Art imitates life and so it is with “Flying Monkeys”. The term was coined from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” in which the Wicked Witch dispatches monkeys to fly and get Dorothy and her dog. The monkeys obey her command, doing her dirty work for her, taunting and terrorizing Dorothy as she tries in vain to get back home. And so it is with narcissists and their flying monkeys.
As if a magical spell has taken over, the bond between the narcissist and their flying monkeys is one of unwavering loyalty even in the face of danger. When the narcissist wants to evoke some punishment on a target they dispatch their henchmen (aka flying monkeys) to do their bidding. Unfortunately, this can and often does include abusive behavior such as guilt-tripping, twisting the truth, gaslighting, assaults, threats, and violence. This keeps them out of harms way and able to claim innocence if caught.
To be sure, not just narcissists are capable of conjuring up a group of flying monkeys. Sociopaths and psychopaths are even more talented at the task. The difference is that a narcissist remains true to their selfish pursuits continually. Whereas a sociopath and psychopath willingly abandon their selfishness to gain a deeper level of commitment by subjecting themselves to the target. The sociopath is usually in it for the short term gain whereas the psychopath may take a lifetime, if ever, to reveal their true selves.
But who are these flying monkeys and why do they willingly submit to such a character? This happens all the time. Think of a bully political leader and not too far off in the distance is their chief of staff, media director, and personal assistant all lined up to do whatever is asked. Or how about sports, publicity, and financial managers of an influential athlete. Then there is the C-suite all standing guard to protect and insulate the corporate narcissistic President or CEO.
What makes them do this? Ironically, many of them also have a disorder that the narcissist preys upon to meet their own needs. Here are some examples in order of their long-term unwavering commitment.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It may seem strange to start off this list with other narcissists. But here is what it looks like. A narcissist will submit to another one so long as there is a benefit such as power, influence, money, prestige, or the hope of overtaking the other narcissist in the future. However, as soon as the stream of benefits is cut off, the narcissist abandons their idol and replaces it with themselves.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder. By nature, this disorder has a continual stream of anxiety which on the surface doesn’t seem like a good fit for the narcissist. But again, it is. The arrogant confidence with which the narcissist continually projects is attractive to the overly anxious person who can’t seem to rest or relax. They are drawn to narcissists like flies to flypaper and stick just as well. However, when the anxiety diminishes, they wake-up from the spell and try to fly free.
Co-dependents. Narcissists and co-dependents are a match made in h@$#. Their mutual dysfunction is fed in an unhealthy manner. Narcissists need constant tending to and daily feedings of attention to soothe their hidden insecurities. Co-dependents naturally like to serve and rescue others as a way of gaining satisfaction and purpose. However, when the people-pleasing co-dependent heals from their unhealthy patterns, the narcissist feels abandoned and exits.
Addicts. When the narcissist is the enabler, the addict will do or say anything to stay in their good graces. Ultimately, they make the perfect companion because all they need is a fix which is easily supplied by the narcissist. Intuitively, the narcissist understands this because they too need a daily attention fix. The problem comes in what the addict goes too far and needs too much from the narcissist who is repulsed by needy people (except for themselves of course). Usually, this relationship ends when the addict becomes clean or the narcissists cut them off.
Dependent Personality Disorder. This is one of the hardest bonds to break because within the definition of Dependent Personality Disorder is a person who is wholly dependent on another. Not co-dependent, just dependent. Think of it as the difference between a person who likes their house to be in order, the co-dependent, verse someone who has to clean the whole house daily with bleach, the dependent. It is a much stronger attachment. The dependent won’t make any decisions, including small ones, without the narcissist which feeds the narcissistic “I’m superior” complex. Sadly, I have never seen a dependent leave their narcissist. Even after divorce or death, there is still a strange “you will always be mine” attachment. The dependent continually glorifies the narcissist even in the face of atrocities.
Sociopaths. Sociopaths are last on this list because they like to hide their evil deeds behind the narcissistic shadow. It is not because they are committed to the narcissist for altruistic values, they don’t have those, rather, it is because the narcissistic persona sucks the oxygen out of the air so an attack by a sociopath rarely goes noticed. The narcissist thinks they are leading the sociopath, and they let them think that. But actually, the sociopath is the puppet master of the narcissist who plays on their hidden vulnerabilities and insecurities. For that reason, the sociopath doesn’t leave because the narcissist is their cover whom they will throw under the bus given the right chance and circumstance.
The next time you watch a movie about a narcissist, and there is so many out there now, look for the flying monkeys. Once you see them in art, they are easier to spot in real life.