It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Flying Monkeys in Your Life


If you’ve got an N parent, you’ve probably got Flying Monkeys in your life. What are flying monkeys? To paraphrase the Glossary, flying monkeys are people who do the N’s bidding, whether to inflict additional torment or to simply spy on the victim or spread gossip.

Flying monkeys are people who take your NM’s part in the family drama and act on her behalf. They may be obvious or they may be so subtle that you react with utter shock when you discover their betrayal. But make no mistake: flying monkeys never truly have your best interests at heart because if they did, they would refuse to play secret agent for the narcissist.

In my experience, flying monkeys fall into two basic categories: willing, complicit partners and well-meaning dupes. The willing, complicit partners also fall into two categories: those who believe that you just need to forgive and forget and they are going to help you do just that, and those who just don’t like you and are therefore quite happy to spy on you for your NM, and to do her bidding. The dupes also break down into two categories: those who are fooled by her drama into helping her violate your boundaries and those who believe all of the lies and half-truths that NM and her minions have spread about you and who want you to see the error of your ways.

The complicit partners have their own agenda that they are going to satisfy through helping your N while the dupes are basically people who are fooled by your NM into helping her. I am not going to let the dupes off the hook, though…by stepping in as one of the N’s flying monkeys they are making one critical…and very disrespectful…error: they don’t bother to come to you and ask you for your side of the story. Any rational, truly well-meaning person wants to know both sides of an issue before they agree to assist one side against the other and they have a thirst for truth. Anyone who sides with your narcissist against you without having contacted you first, anyone who takes it upon himself to violate your boundaries after you have clearly stated them, is not your friend, no matter what s/he tries to get you to believe. You are not obligated to tell another person…not even a close member of your family…why you do not wish to communicate with another person. If it is not enough that you don’t want to, if the person refuses to respect your boundaries unless she agrees with your reasoning, then this is a person you cannot trust to have your back…and a person who is a potential flying monkey.

So, just what do flying monkeys do? Basically two things: act as a source of information to the NM and act against you on the NM’s behalf. Maybe your sister will call you and ask seemingly innocuous questions, draw you out, even sympathize and commiserate with you about your mother’s behaviours. But when you hang up the phone, Mum is the first person she calls and unloads everything she heard. It may go further than that…the flying monkey may send you emails or texts, may phone you, and say terrible things. If the flying monkey is also an N…and I believe many are, based on the basic premise that to be a flying monkey, one must be willing to disrespect the person targeted…then the flying monkey may go further: she may attempt to seduce the scapegoat’s husband or boyfriend, tell lies (or highly embroidered and biased versions of the truth) to the scapegoat’s children, even tell unflattering stories to the scapegoat’s coworkers or employer. The flying monkey may resort to outright threats: “if you don’t be nice to your mother, I will tell everyone you tried to seduce my ex-husband when we were still married” (when you did nothing of the sort). Or the flying monkey may try persuasion and guilt-tripping, telling you your mother loves you and how much you have hurt her with your refusal to speak to her…and anything else that may get the NM what she wants.

And what does your NM want? Well, whether or not you are LC, NC, or in full contact with your NM, what your NM wants is control of you, and for you to play your role in the family drama without any thought of backing out. The flying monkey is around to gather intelligence to help the NM further her agenda. When I was the young mother of two, I had not seen or heard from my brother, the Golden Child, for several years…he had been overseas with the military and when he came back, he didn’t tell me. One day a man showed up at my front door, a man on a blue Kawasaki motorcycle, and when I opened the door, it was my brother. Since this was before my knowing anything about narcissism and dysfunctional family structures, I was delighted to see him and invited him in. In retrospect, it should have been obvious to me that he was snooping and asking a lot of personal questions, but being a person who was largely invisible during my childhood, I was delighted he was finally taking an interest in me. It never occurred to me that he was snooping on my NM’s behalf because I couldn’t imagine what would motivate that. My naïveté was to come back to haunt me, as this turned out to be NM’s opening salvo in taking my children away from me and giving them to her childless younger brother to adopt.

