Flying monkeys can make escaping abusive environments very challenging. They make the healing journey feel like a hall of mirrors because they hinder your progress by forcing you to unnecessarily scrutinize your perception of reality. Without a solid understanding of what flying monkeys do for the narcissist, you could find yourself falling back into the narcissistic abuse cycle if you aren’t careful. 

As a general rule, flying monkeys support the narcissist, they try to manipulate the victim into reconciling with the narcissist, flying monkeys apologize for the narcissist, they participate in the narcissist’s smear campaign of the victim, and if needed, they help dismantle the no contact method.

Flying monkeys are designed to make the healing journey destabilizing. The hardest part about dealing with flying monkeys is that narcissists purposely recruit those close to you, so, flying monkeys tend to be people who you once felt comfortable confiding in.

As unsettling as it may be, it is really important that you take the time to dive deeper into the dynamics of flying monkeys to ensure that you have all the information that you need to avoid falling back into the narcissistic abuse cycle.

5 Things That Flying Monkeys Do for the Narcissist

To give you a better understanding of what flying monkeys do, we’ve interviewed 25 survivors of narcissistic abuse, who have had to learn how to manage flying monkeys in their own lives, so you can grasp a unique perspective of this aspect of the healing journey.

A woman learning about narcissistic abuse while she lays on the carpet.

A Flying Monkey Will Support the Narcissist

A narcissist’s sole objective in this world is to protect their falsified identity. Due to the emotional immaturity they’ve developed from an unhealthy/abusive childhood, they’ve become some of the most self-loathing individuals on the planet.

This emotional immaturity also means that they’re incapable of regulating the negative emotions they have suppressed within their psyche.

How does this relate to supporting a narcissist?

The way a narcissist keeps their suppressed negative emotions from challenging their fragile sense of self is by projecting them onto others. They do this through all of the manipulative behavior patterns commonly seen in narcissistic relationships.

So, when they’re in a situation where they don’t have anyone they can consistently project their negative emotions onto, they need a lot of support. Unfortunately, this support often manifests in some form of abuse.

When a flying monkey supports a narcissist, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re participating in the smear campaign or trying to manipulate the victim. More often than not they just remove themselves from the situation, but clearly side with the narcissist’s point of view. 

Even though these types of flying monkeys aren’t as abusive as a narcissist would like, their support soothes the narcissist’s emotional instability and allows them to maintain their falsified sense of specialness

“My narcissistic ex-husband and my friend’s husband are really good friends. When I left the relationship, everyone knew why. My ex-husband had been abusive in front of other people so there were no secrets. A few months after I left him, I realized how distant my friend had become towards me but I saw her in pictures with my ex all over social media. When I confronted her about it, she told me that she didn’t want to pick sides because she only knew my side of the story.” – Olivia

A Flying Monkey Will Manipulate You Into Reconciling With the Narcissist

One of the hallmarks of a flying monkey is the repetition of the narrative that the narcissist created. Meaning that they’ve bought into the idea that the narcissist is the victim and you’re the problem.

This is because one of the most common ways a narcissist will recruit a flying monkey is by spreading rumors, lies, and gossip. This approach is designed to target those who are eager to get involved in others’ business and/or naturally gravitate towards drama, regardless of the validity of the narcissist’s claims.

With that being said, there’s actually a few different ways that narcissists recruit flying monkeys that are really important to know, so be sure to check out the next article in this series on flying monkeys, How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys.

Moving on, when a narcissist uses rumors, lies, and gossip to target those who naturally gravitate towards drama, two things tend to happen.

First, you’ll encounter an unintentional flying monkey. These are the type of people who are intrigued by the idea of being a part of a secret, clique, inside joke and so on.

Then you have the intentional flying monkeys. These are people who might be narcissistic themselves. They like to see destruction so they’ll just echo the lies, rumors, and gossip that the narcissist fed them.

A flying monkey in a pink shirt repeating the lies that the narcissist told her about the victim.

While unintentional flying monkeys are quite harmful, they are often motivated by their high levels of agreeableness, meaning that they are more like mindless followers instead of the soldiers found in the intentional flying monkey department.

How is this manipulating you into reconciling with the narcissist? 

Well, it is gaslighting. One of the purposes of the flying monkeys is to amplify the self-doubt and self-blame that the narcissistic abuse embedded into your psyche for months, years, and even decades.

