When we hear the term “flying monkey” we often conceptualize a situation where someone with a narcissistic personality manipulates mutual friends and family members that they share with their victim into participating in their smear campaign of the victim. This approach is so effective when it comes to an abuser recruiting flying monkeys and we explain why in our article How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys, but it isn’t the only way some people become flying monkeys. 

There are three ways that someone could become a flying monkey. First, some people become flying monkeys because they’re forced to. Second, some people become flying monkeys because they want to. Third, some people become flying monkeys because they’re manipulated into doing so.

With that being said, a flying monkey enlisted through manipulation is just as dangerous as a flying monkey enlisted through force or desire. A flying monkey’s origin story doesn’t matter at all during the abuse. However, if the flying monkey were to see the truth at one point, their origin story could help the victim of their abuse determine whether or not the relationship is worth repairing. 

Understanding How Some People Become the Narcissist’s Flying Monkey

A driving factor of narcissistic behavior patterns is an insecure need for power and control. One of the most common ways that narcissists remain in power and control of any given situation is through triangulation.

Triangulation in a narcissistic relationship is when the narcissist brings a third person into the relationship to create an imbalance that supports their insecure need for power and control.

There are many different ways that triangulation can manifest in narcissistic environments that we wrote about in our article What Does Triangulation Look Like but one of them is through flying monkeys.

The purpose of recruiting flying monkeys is to get enough people onboard with the narcissist’s narrative so the victim has no choice but to abandon theirs. The usage of flying monkeys is an elite form of triangulation because the narcissist is essentially making a one-on-one feud a two or more-on-one feud. 

It’s important to understand the logistics of triangulation and flying monkeys when learning about why some people become flying monkeys because it will enable the victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse to sift through the types of flying monkeys who are “innocent” and the type of flying monkeys who are just as narcissistic as the narcissist in their lives.

Flying Monkeys That Are Forced Into the Role

Narcissistic family and workplace environments are where flying monkeys who’ve been forced into their abusive role are most commonly seen. In these types of environments it is so common to see behavior patterns that often circulate around the concept of triangulation like scapegoating, flying monkeys, and narcissist enablers. 

The reason that triangulation is so common in narcissistic families and workplace environments is that those types of narcissistic environments are nearly impossible to escape unscaved.

What exactly does that mean? 

It’s important to remember that narcissism creates a pervasive environment of abuse that damages everyone it comes in contact with. When it comes to narcissistic family and work environments, there’s always going to be one person who is designated as the scapegoat. 

A scapegoat is someone that gets the worst version of the narcissist. You can learn more about this in our article How Is a Scapegoat Chosen but scapegoats are usually people who contradict a narcissist’s falsified identity by triggering one of their vulnerabilities or insecurities. Meaning that from a narcissistic perspective, they are very antagonizing. 

“The need for revenge, for righting a wrong, by undoing a hurt by whatever means, and a deeply anchored unrelenting compulsion in the pursuit of all these aims which give no rest to those who have experienced narcissistic rage — these are features which are characteristics of the phenomenon of narcissistic rage in all its forms and what sets it apart from other forms of aggression.” Heinz Kohut. M.D.

In narcissistic families and workplaces, this rage a narcissist has for their scapegoats does not go unnoticed. Oftentimes people are forced to witness the physical and/or emotional abuse that is occuring with no place to run. 

Children are forced to stay in their families until they’re at least eighteen, but after nearly two decades of experiencing narcissistic abuse, leaving can be nearly impossible without qualified/professional medical guidance. 

Spouses are forced to choose between leaving and having to deal with the horrors of co-parenting or other various parenting styles with a narcissist or waiting until the children turn eighteen. And employees have loved ones to provide for that often makes leaving unfeasible, not to mention that they’re often in a career that they put a lot of work into. 

In a narcissistic family dynamic, family members often become flying monkeys out of the fear of becoming the target of the narcissist’s wrath if they don’t. This level of manipulation fosters an incredible amount of mistrust among family members and can destroy the bonds that the family once had forever. 

Navigating narcissistic work environments can be very challenging as well. Granted, if an employee is witnessing a co-worker experience severe emotional and/or physical abuse, they should not turn a blind eye to it and report it to the proper authorities. 

But where employees are often forced into becoming flying monkeys is when the abuse they’re either enduring or witnessing in the office is emotional but subtle. This could manifest in the form of triangulation, gaslighting, narcissistic rage, scapegoating and so on. 

For example, imagine that the owner of ABC company triangulated his/her employees by holding secret meetings and leaving specific people off company email lists.

It forces employees to choose between potentially losing their job/suffering other severe consequences or remaining silent, enabling the narcissist and/or becoming the narcissist’s flying monkey. 

It’s a really difficult position to be in because abusers often have many convincing rationalizations for their behavior that give them a significant amount of control over others, creating a pervasive environment of narcissist enablers and flying monkeys.

Flying Monkeys That Naturally Gravitate Towards the Role

In our article How Do Narcissists Use Flying Monkeys we outlined five of the most common behavior patterns exhibited by flying monkeys and one of them was participating in the narcissists smear campaign, also known as abuse by proxy. 

This is important for readers to be aware of because the type of flying monkeys who take part in the narcissist’s smear campaign are usually flying monkeys by choice. With that being said, these types of flying monkeys can manifest in two different ways so it is important to be aware of both of them.