The court was full of flying monkeys as witnesses: an uncle, NM’s older brother who lived in another state and hadn’t seen me in seven years (before my children were even born), testified that mine was an unfit home, that he had seen it with his own eyes. A probation officer, who had never even been to my house but who had interviewed my brother, uncle, and mother in addition to interviewing me, described a house that I had never seen before, let alone lived in with my children. I cannot speak to the motives of the lying civil servant, but my uncle and brother’s motives were clear: they wanted my mother to have custody of my children. Why? Because she had convinced them I was a bad person, a bad influence, a bad mother. Did they know her real plan was to kidnap my kids and take them across country to give to her younger brother to adopt? I really don’t know, but I do know that is what happened and that she managed to rope my entire FOO into being flying monkeys for her because every time I called or wrote one of them and asked about the whereabouts and well-being of my children I was either stone-walled or yelled at. That is what flying monkeys can do.

I doubt the majority of flying monkeys are as pernicious as mine were, but it isn’t the big gush of water that wears a hole in rock, it is the steady, unrelenting drip-drip-drip of small drops over an extended period of time that wears down even granite. The small predations into your life, the constant awareness that you cannot know who to trust, the endless violations of your boundaries, the ceaseless little moments of disrespect…they all count, they all add up to the chipping away of your confidence, your self-esteem, your peace.

I know of a man who lives half the continent away from his parents and brother. A kind and compassionate man, when he decided to go NC, he tried to do it gently so as not to upset his mother, and told her that he was going to be out of contact for a while, that he needed some space from his family. His mother agreed, in her sweet way but, within weeks, she was back to sending him emails and texts, often closing them with something like “oops! I know I wasn’t supposed to contact you, but I thought you would want/needed to know this…” Within a month, his NM had violated his No Contact boundaries as if they didn’t exist.

When he stuck to his guns and didn’t respond to her violations she changed tactics and began sending in the flying monkeys. Out of the blue, a cousin he hadn’t heard from in years called him to “catch up.” Cousin asked a litany of nosy questions about his life, his plans, his work, his projects, and even mentioned the mother back home who was hoping everything was OK with him. Sneakily, while professing not to want to know what was wrong, the cousin made it clear that he thought the lack of contact between mother and son, initiated by the son, was wrong and that it made the mother so terribly sad. It was a combination flying monkey attack and hoovering session, all in one!

You can be pretty sure that when you interrupt communication with your N and within a month or two you begin hearing from people who have been off your radar for a long time, these people are flying monkeys. They may be a sibling who is invested in keeping your NM happy and therefore a complicit assistant, they may be old friends or relatives with whom you were once close but have grown away from, who are now dupes, but any way you slice it, these people have come back into your life at this moment for a reason, and the reason is not your well-being.

When I was 14 I lived with my father for a year while my mother was off gallivanting around the country with her latest boyfriend. When she returned, she decided she wanted me back home with her…I was not only her personal maid and housekeeper, I was a source of income in the form of child support. She showed up at the door one night and asked me to take a ride with her. To my surprise, we both got in the back seat. Expecting her boyfriend to be at the wheel, I was delighted to see it was my old singing teacher, whom I had adored.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have gotten right out of that car and gone back into the house. But for the next hour the singing teacher drove us around and the two of them played me like a violin. They trotted out every cliché, every platitude, every conceivable reason I should go back to live with my mother. They succeeded and I made one of the worst decisions of my life: I went back to live with my her. And once I was there, nothing changed. My NM and her flying monkey successfully hoovered me, and I went back to live in the emotional Badlands with NM.

This is what flying monkeys do: they advance the cause of the N at your expense. They could be anybody, even your old grandmother…after my mother put me through 8 years of hell by stealing my children, lying to the whole family about me, and giving my children away to be adopted…my grandmother begged me to “bury the hatchet” with my NM. She was old, she told me, and she didn’t want to go to her grave with all the hostility between her only daughter and her favourite grandchild. I succumbed and, like everything else I do, I did it with a sincere desire to make peace. To me, that meant trusting and being honest and aboveboard…both of which were used against me yet again. But who would think my grandmother—and I always had been her favourite and we all knew that—would act as a flying monkey for my mother and set me up to be exploited and hurt by her yet again?

