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So what on earth is a flying monkey?

image of flying monkey

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/


The term ‘flying monkeys’ is derived from that all-time movie classic, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, in which the wicked witch of the west sends out her nasty little troupe of flying monkeys to inflict torment on Dorothy and her trusty trio.

In popular psychology it is used to describe the people an abuser enlists to back her up, join in with blaming the victim, name-calling, put-downs, the silent treatment and other crazy-making behaviour. Once groomed and recruited, flying monkeys invariably perceive the narcissistic abuser as the innocent party and are outraged at what they believe the real victim has done. They have it ass backwards.

Why it works so well

Narcissists carefully construct a false public image while projecting their real self, with all its ugly traits, onto their chosen target. Because an abuser never attacks in public, people find it extremely difficult to believe she’s anything but the lovely, caring person she pretends to be when she has an audience. Frankly, it’s disturbing to witness how fast she can switch from raging virago to Mrs Happy-Go-Lucky in less than a heartbeat. If you’re unlucky enough to be in a relationship with someone like this, you’ve already seen how fast she can go from sweet to psycho in private. Trust me when I say she is equally able to switch back the other way should a witness come close to walking in on one of her rages.

The narcissist chooses her flying monkeys carefully. She’ll only enlist those she knows will take her side and carry out her bidding, whether she has expressly told them what she wants them to do or whether the process is achieved in more subtle ways. Sadly, the most vulnerable potential monkeys are the abusers own children or other family members and, of course, her best friends. It’s likely they’ll even mimic her behaviour as a matter of course, since she has already portrayed you (consistently) to the be the crazy one, the one at fault, the one who deserves to wear all the guilt and shame. Because they’ve rarely, if ever, been privy to her craziness, they simply accept her version of the truth and go after you with all the self-righteous indignance they can muster, adding a lot of heated fuel to her attack  on you.

As the more responsible parent (or sibling, or child), you have most likely consciously avoided embroiling your children (or siblings or other family members) in your spousal troubles, trying to protect them from the ugly reality that you face on a daily basis. You have been set up like a row of bowling pins. If the first bowler doesn’t knock you out, subsequent bowlers – the flying monkeys – will. The group attack was carefully planned by your abuser.

It’s imperative to trust your own reality – to know who you are, how you operate, and what your values are. An onslaught from your abuser and her hoard of flying monkeys is akin to all-out psychological warfare, and will leave you with all the post-traumatic stress that accompanies battle.