Under these circumstances, it’s much more probable that you’ll confide in others because you need to be reassured and validated that your perception of reality is true, not because you’re certain that what you’ve experienced is abuse.

After months, years, or decades of narcissistic abuse, this is completely understandable. However, all of the hard work that it takes to escape a narcissistic abuse cycle can be destroyed by flying monkeys if you were to accidentally confide in one and be gaslighted back into the abusive cycle.

“I’ve had to manage both intentional and unintentional flying monkeys. When I divorced my narcissistic ex-wife it felt like I was divorcing her entire family as well. They swarmed me with every type of communication you can think of. The unintentional ones were just following what she told them. I didn’t feel attacked at all, just ignored/misunderstood. The intentional ones were malicious though. They made many threats on my life, told my boss a bunch of lies they heard from my ex, and even got physical with my younger brothers. For me, the unintentional ones were just being loyal to family while the intentional ones were looking for a fight.” – Jackson

Flying Monkeys Will Apologize for the Narcissist 

When a flying monkey is sent to apologize for a narcissist’s behavior, they’re walking a fine line between a narcissist enabler and a flying monkey. If you aren’t aware, a narcissist enabler is someone who doesn’t know/understand narcissistic abuse so they approach the situation as they would a healthy relationship. 

This leads to them giving horrible advice that has the potential to gaslight the person who confided in them about the narcissistic abuse back into the abuse cycle.

The biggest difference between enablers and flying monkeys is that narcissist enablers aren’t created by the narcissist. A narcissist won’t spread lies and gossip about their victim to create narcissist enablers. Enablers are created by ignorance.

It’s important to know the difference between the two because narcissist enablers can actually be converted into supporters with the right approach so be sure to read What Are Narcissist Enablers so you can easily identify enablers and How to Explain Narcissism to Others to learn how to turn them into supporters. 

Enough about that, let’s get back to flying monkeys. When it comes to flying monkeys “apologizing” for the narcissist, it can manifest in a variety of different ways. 

First, the flying monkeys could try to get you to give the narcissist a second chance. They’ll most likely regurgitate the same excuses and explanations that the narcissist gave them while justifying his/her own behavior. 

Second, flying monkeys can be sent to “support” you. They’ll act as if they’re your friend. They’ll be available whenever you need them. They’ll even pretend to be on your side. But the truth is that they’ve been sent by the narcissist to either manipulate you back into the relationship or extract information out of you.

It can be really challenging to spot a flying monkeys that is pretending to support you because a part of you knows that you don’t want to be too cynical and push someone who is really trying to help you away. But then again that is a much better alternative than accidentally “befriending” a flying monkey.

As a rule of thumb, if they’re trying to get information out of you durning every single interaction you have, they’re either a flying monkey or not a good support line.

Someone who is trying to support you will simply offer you a safe environment for your voice to be heard, valued, and respected. They’ll understand that they have no right, nor is it their place to judge your reality. And when the time is right, they’ll offer their advice.

A conversation with a flying monkey who is trying to “support” you will feel like an interrogation. They will not truly hear, value, and respect your voice because they’re sided with the narcissist.

Trying to tell the difference between a flying monkey who is trying to appear as a supporter and someone who just doesn’t know how to be a good supporter can be really challenging so make sure you read our article How to Support Someone In a Narcissistic Relationship to be able to tell the difference between the two!

A victim of narcissistic abuse in a yellow dress crossing paths with a flying monkey who is pretending to be her friend.

Third, a flying monkey can be sent to “apologize” for the narcissist’s behavior because narcissists aren’t able to sincerely apologize for their behavior as it would contradict their identity. 

With this particular type of flying monkey, they’re often a close friend or family member of the narcissist. They’ve most definitely seen his/her narcissistic behavior but their delusional belief that they know the narcissist better than anyone else and that the narcissist is just “misunderstood/going through a hard time” is what causes them to be an apologizing flying monkey. 

Under the right circumstances, these types of flying monkeys could convince you that you should give the narcissist in your life a second chance, especially if you still have a significant amount of self-doubt and self-blame circulating around your psyche. 