Whether you are NC, LC, or continue “normal” communication with your N, beware of flying monkeys. They are the people who will criticize you for not doing what your NM wants, will try to sway you towards her agenda and away from your own. They will sabotage, undermine and undercut you without compunction if it furthers the NM’s agenda. They may do it out of blind loyalty to her, animosity towards you, or simply well-meaning interference, but their reasons aren’t really important: what is important is that they are more than willing to put your NM’s wishes ahead of your own rights, feelings and autonomy. If you aren’t doing as your NM thinks you should, then they side with her against you with no thought to your right to self-determination or even your feelings.

Flying monkeys come in all shapes, sizes, ages and from every possible walk of life but they all have this in common: they unquestioningly further the agenda of the Ns in your life and they have no respect for you whatsoever. No matter what they say, they are not on your side.

Don’t pay them any attention.

29 comments:

  1. Wonderful topic! When I started No Contact with my parents I did not realize how many people were used to pull me back in or continue the drama of my mother. No Contact means that once I moved I had to cut off communication with everyone in that area. Her and my ex stay in touch with most of the people I know.

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  2. This is one of the most aggravating aspects of a Narcissistic smear campaign---There you are finally starting heal, after a period of NC---and you get ambushed by clueless third parties , bringing everything up again---creating a salt-in-the-wound effect. I finally decided to take the route of shutting the FMs down , by putting my hand up & calmly stating that I wasn't going to waste my energy by defending against anything said behind my back.---Nor was I going to discuss the N behind her back.----(with a slight emphasis on the phrase "behind the back") I think it might've given a few of the FMs a reminder that my 'trial' had been in my absence.

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    1. That sounds so good, I'm going to try that myself. Thankyou from the bottom of my heart for giving me some sort of defense.

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  3. There may be one more category...The weak follower FlyingMonkey, whom doesn't really want to, but is afraid to NOT go along w/ the N because he fears the bully's wrath. This is the biggest loser, b/c may have no real desire to take part in it at all, but is used by the N, and left with egg on the face, or worse, holding the bag for the always deniable narcissist.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head with your statement. The FM does exactly that!! Thanks for posting as I am just realizing that what I have been going through is a NM and trying to break free from years of torment and abuse.

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  4. This is one of the most annoying things about going NC. I have resorted to changing my phone number, deleted family members from Facebook, one time I actually moved leaving no forwarding address. There is no kind way of doing this because they are so persistent. Today I received a Christmas card from my NPD mother with a 4 x 6 professionally taken picture of her (taken for her church directory no less). I didn't look at it, didn't open the card. My husband openned it and her picture fell to the floor. The last words this woman angrily spoke to me were, "I don't have a daughter!" Her levels of grandiosity cease to amaze me. She must think I will miss her if I see a photo of her. It's very sad, and evil, at the same time.

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  5. This is a beautifully lucid description of the Flying Monkey Operatives, their motives and methods. Hope you got your kids back.

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  6. That would not have flown with me. I would have clearly shown pictures of where I live had my own witnesses and have my children even testify as well. If they hadn't been to your house then they couldn't describe your house which you could have proven by saying oh what color is the paint in the room or other details that they would only know if they had been in your place. I for one won't go down with out a fight when it comes to my kids. I've done the no contact and moved away and only speak to a tiny few. I know who I can trust because I have told things to each one of them and waited to see who would tell the NC and the ones that did I knew not to talk to anymore. The ones who didn't I knew I could trust.

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    1. If you had been in the same situation I was in, you would have had the exact same outcome. Less than one day's notice of the hearing, no money to hire an attorney (I got a Legal Aid attorney an hour before the hearing who agreed to appear just the one time in order to get a continuance), a judge who would not give a continuance, refused to allow my attorney to speak, and refused to accept into evidence a letter from a social worker attesting to the fitness of my home. NM was given a 1 year temporary guardianship and I was given visitation. When I showed up for the first visit, her house was empty and a "For Sale" sign in the front yard.

      You have no idea how underhanded they can be until you go up against them and they have more money and resources than you have.

