The term “flying monkey” is widely used by mental health professionals to describe individuals who enable the narcissist and do their bidding. Sometimes this person has no idea that they are being manipulated by the narcissist. Because narcissists always view themselves as the victim, they are highly adept at convincing enablers that they aren’t at fault for the situation in which they have found themselves. The enablers feel sorry for them and completely fail to challenge the narcissist on their own flagrantly unacceptable behaviors. Instead, the flying monkey enabler will go out and find ways to support the narcissist’s position and attack the person that the narcissist is angry with.
Narcissists cannot accept hearing that others find their behavior hurtful, and they will do almost anything to avoid having to engage in a real conversation about it. By employing a flying monkey, the narcissist is able to directly give their victim the silent treatment but still find a way to covertly communicate their hostility and negatively influence how others feel about the victim. In their minds, they get all of the support and the victim is further marginalized.
Flying monkey tactics are frequently insidious. They will tell anyone who will listen about how “upset” they and the narcissist are about the whole situation. They will claim that they aren’t taking sides, but their comments clearly indicate that they view the narcissist as being too harshly judged. When they speak to the victim, they find ways both direct and indirect to communicate that the victim is being unreasonable and that the narcissist is simply “misunderstood”. By excusing the narcissist’s hurtful behaviors, the flying monkey is essentially blaming the victim and implying that their response is an over-reaction. They unfairly paint the victim as the irrational aggressor when in fact it was the narcissist’s long-standing pattern of problematic behaviors that caused the problem.
Managing flying monkeys is as difficult as managing narcissists. They typically don’t change their behaviors, and healthy ways of dealing with them are extremely limited. The options are essentially to cut them off completely, challenge them logically each and every time they engage in the behavior, or ignore that it’s happening. None of the choices come without consequences, and a thoughtful approach is required before deciding upon which tactic to employ.