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  • Lynn Catalano

Are there flying monkeys in your family?

What’s a flying monkey?

The term flying monkeys comes from the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz who do the bidding for the Wicked Witch of the East. When someone uses the term flying monkeys with regard to a toxic relationship, it’s another way of saying “abuse by proxy.”

People who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder use family and friends to abuse their victims by proxy. The flying monkeys are tasked with spreading the narcissist’s chosen smear campaign, spying on their victim all the while portraying the narcissist as the real victim.

I’m proud to serve on the board of directors of the Center for Hope WNY where they offer hope, help and healing from narcissistic abuse. On their website, Flying Monkeys are defined as “the individuals that a narcissist will recruit and then use to do their bidding, typically to isolate, alienate, and harass another person. This happens when a relationship with a narcissist comes to an end.”

How to identify them in your family?

The flying monkeys are there to further the narcissist’s agenda. They stand by every nasty, cruel thing the narcissist does to you or anyone else and praise them. They help spread the smear campaign which further isolates you and prevents you from getting the support you need. The flying monkeys are often one of the ways the narcissist can get to you. He/she uses the flying monkeys to broadcast to you how much the narcissist loves you and wants to work it out. This is another perfect example of manipulation where they try to hoover you back.

When you encounter a family member who categorically agrees with everything the narcissist says or wants even when it’s unreasonable or impossible, you know they’re a flying monkey. Another way to identify them is simply when they won’t acknowledge anything you’ve spoken about happening. Like your experience just didn’t happen. Like they pretend the narcissist in your life just isn’t. He’s fine. You’re the problem, it’s you. They completely pretend what you’ve asserted hasn’t happened and what’s more, the toxic person in your life has always been wonderful top them – lies. You have total recall of times your narcissist stopped talking to these family members and called them names and belittled them. But they don’t see it now that you are the target.

What’s the best way to navigate flying monkeys?

This is when you need to draw on your inner resources and your high emotional intelligence to cope with these type of people. I recommend to all of my coaching clients to follow these 5 steps:

1. Recognize their comments are not truth, don’t take them personally.

2. Tell your story – best way to educate them, but remember the narcissist has told them lies about you for years, it may be hard, and they may not believe you.

3. Try your best to not engage.

5. Go No-contact – it’s pure freedom.

I found an old interview with Oprah and Maya Angelou where Maya Angelou called these assassination attempts:

Maya: The minute I hear [someone trying to demean me], I know that that person means to have my life. And I will not give it to them.

Oprah: It’s an assassination attempt by a coward.

Maya: Yes. Some people don’t have the courage to just walk up to you and pull the trigger. If somebody just walked up and said “Boom!” — well, there you go. Bye. But when a person commits these little murders, and then you catch him or her at it, he or she might say, “Oh, I didn’t mean it.” But make no mistake: It is an assassination attempt.

Take this as a sign to do something for yourself today. If you’ve suffered this type of relationship, it helps enormously to talk to someone. When you're in a toxic relationship, you need to talk to someone about your emotions and your trauma. I’m a survivor of narcissistic abuse and now I coach people on their healing journey. I give people clarity, validation & comfort.

Learn more about me here:

Let’s talk. Click here to book a free session with me. We’ll figure out if we work well together.

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