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    2. How can one prepare... we did have a lawyer send a legal no contact letter to one of the flying monkeys my husbands BIL. the lawyer also sent it to the state police and local police, the letter also included a no trespass notice- they live 4 hours from us. We have planned if husbands parents do not respect the no contact boundaries they will also have an official no contact notice also- we sent the first one to BIL because he threatened to call cys and sent it to my husbands work place and his boss opened the letter.

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    3. Sweet Violet, I understand what you are saying. I know that they can be underhanded and in power so to speak as they have more money and that equals more power at least in this life. I am so sorry that you went through this and I do hope you get your kids back. Hugs to you and many prayers for you!

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    4. It is amazing the lengths a NM will go thru to lie, cheat, and deceive the system and how the rug gets pulled out from under you time and again. Every time we thought we were prepared a new "trick" was played and is still being played. It's like getting the wind knocked out of you time and again as you sit amazed that a person can be so devious and spiteful to their own daughter. Still going thru this mess and praying daily for the courts to see the truth. Unfortunately, the lies must be disproven before the truth will be accepted.

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  7. Thank you thank you for telling me your story. I have gone no contact with my narc mother and suddenly my cousin has appeared being really friendly ( he is usually arrogant) and submissive. Yeah right, she might think that she can fool me but my intuition is so strong right now. Im steps ahead. Im so sorry to hear of the despicable acts your mother did, what happened to your children did you get them back. How horrid these Narcs are and the flying monkeys well they are almost just as bad. They are weak destructive people. I pray that everyone who has gone through this type of abuse is set free to live without them. Love /K

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  8. It is so enlightening to read this story & comments. I didn't know the terminology for the group of people who support the Narcissist (s). There are several FM's in my large family, supporting 2, maybe 3 N's . The main N has tried to claim my children as her own by using her position of Trustee & changing my children's personal information (address, phone number) & used her own ID as if she is my children's mom & as if they live with her. We found out about it from the bank and we had to prove to the bank that our children really are our children and that they live with us, have never lived with her. It scared the living daylights out of my children; they don't want anything to do with her, neither do I. She has never explained herself, but her husband wrote a scathingly nasty, gossipy letter to the entire family, propping himself & my sister up & lying about me, and no one in the family defended me or called him out on his nastiness. My adult niece came to visit (out of the blue - she had never visited me before) & the overnight visit was full of peculiarities, but at that time, I didn't know why. Now I do - she was on an information gathering mission. I couldn't figure out why she was acting strangely, and it took her over a year to apologize to me, and I might have believed her except for a huge glaring lie of omission on her part. Anyway, without even knowing the terminology for all these things, I sure did have my antennae up. I have been gaslighted by my siblings for over a decade now, & even though I miss the family I once knew, I know those people don't exist anymore, and a bunch of Narcissists & flying monkeys have taken their places. I deleted my family email account which angered them, but it is good to not have that avenue open anymore as they bullied me via email. Even though it is they who have disowned me, they now claim that I have disowned them. They repeat the N's gossip and lies back to me without ever asking what my side is. It is so hurtful, but I am glad they live at such a distance and I don't have to deal with them. I sometimes feel sorry for the ones who are too scared to act in their own best interests, but I realize they are FM'S. I mourn the family I have lost, but I have to protect my children and my sanity. Thank you for reading.

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  9. I have just very recently enlightened myself on what narcissistic personality disorder is due to the severe dysfunctionality between me, my mother and my child.... My mother is the narcissist, I am the scapegoat and unfortunately my daughter is the flying monkey. What do you do when it's gone that far before you realized what has happened?I've spent months crying and wondering what I did to my child to make her lose all respect for me... My mom walks on water in her eyes and I am the worst person. All I've done is love her and do the best I can. I've not been perfect but what parent is? Since my daughter was born, my mother openly ridicules me in front of my daughter and tells me everything I do for my daughter is wrong... So much that I believed it and so did my daughter...
    What do you do when the flying monkey is your daughter?

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    1. That depends entirely on how old your daughter is.

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    2. Hi, you are not alone. Me too. I am 52 with an 80 yr old NM. My 51 yr old sister is her FM, and after a lifetime of dealing with that I am so happy to have a label for both of them. Unfortunately my 21 yr old daughter is now NM's FM. To compound matters I married an N, making him Narcissistic Husband (NH?) and my 21 yr old daughter is also his FM. I am starting to wonder if my 21 yr daughter is also an N herself? The saddest thing is, I am not actually the big loser. That title belongs to my 19 yr old son who is currently suffering deeply with mental illness. I love both my children with all my heart, but they have not been allowed to know that.