“I experienced all three of these types of flying monkeys but from the same person. When I broke up with my narcissistic ex-boyfriend, his sister tried getting me to give him a second chance. When that didn’t work, she came to support me. I’m still not sure if it was because some part of her knew how abusive her brother was or not. Then when she realized how serious I was about leaving and never turning back, she tried to apologize for her brother. I’m not going to lie, I was really close to believing her a few different times. The only thing that saved me was keeping a journal about the abuse.” Barbra

Flying Monkeys Will Participate in the Narcissist’s Smear Campaign

Flying monkeys who will participate in the narcissist’s smear campaign are one of the most common types of flying monkeys. These are the types of flying monkeys that are just as narcissistic as the narcissist themselves. 

You are being abused by proxy. 

More often than not, they aren’t abusing you because they’ve been manipulated by the narcissist, they’re abusing you because they feel that it is right. They believe that you’re the problem and they are angry because of it. 

This is a win-win situation for a narcissist because they’re able to send other people to do their dirty work for them. They orchestrate the abuse, accumulate all of the narcissistic supply,  and soothe their insecure need for power and control simultaneously. 

On the flip side of things, a flying monkey who is participating in a smear campaign could also feel obligated to do so.

Meaning that the narcissist in their life has such an authoritative position over them that they feel that the only way to avoid being the target of the narcissist’s wrath is to participate in the smear campaign. This is a very common dynamic in group environments like families or work environments.

“I have always been my narcissistic mother’s scapegoat. I’ve been no contact for about 5 years now but there were a lot of bumps on the road to where I am now. The flying monkeys that I experienced throughout my childhood and into adulthood were actually my own siblings. My mother would manipulate them into thinking I was what was wrong in the world and they hated me for it. It took a long time for my siblings and I to fix our relationship but I’m happy we did.” – Owen

A Flying Monkey Will Help Dismantle the No Contact Method 

The no contact method is when you cut off all forms of communication with the narcissist in your life. While there is no denying that it is the best defense against narcissistic abuse, going no contact contradicts a narcissist’s identity, specifically their sense of specialness.

When a narcissist has their identity contradicted they experience a narcissistic injury, which is essentially just an ego injury but because of their inability to regulate their own emotions they throw themselves into a narcissistic rage.

The reason they experience this narcissistic injury when you go no contact with them is because by going no contact you’re taking away the narcissist’s supply, which is essential for them to maintain their falsified identity that was just contradicted.

You should go read our article What Is Narcissistic Supply and Why Do They Need It So Badly for a comprehensive grasp of what narcissistic supply is, and then you should go read What Are Narcissists’ Weaknesses where we breakdown how narcissistic supply is a narcissist’s biggest weakness and how you can use it to your advantage.

Moving on, when a victim of narcissistic abuse goes no contact it is very common for the narcissist to use flying monkeys to break past the no contact method. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse refusing to take a gift from a flying monkey who has been sent to break the no contact method.

Flying monkeys that are designed to break the no contact method will do all of the things that the other types of flying monkeys will do but they are particularly good at plaguing your mind with self-doubt, self-blame, guilt, shame, and anxiety. So, it is important to remain strong and refuse to play the narcissist’s twisted game. 

“I’ve been no contact for 2 years and it has been the best decision of my life. It did take me 12 years to do because I was waiting for my kids to be old enough to live on their own, but it was worth it. When I started the no contact method, my narcissistic ex-husband sent all of his friends to harass me. They would tell me that I would never convince anyone of my story and that everyone knew how crazy I was.” – Abigail

What Should You Take Away From This Article? 

Flying monkeys can do a many different things for the narcissist in your life and they aren’t restricted to a single approach. It’s because of this that it is really important to learn ALL of the different ways they can come at you so you can avoid being thrown back into the narcissistic abuse cycle.

From the narcissist’s perspective, having people blindly follow their commands is exhilarating. It fulfills their desperate need for power and control and soothes their emotional instability.

Almost every narcissistic behavior pattern can be traced back to very complex dynamics like a narcissist’s emotional instability so it is really important that you educate yourself on all the different aspects of narcissism before trying to manage narcissistic abuse.

You can start by diving deeper into narcissistic rage…

There are a few aspects of the narcissistic realm that gives you so much valuable information on so many different aspects of narcissism if you take the time to learn them, and narcissistic rage is one of them. 

Be sure to read, or save What Is Narcissistic Rage to read in your free time. Remember, knowledge is and always will be the best defense against narcissistic abuse!


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:

Vaknin S (2021) Department of Psychology, Southern Federal University, Geneva, Switzerland. Ann of Behave Sci Vol.7 No.1: 01.