What’s important to remember when learning about the types of flying monkeys is that flying monkeys that haven’t been forced into their role of destruction often have the same personality traits.

First, flying monkeys often have low conscientiousness, meaning that they are impulsive and self-absorbed. When this is combined with the next trait you’ll learn about, extroversion, it explains why flying monkeys are often eager to participate in the narcissist’s shenanigans.

Second, they often have a high level of extroversion which makes sense because the high levels of communication and interactions between the narcissist, the flying monkey, and the victim creates a very intriguing social aspect to the whole ordeal. 

Third, flying monkeys often have high levels of agreeableness, meaning that they’re trusting and have a “go with the flow” personality which makes them susceptible to the narcissist’s manipulative techniques in the recruitment process. 

When combined with the information you’ll find in our article How to Spot a Flying Monkey, this type of information may help you separate the narcissist enablers from the flying monkeys. This is an important skill to develop because narcissist enablers can actually be converted into supporters with the right approach. You can find more on that in our article How to Explain Narcissism to Others

Ill-Intended Flying Monkey

As a general rule, flying monkeys are people who’ve accepted the narcissist’s distorted narrative that portrays them as the victim and their victim as the abuser. However, this rule doesn’t apply when it comes to ill-intended flying monkeys.

Ill-intended flying monkeys are the type of people who like to see and/or cause destruction. Ill-intended flying monkeys haven’t necessarily assumed the role of a flying monkey because they believe in the narcissist’s narrative, it is more of a desire for chaos and destruction. 

These types of flying monkeys embody the classical definition of a flying monkey. They’re loyal to the narcissist, they’re more willing to participate in abusive behaviors, and they’re incredibly traumatizing. 

Drama-Seeking Flying Monkey

The way that narcissists recruit flying monkeys is by spreading lies and gossip about their victim so oftentimes narcissists recruit drama-seeking flying monkeys because these types of people enjoy drama and gossip. 

These types of flying monkeys are incredibly easy to recruit because people with narcissistic personalities are masterful at telling captivating stories which is intriguing for drama-seeking flying monkeys because they’re essentially thrillseekers, the feeling of being in a clique, inside joke, or a secret is exhilarating for them. 

These types of flying monkeys are the kind of people who are very good at spreading gossip and rumors. It’s very common for drama-seeking flying monkeys to be found in group settings like work environments, friend groups, social media and many other social environments. 

Flying Monkeys That Are Manipulated Into the Role

Last, but certainly not least, we have the flying monkeys who’ve been manipulated into participating in the narcissist’s smear campaign. This most definitely includes flying monkeys who’ve been forced into their role but there’s an important distinction that we’d like you to be aware of. 

One of the most important things that a narcissist can acquire from the relationships they maintain is narcissistic supply. This supply is the validation, admiration and reassurance they receive from others but a hidden aspect of this can be found in the chaos their behavior causes.

Due to an unhealthy/abusive upbringing, narcissists have developed a deeply rooted hatred for their true identity. They believe that if others were to see their true identity, which happens to be very insecure and vulnerable, they’d be rejected by society. So, they build themselves a falsified identity that portrays them as everything they believe society values.

Unfortunately, they are reminded of negative emotions that they have suppressed within their psyche on a daily basis because of their fragile egos. Just about anything can contradict their falsified identity and remind them that they’re living a lie. It’s for this reason that they’re desperately dependent on narcissistic supply. 

One of the ways this manifests is through chaos. You see, narcissists need a tangible representation of the destruction they cause because it acts as a form of reassurance of their falsified identity. 

After months, years, and even decades of someone experiencing abuse from an individual who either subconsciously or consciously believes that their survival is dependent on their ability to project their own emotional instability onto their victim, the victim’s perceived credibility will begin to deteriorate dramatically. 

When the severity of this situation is combined with a narcissist’s ability to isolate their victim, recruiting flying monkeys through manipulation becomes incredibly easy.


Well, oftentimes victims of narcissistic abuse keep the abuse they’re enduring a secret. In fact, one of the most common signs that someone is in a trauma bonded/unhealthy/abusive relationship is the justification of the abuse they are enduring and isolating one’s self from family and friends.

When family and friends are left in the dark about the abuse and forced to watch someone they care about go through drastic physical and mental changes, the narcissist is far more likely to sell them whichever narrative he/she desires.

Plus my mental health was atrocious. I WAS drinking more, because I felt so trapped. Nothing I did made it better, and truly felt there was no way out. I was suicidal and it showed. I did not take care of myself. At times I couldn’t eat or sleep. So I would either cry myself to sleep every night or drink until I passed out. Plus, I didn’t understand the manipulation that was happening, so I would constantly be trying to figure out what was happening. Brie Robertson, a survivor of 17 years of narcissistic abuse, on why she felt that her ex abuser was able to manipulate her friends and family into becoming flying monkeys.

This is such an important aspect of flying monkeys so please check out our article How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys to learn all of the information you need to emotionally protect yourself from this type of abuse. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

So there you have it, not all flying monkeys are built the same but they defiantly all are equally dangerous. If you’d like to learn how to deal with flying monkeys from 431 survivors of narcissistic abuse, check out our article How to Deal With Flying Monkeys: Helpful Tips From 431 Survivors.

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      This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care. Please consult a health care provider for guidance specific to your case.