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  10. I have NC with my mother and her Flying Monkeys except that I have LC with my younger brother, who is a psychologist, ironically. Originally my elderly NM would call me and leave messages asking about my children. When I didn't return her calls, she started feigning that she was confused, saying "I'm sorry I missed your call. This darn phone!" Then, she got my younger brother to call and I just told him straight out that I thought she was feigning frailty. (I know I sound heartless. That was the plan.) Funny enough, miraculously, the confused phone calls stopped.

    Still though, my brother calls me to see how I'm doing more often then he used to. I'm glad I read this article. I was naturally suspicious about his calls, and even though I know he is an empathetic character, I'm going to be kind but give him the gray rock treatment that I learned about. It's sad that we have to resort to these things with people we care about, to protect ourselves.

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  11. I have been in an abusive relationship with a Narc for 7 years. I was very alone, my thereapist and DV advocate kept advising me to find someone I could share and confide in, a friend or family member. I knew deep down that was a very bad idea to talk to my sister, I just felt it would be a mistake but then ignored my instincts and thought maybe she would be someone I could trust and would listen. I hadn't heard from my sisters for months but then I posted some things on facebook that they saw (related to DV) and all of a sudden my phone blows up with texts from them say what's going on. Well they just wanted to get the intell and do damage control. My mother is a narc and I am the scapegoat. My sisters didn't care to ask about me they just wanted my to stop posting on FB. I stopped and never heard a peep for a couple of weeks until I posted again - guess what? Text from sister asking if I want to go to lunch. I think about it and say yes then gut tell me no so I cancel and make excuse that I can't make it. Well then I am guessing my parents pushed her to get to me b/c then she asked again to have lunch and I agreed, she listened, commiserated, complained about mom and I thought oh that is so great, i feel so much better now telling her about the abuse. Well.... true to a flying monkey, text book,word for word from above article. She tells my dad what I confided in her after I specifically said DO NOT SAY ANYTHING TO ANYONE. Well then she lied and denied saying anything. Then I get a card from my dad and mom telling me that someone has to be big enough to step up and makes changes in counseling!!!! WTF???????? So my dad has no respect for boundaries, goes on third party info and tells my mom(the narc) now I am the problem and it's all me. Can these people be any more TOXIC. And guess what not a peep from anyone since. That sister who pretended to be supportive and listen is not speaking to me. What did I do to her? OMG Just pile it on people how much abuse can one person take??? My brother(Golden child) has disappeared suddenly and I have no idea what I did to him? I haven't even talked to him or my other sister. I am so done with these people but it is SO unfair to have them lie and gossip and add to the abuse. It is just mind blowing. I can't imagine not being there to be supportive for anyone who told me they were being abused or just even say hey are you doing ok. Nothing, just silence and betrayal!

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    1. I understand this feeling. I have an N-mother and N-husband. I am the SG for both. The N-disorder is very insidious, it isolates its victims in a very nepharious way. The World doesn't believe because the N can hold up such wonderful public persona, and the FMs have vested interest in protecting/supporting the N. Nowhere to turn, ever.

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    2. You just described me!!! My brother is the golden child and I wasn't aware of the FM's until I started digging and joined groups related to what we deal with(NM)or (NF). You are right it is very mind blowing that people will do this and think that we have the problem!!

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  12. My girlfriend went a time ago on LC with her "mother".
    Suddenly , after a while of LC, my brother in law came to visit us, because he had to attend a studygroup nearby or something like that. So he asked if he could stop by for dinner those days. Well, ok.
    But normally he never rings us or contact us in any way.
    After he has been here to have his dinner, we were thinking he would come to us for dinner multiple times. But the last thing we heard was that he stopped the course and didn't have to come over for dinner at our house anymore. My gf believes all this. I am rather convinced he was a flying monkey!

