The term “flying monkey” is often brought up when someone is talking about abusive relationships. It is a person who is forced, manipulated, or has volunteered themselves to participate in the abuser’s smear campaign of the victim. It is quite an odd choice of words to describe someone but there is an important meaning behind it. 

The term “flying monkey” comes from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. In the film the flying monkeys were the minions or henchmen of The Wicked Witch of the West who were ordered to terrorize the main character, Dorothy Gale, as she made her way to the City of Emeralds to see the Great Wizard Oz.

The flying monkeys blindly followed the orders of The Wicked Witch of the West and did all of her dirty work which amplified her power. The reason that this term is used when speaking about abusive relationships is because when an abuser begins to lose power and control over their victim, they too will use flying monkeys to terrorize their victim and amplify their power. 

With that being said, there are some professionals who believe that the term “flying monkey” should be replaced with “narcissists’ agents” for two different reasons.

A woman trying to decide if they should be called flying monkeys or narcissists' agents

Why Do Some Professionals Believe That the Term Flying Monkey Should Be Replace With Narcissist Agent?

The first reason is because they believe that the term “flying monkey” is outdated because there aren’t many people who have seen The Wizard of Oz or read the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz so the term “flying monkey” isn’t something that is widely understood without an explanation.

The second reason is intent. In the 1939 film the flying monkeys (in the movie they are called winged moneys) don’t talk and their motivation for doing The Wicked Witch of the West’s dirty work isn’t clear which is really the driving force in the push to promote the term “narcissists’ agent” over “flying monkey”.

The reason being that it is really important that victims and survivors of abuse are aware of the flying monkey’s intent as there are three different types of flying monkeys that they’ll likely encounter.

First, there are the flying monkeys who are forced into the role. These types of flying monkeys are most commonly seen in group settings like abusive families and abusive work environments.

The reason being that in group settings abusers often have characteristics that land them in a position of power like an abusive parent or boss. Meaning that everyone is forced to witness their rage yet feel helpless when it comes to standing up against them.

What this means is when the abuser comes around looking to recruit flying monkeys, people who are forced into the role are scared of becoming the target of the abuser’s wrath if they refuse the role.

Second, there are flying monkeys who are manipulated into the role. These type of flying monkeys are people the abuser will effortlessly spread lies and gossip to in order to manipulate them into participating in the smear campaign. The abuser will use their charm and charisma to create a narrative that portrays them as the victim and the victim as the abuser.

A narcissist using charm and charisma to recruit flying monkeys

Third, there are flying monkeys who have volunteered for the role. These type of flying monkeys naturally gravitate towards the role because they have quite a bit of narcissistic traits themselves. They don’t necessarily accept the abuser’s narrative that portrays the victim as the abuser and the abuser as the victim, they just like creating a lot of chaos and drama.

If a victim or survivor of abuse were to understand a flying monkey’s intent, they could potentially turn the flying monkey into a supporter with the right approach.

How?

In our article Do Flying Monkeys Ever See the Truth and Do Narcissists Turn On Their Flying Monkeys we guided readers through the relationship a flying monkey has with an abuser which revealed the high probability of the flying monkey being discarded by the abuser at one point or another.

Once this happens, the flying monkey will likely see the truth which often forces the victim/survivor to decide whether or not they want to forgive the flying monkey or not.

On one hand, the flying monkey betrayed their trust and shouldn’t be given a second chance but on the other hand the flying monkey could potentially be a really solid supporter if they were forced or manipulated into the role.

If the victim/survivor of abuse has a comprehensive grasp of the different types of flying monkeys and subsequently, their intent, it will make this very tough decision much easier.

Suggested Reading: How to Explain Narcissism to Others

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

A flying monkey is extremely dangerous for victims of abuse. You see, experiencing abuse on a regular basis creates a tremendous amount of self-doubt and self-blame within the victim’s psyche. They carry these negative emotions long after they’ve escaped the abusive cycle which makes them extremely vulnerable.

If they were to cross paths with a flying monkey, they could potentially be gaslighted back into the abuse cycle and remain there indefinitely. In more ways than one, flying monkeys pose as big of a threat, if not bigger, then the abuser that the victim worked so hard to escape.

It’s for this reason that grasping a comprehensive understanding of a flying monkey should be prioritized by victims of abuse, especially those preparing to leave their abuser.


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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References

What does flying monkeys mean?

DISCLAIMER

THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE. 

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