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Narcissism

Interview with a Former Flying Monkey

A former accomplice to narcissistic abuse tells of realizing the truth.

unsplash/Jamie Haughton
Some flying monkeys believe they are acting with good intentions.
Source: unsplash/Jamie Haughton

Named after the scary characters who followed the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, "flying monkey" is a term coined by mental health professionals to describe the people who side with a narcissist, participating in abuse by proxy as they participate in smear campaigns, and otherwise reinforce their sense of control and contribute to their supply.

Some become flying monkeys simply by believing a narcissist's false narrative. Sometimes flying monkeys are victims themselves, trapped by the lies of a narcissist. Other times they are like mini-narcissists, not caring about the damage they are doing.

In hindsight, some flying monkeys begin to realize they were a participant in a target's abuse when the narcissist's true colors are revealed. Unfortunately, there will always be some flying monkeys who know this from the beginning but do not care due to their own pathology and motivations.

A self-proclaimed former flying monkey, whom I will call Jessica*, has agreed to an interview. Jessica represents so many others who have unknowingly participated in the abuse of a narcissist's target after she was herself manipulated.

What happened in your particular situation?

Jessica: Well, I was friends with this couple; let's call them Jenny and Kevin. I knew they had issues, as most relationships do, but when the breakup happened it was really bad. I refused to choose sides, because I felt like I was friends with both of them and I shouldn't have to! Soon, Kevin realized that I was still talking to and hanging out with Jenny and he ended our friendship. He just sent me a short message wishing me well and deleted and blocked me on all social media. I think, now, that he was probably doing the best thing for his situation. But in the moment I took that as further "proof" that he was the toxic one. I thought he was trying to get me to choose sides, because Jenny didn't seem to want me to stop talking to him at all! In fact, she seemed to enjoy that I was in contact with him and encouraged it, and would ask me about our conversations and pry for details about him!

Me: In what way did you act as a flying monkey?

Jessica: Well, I think the biggest thing that I did was to reinforce the narrative that Jenny was spreading around. She said that Kevin abused her and stole money from her. I allowed her to say those things about my friend, thinking that Jenny would not lie about something so serious. Because I thought that Kevin had abused her so badly, I urged her to seek revenge and participated in her smear campaign against him. I helped her create fake names to look him up on social media, drove by his house to see who he was with, and reported this information back to her, and encouraged her to file false police reports against him to tarnish his reputation. One time we went to dinner with my friend, and she asked my friend to look up his Facebook account under her account! She had spun the story to make it look like she was the wronged party, so at the time I thought it was normal behavior; we all look up our exes on social media, right? I didn't think anything of it, but my friend walked away thinking it was creepy. She could see through it because she was not under the spell.

When did you start to realize that something dangerous was going on, and that this might not just be a normal breakup?

Jessica: Well, there was the weird behavior of asking everyone to look up Kevin, to do things like drive by his house, and constantly talking about getting revenge on him. After a while, a few of us started to question her obsession with him. Usually after a breakup there is a period of anger and pain, which is normal, but then people kind of cool off and move on. But she seemed so focused on revenge by any means possible. The stories just didn't add up. She would contradict herself, or say something that I just knew didn't make sense. For example, she would say that he was stalking her, yet we all knew that she was driving around looking for him daily. I knew Kevin, and he didn't seem like he could do some of the things she was describing. At the same time, I would observe her cruelty toward others we knew, making her seem hypocritical. It just started to become obvious that maybe she wasn't being entirely truthful.

How did you get out?

Jessica: I just started distancing myself from Jenny. I stopped returning calls and texts as fast. I declined offers for social outings. Eventually I stopped responding altogether. I guess you could say I went "no contact." When Jenny turned on me it fully confirmed what I had been suspecting. As I was experiencing my own smear campaign, I developed more understanding of what she had been putting Kevin through. She made calls to mutual friends about me, called my former employer—basically all of the things I had watched her do to Kevin, never thinking she would do them to me.

Knowing what you know now, how do you recommend targets repel flying monkeys?

Jessica: The fact that Kevin blocked me on all avenues made me unable to get information from him, which protected him, of course. Over time I began to see that was not toxic behavior; it was actually putting up a boundary. Other ways that showed me that he was not the toxic one were that he never badmouthed Jenny. Even when talking about the situation, he shared that he was scared of her actions, but never insulted her or seemed out for revenge. The last thing: Just try to live your life. Moving on in peace is a sign of strong character and maturity and will be noticed. I tried to reach out to Kevin recently, but I think the damage was already done. I just hope others can learn from my mistake.

Takeaways

There will always be people who side with each party during a breakup; this is normal human behavior. But it is important to remember that a breakup with a narcissist is not a normal breakup. When one person is instilling psychological abuse on the other, the situation can become dangerous and even deadly. Take threats seriously, and limit any involvement with someone who seems like they are out for revenge on another individual.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

* not the person's real name.

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