As a general rule, narcissists are bullies who wish to build up their fragile egos by diminishing others. It’s not a good strategy for successful relationships, nonetheless, that’s what they do.

In an odd twist, narcissists like to collect people they regard as weaker, grooming them to become apologists on their behalf. Constantly looking for ways to prop up their own insecurities, narcissists seek “yes people” to supply admiration and submission. In other words, they like to gather useful idiots, otherwise known as flying monkeys.

Despite the toxic nature of such a relationship, there is no shortage of people who sign on to be a flying monkey. Seeing that they are not as powerful or as overtly dominant as the narcissist, but being attracted to the potential of being inside the narcissist’s power circle, they lay aside their own initiatives as they take on the role of an appeaser.

As part of the dynamic between the narcissist and flying monkeys, there are rules of engagement (spoken or implied) that the narcissist pushes:

  • You can be on no one else’s team. I’m your primary go-to person.
  • While I may not always be loyal to you, you have to remain loyal toward me.
  • When others question me, your job is to make good excuses on my behalf.
  • You need to remind me repeatedly by word or deed that you hold me in highest esteem.
  • Never, ever criticize me or openly disagree with me.

While, of course, that is a formula for relationship disaster, flying monkeys tend not to look at the long-term implications of following the narcissist’s requirements. Usually, they are not insightful enough to realize they have been groomed by the narcissist for their role. Typically, flying monkeys are weak-willed and unassertive, at least in their relationship with the narcissist. Often, they are gullible, having astonishing low levels of insight or analytical thinking. And inevitably, the flying monkey thinks: “I feel like a Somebody when it is clear that I have found favor from that Strong Person.”

On one level, you could feel sorry for flying monkeys being so easily duped by the narcissist’s manipulative and exploitative treatment. But on another level, you want to confront the flying monkey with comments like: “Grow up! Open your eyes! Can’t you see you’re being played? Are you that cowardly?”

Yet, despite the dysfunctional nature of the relationship, flying monkeys tend to follow the same predictable script. For instance:

  • They will minimize the narcissist’s lack of civility, mimicking that person’s maladaptive attitudes and opinions.
  • They will reject the same people the narcissist rejects.
  • Behind the narcissist’s back they might admit that they see the narcissist’s impropriety, yet they ultimately remain loyal.
  • They are clearly two-faced as they engage with others. They might seem normal at times, but when challenged with choosing normalcy over the narcissist, they will choose the narcissist.
  • Drawing upon a pervasively passive-aggressive nature, flying monkeys are so afraid of voicing disagreement to the narcissist that they feign agreement. This means they are liars by omission.

So, this begs the question: Are flying monkeys also narcissistic?

Let’s keep in mind that narcissism is defined by the need to be in control, an attitude of entitlement, a selfishness that prohibits empathy toward others, a need to be in the superior position, and living behind a False Self. So, when it becomes clear that flying monkeys not only prop up the narcissist’s bent toward those traits, but also adapt to them on a personal level, it strongly implies that they, too, have a foundation of narcissism.

Flying monkeys have never come to terms with their longstanding fear of being discarded by overbearing people. Somewhere deep in their personal history, these individuals learned that it is too risky to upset the powers-that-be, so they adopted the philosophy: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” They willfully allow themselves to become puppets though, of course, they tend not to see it that way.

You’ll never hear a flying monkey be so honest, but if confronted with the potential of breaking away from the narcissist, there are several excuses they would offer:

  • You have no idea how miserable it would be if I tried to break free.
  • I have no other place to go. I’ve been in this role a long time.
  • I’d lose out on too many benefits.
  • I don’t really know myself outside the narcissist’s influence.
  • It’s too much trouble, and I’m too lazy to do anything different.
  • If I turn my back on the narcissist, people would then assume I’m two-faced.

It can be quite disillusioning as you realize that flying monkeys have sold their souls to the devil and are in league with the narcissist despite the glaring dysfunction. Sadly, flying monkeys have concluded that narcissistic power is more appealing than honesty, self-respect, decency, and healthy principles.

So, let’s circle back to the question, “Are flying monkeys also narcissists or are they just cowards?” My answer is…both.

To watch the video version of this topic, please click here.

~Dr. Les Carter