I don’t know about you, but I love to go to the zoo and I could watch the monkeys for hours. Monkeys see and monkeys do. They love to imitate and respond to facial expressions. A few years ago, one of my nephews went to the zoo with us. It was a small zoo where you could get in close to the monkeys and my nephew began to make faces at a monkey. Apparently, this real-life monkey was sick of people making faces because he looked around, found some poop and started throwing it at my nephew.
It was sad and funny at the same time. I felt sorry for my nephew, but when someone in the family joked, “Monkey see, monkey doo-doo,” I could barely keep a straight face while I helped him clean up. This is how monkeys behave. That’s why we get sick of flying monkeys–because like real monkeys, they like to throw crap around.
Often the crap flying monkeys throw around comes straight from the narcissist. Why do they seem so comfortable doing the narc’s dirty work? It might be because they act before thinking. When people follow a leader and fail to think for themselves, they end up with bad habits like imitating others and going on a defensive attack.
Many flying monkeys come with a self-righteous attitude when they ask you to be nice to the narcissist. This is because the narcissist has played the victim and they’ve bought into the lies. In other words, these flying monkeys are drunk on narc Kool-Aid. You need to take their attacks seriously because flying monkeys are a pawn in the narcissist’s game. The narcissist counts on flying monkeys to help destroy your reputation.
In an interview with Oprah, Maya Angelou called these assassination attempts:
Maya: Reduce your humanity through what Jules Feiffer called little murders. 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.*
Oprah and Maya were right. The narcissist and flying monkeys are out to murder your reputation. Next time a flying monkey comes knocking, don’t give them any extra ammunition.
Here are three tips on how to disable flying monkeys and send them on their way.
1 Run Their Comments through a Filter of Truth
Flying Monkeys can’t mess with your mind if you don’t let them. The first step is to know the truth and run everything the flying monkeys say through your own healthy truth filter.
As much as you might have been jealous of the golden child while you were growing up, you don’t really envy their bond with the narcissist now—hell no! You’ve seen the light, and these days you realize how empty and one-sided even that relationship with the narcissist can be–even for the golden child.
Keep the truth at the forefront of your mind whenever you deal with a flying monkey. This will give you clarity and enable you to ignore the crap any flying monkey throws at you. Remember a “good time” by flying monkey standards is your idea of hell.
So what can you do if you still love your flying monkey, golden child sister who comes over to tell you what you missed at the family reunion? Filter, filter, filter. If she says the narc was super friendly to her, you can allow her the grace to have her illusion. It’s not hurting you to let her have her happy thoughts, and it’s okay to disagree with her. Just make sure you remember it’s NOT okay to allow any flying monkey to shame you for having feelings and memories. If you still care about this relationship, then change the subject. Or agree to disagree.
2 Educate as Many as You Can
Of course, this is much easier said than done, but on occasion it is possible. Usually when a flying monkey is not a family member, but some well-meaning friend or distant relative, you can educate them.
Some flying monkeys have zero clues about the truth and will repeat whatever they’ve been manipulated to say. This could be an uninformed church lady who thinks your narcissistic mother is a jewel, but how much can she actually know from staring at her across the pews every week for an hour? You can let such peripheral flying monkeys off easy, but it never hurts to educate them if you get the chance. Plus it will do your soul good to state the truth out loud.
The best way to educate is to tell your story, but remember the narcissist has probably lied about you over and over, so you might not be able to counteract all of his lies. Still, might be sincere people who will listen to your story.
The tricky part is learning to speak the truth when you grew up in a family that threatens you with punitive damage if you don’t keep the family secrets. While this has happened to many of us, we are the grownups now, and we don’t have to keep the family secrets anymore. Just remember you are speaking the truth for yourself first–even before you try to convince others. You need to continually remind yourself of the facts to safeguard yourself from future pain.
While some flying monkeys are deceived and blind, and you might be able to clarify a few things, one place that you should never try to educate is when you know the flying monkey is a bully. Many flying monkeys are deceived and follow the narcissist like a pied piper, but when you sense a flying monkey has sadistic tendencies, walk away immediately. Whatever you do, do NOT offer them any information.
Don’t try to win over the haters,
you are not a jackass whisperer.
3 Refuse to Play Their Games
This might seem harsh, and it might even feel awkward at first because you are naturally an empathetic person, but sometimes you have to stop talking to the flying monkeys–this is especially true if it has become a game for them. Wise people from the dawn of time have warned us to stop discussing people with other people. Jesus Himself, in Matthew 18 taught that we should go directly to the person before we spread the story on to others.
Triangulation is the number one tool of every narcissist. He will train his flying monkeys in the art of gossip and lies because, without gossip and lies, he can’t spread his hate-filled agenda of turning people against you. If everyone sat at the same table for every conversation, then the truth would come out. This is why the narcissist likes to divide and conquer. The more secret meetings, the more gossip spread and the easier it is for the narcissist to win his war on your reputation. When you refuse to play this game, you will stop giving the flying monkeys intel to take back to the narcissist.
Flying monkeys tend towards self-righteousness because they often view themselves as peacemakers. A flying monkey feels innocent and hero-like because they imagine they’re listening to all sides–and that’s also why flying monkeys are such a big part of the problem. Sometimes listening to everyone doesn’t make them empathetic–it only makes them a part of the gossip chain. And as noted before, flying monkeys refuse to do their own thinking, and merely repeat what the narcissist tells them.
It’s important to keep this thought in mind; every flying monkey is always, always, an extension of the narcissist whether they realize it or not. Don’t let them fool you and you won’t be hurt. You have evidence which the flying monkey refuses to consider. You’ve seen the light, and you can’t undo what you’ve seen. At the same time, you don’t have to hate the poor misled flying monkeys; you can still pity their ignorance while standing your ground. You can be kind without putting up with their lies and nonsense.
There are also some hardcore flying monkeys who are very apathetic. These flying monkeys are not concerned with what hurts others as much as positioning themselves politically on the most potent side. Some flying monkeys can be dangerous and mean. Not every flying monkey is deceived by the narcissist. Some are narcissists in training. If you see an angry or apathetic monkey heading your way, lock all the doors.
Flying Monkeys are the narcissist’s extra right hand contributing to both triangulation and boundary violations. Boundary violations come when the flying monkeys follow their narcissistic leader and deny victims and survivors their rights—even the right to tell their own stories. Triangulation furthers abuse because as long as the flying monkeys keep flying between the narcissist and everyone else, nobody really knows the truth and no one communicates. It’s all a façade and a game designed to drive you crazy. Don’t let it. Stop playing.
The best way to get rid of a flying monkey is to run their comments through a filter of truth, educate them if you can and refuse to play their games.