect yourself from a flying monkey is by using the Gray Rock Method, Yellow Rock Method, Firewall Method, Low Contact Method, or No Contact Method to to restrain yourself from engaging in meaningful interactions with them.

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This is going to help you protect yourself from the flying monkeys because using these techniques will stop you from saying or doing anything that would give the flying monkeys access to your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations. Our article “How to Deal With Flying Monkeys” has a lot of helpful information about this.

We conducted a survey among 450 people who have experienced narcissistic abuse. The objective of this survey was to determine which types of flying monkeys our participants came across on their healing journey and then which techniques they used to manage these flying monkeys.

Survey

A survey among 450 people who have experianced narcissistic abuse to determine which techniques they used on the flying monkeys in their life.

The importance of using the right technique against a flying monkey is immeasurable. As to mention before, to guide you in the right direction, we conducted a survey among 450 people who have experienced narcissistic abuse to determine which technique they used on the flying monkeys that they have encountered. 

For this survey we selected 150 people who have encountered Manipulated Flying Monkeys, 150 people who have encountered Forced Flying Monkeys, and 150 people who encountered Natural Flying Monkeys. The information these survey participants have provided is incredibly valuable so we hope that it helps you better protect yourself from the flying monkeys in your life. 

Sometimes Flying Monkeys See the Truth and Stop Supporting the Narcissist

A question that many people who have had to deal with flying monkeys have is, “If I find out someone I care about deeply is a flying monkey, will they ever see the truth or are they gone forever?”

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In our articles Do Narcissists Turn On Their Flying Monkeys? and Do Flying Monkeys Ever See the Truth? there’s a lot of helpful information about this but sometimes flying monkeys see the truth and stop supporting the narcissist.

Generally speaking, the reason that this happens with some flying monkeys is because narcissists treat them just as poorly as they do the other people that they abuse and manipulate. Remember, for narcissists, the people in their surrounding environment are just tools that they can use to get what they want.

They don't care about the thoughts, feelings, emotions, or needs of others. So, once a flying monkey has served his/her purpose, narcissists will often discard them and move onto their next victim.

This is another reason that it is important to be aware of the different types of flying monkeys.

Depending on the type you are dealing with (i.e. Manipulated, Forced, or Natural), when their relationship ends with the narcissist, there is a chance that you could find your way back to one another if you chose to do so. Again, our article How to Explain Narcissism to Others has a lot of helpful information about this.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

A flying monkey is someone who a narcissist manipulates into helping them abuse another person. They help narcissists isolate, discredit, and silence the person that is being abused.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Renye, Denise. “An In-Depth Look at Relationships with Narcissistic Elements.”

PANDEY, ANNU. UNDERSTANDING NARCISSISTIC ABUSE: In intimate relationships. Vol. 1. Authors Tree Publishing, 2022.