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  13. Thank you so much for this blog. I just recently broke up with my N friend and so much fallout happened. One of my friends that stayed behind ended up suffering from the N. Thankfully our friend group was able to get him out of it. It wasn't on the scale to this or what I guess most people end up going through but this blog has helped me understand just what was going on. I'm so much more informed now. Thank you.

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  14. Holy crap! I am blown away by your story and joining your facebook group! I had the NM and Golden Child flying monkey brother. When NM passed away a little over a year ago, I was shocked at how my brother reacted. It is only now just starting to come into focus. I can't believe she got away with stealing your kids. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  15. When the Narcissist has been your partner, is it commom to be accused of being in love with your ex by his gf flying monkey? Has anyone had this experience?

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  16. Sad my mom took my kids, turned them against me. Taught them she was their mom and they are defiently the little flying monkeys in my life going as far as to record any interesting conversation I have secretly from their phone to give to my mom. My kids are 18,16, and 13. They live with her. My 7 year old she has NOTHING to do with. She says its not her fault I had another child and she already takes care of my oldest 3 full time. She has no time for my new daughter. Its better that way anyway.

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  17. Thank you, thank you for sharing your story! So heart breaking to read and I truly empathise with everything you said. I do hope you got your kids back in the end?! This Post is exactly the response I need to all those who ask me "If you know how your mother's mind works, that its all a 'fault' in her personality...Do you think you could go back into the relationship with your eyes open and deal with it all more easily ?" Ha! ...You/I/We will NEVER, NEVER, EVER see it coming! whatever it is they have plotted for us, and believe me, if they are breathing, they are plotting your next downfall! No matter how closely your IQ matches theirs...You will rarely, if ever be able to intercept them- And if you do...Get ready to face The Wall of Denial/Narcissistic Rage. And I hope you have a strong emotional and mental constitution lol! Your experience may sound extreme to some, but My own NM already once reported my now flying monkey brother and sister in law to social services...People who have not experienced a Narc at close quarters themselves have no idea how dangerous they can be. And your right, its not always the 'big' things they do to hurt you, but the slow brainwashing and gradual eroding of your confidence, self esteem and happiness. I'm only 8 months in to NC- My Second time around after the epic fail of re-connecting. Already noticing HUGE changes in my outlook on life. I too, have had to delete from social media, change my phone number and am considering moving far, far away from my entire family, sadly, on account of NM's flying monkey recruitment program/smear campaigns. Its taking me a while to adjust to accepting that some outsiders/future friends may think that, because its just me that left them all...It must be me that has the problem, right? At least that is the impression I have got now and then...this could be oversensitivity on my part, brought on by living in a constant state of paranoia about whom I can trust- but I'm learning to let other people's opinions who know nothing about me slide, which is leading to true self-confidence at last!

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  18. After ten years of marriage, I can finally put a name to what my MIL is. My husband and I thought she was a control freak. But after doing something major-league wrong and being called on it, she got up and left the room. Her husband kicked us out of their house. Then the flying monkeys started. My husband kept calling them messengers. She refused to admit her wrongdoing or even talk to us face to face. After the first flying monkey called me names, that was the end for me, especially since they refused to talk to both of us. It's like they're trying to split us apart. Fat chance. We rarely ever went over there, partially because of her desire to crap all over everything good. After the second FM, that was the end for my husband. We decided on No Contact, and we intend to keep it that way.

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  19. I just recently came to realize I have a NM. I won't go into the 35 years of it all, but it's been bad. I always knew something was up with my mom, but now I know for sure it wasn't me. After 35 years I can finally believe that it wasn't ME!! I've been trying LC, which hasn't been working, so I think I need to move to no contact. I've blocked her phone calls and texts, now I'm waiting for my flying sibling monkeys to attack.

    My sister already went off on me two weeks ago - about how poorly I treat my mother. Then, my mother attacked. I'm 9 months pregnant with my second daughter, and they did this same thing when my first daughter was born. Luckily I'm long distance (10 hours away), so I think I'll text them announcing the arrival of my daughter, then go NC with all of them. How else can I protect me and my family from this behavior?!

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I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.

Not clear on what constitutes "rudeness"? You can read this blog post for clarification: http://narcissistschild.blogspot.com/2015/07/real-life-exchange-with-narcissist.html#comment-form