Philosophy:Flying monkeys (popular psychology)

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Short description: People who act on behalf of a narcissist to a third party, usually for an abusive purpose

Flying monkeys[1] is a term used in popular psychology, mainly in the context of narcissistic abuse,[2] to describe people who act on behalf of a narcissist towards a third party, usually for an abusive purpose (e.g. a smear campaign).[3][4] The phrase has also been used to refer to people who act on behalf of a psychopath, for a similar purpose.[5][6] The term is not formally used in medical practice or teaching. The term is from the winged monkeys used by the Wicked Witch of the West in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and the subsequent films based on it) to carry out evil deeds on her behalf.[6][7] Abuse by proxy (or proxy abuse) is a closely related or synonymous concept.[3][8]


A flying monkey can be anyone who believes the narcissist's fake persona, including the narcissist's spouse, child, friend, sibling, neighbor or cousin.[2][9] According to popular psychology author Angela Atkinson, flying monkeys are usually unwittingly manipulated people who believe the smears about the victim although they may be another narcissist working in tandem.[4]

According to narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) author Sam Vaknin and other writers, proxy abusers can come from a number of sources:[3][8][10]

  • the abuser's associates
  • the victim's associates – manipulated to side with the abuser
  • authority and institutional figures – manipulated to side with the abuser


The flying monkey does the narcissist's bidding to inflict additional torment on the target.[3][7][10] It may consist of spying, spreading gossip, threatening, painting the narcissist as the victim (victim playing) and the target as the perpetrator (victim blaming).[3][7] Despite this, the narcissist does not hesitate to make flying monkeys his or her scapegoats when and if needed.[9][11]

The flying monkeys may make it seem like the narcissist is not really involved, and they likely have no idea that they are being used.[3][7][11] Multiple flying monkeys act as a mobbing force against a victim.[3][12]


Motives behind the narcissist's support group can be multiple. Service providers may be seduced by the narcissist's charm into taking a one-sided perspective.[13] Family members may in good faith attempt to sort out the "problematic one".[14][15] The codependent may seek to participate in the narcissist's omnipotence, or use them as sanction for their own aggressive instincts.[16] Alternatively, others may simply be swept up by force of personality to define the situation along the narcissist's own lines.[10][17]

See also


  1. Clark, Suzan (24 July 2012). "Narcissists often recruit people referred to as flying monkeys "The flying monkeys are those that are convinced to do the dirty work..for them. They being lied to and angered towards an innocent person, in the reality of comparison to real life, they carry out stalking behaviors, lie and target a person to make one's life miserable"". "In some online forums, apaths are known as "flying monkeys," like the Wicked Witch's helpers in "The Wizard of Oz" They do all the narcissist's dirty work behind the scenes while the narcissist can sit back and watch." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Carmen Bryant (7 May 2019). Unmasking the Illusion of Perfection: Narcissist Abuse; Abused by the Esteemed!. ISBN 978-1973654667. "These people, termed through popular psychology, as flying monkeys (in context of narcissist abuse) and redirect all attention back to the narcissist ..." 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "Flying Monkeys (The Narcissist's Tool for the Smear Campaign)". Medium. 13 May 2018. "So the role of these flying monkeys is first of all abuse by proxy." 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Angela Atkinson (December 2015). Gaslighting, Love Bombing and Flying Monkeys: The Ultimate Toxic Relationship Survival Guide for Victims and Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse. 
  5. Brian C Toner; Anne E Hathaway (May 2012). Bill the Sociopathic Flying Monkey. ISBN 978-1477626221. Retrieved 30 May 2019. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Margot MacCallum (October 2018). Healing the Trauma of Psychological Abuse: A Lived Experience Roadmap to a Mindful Recovery. ISBN 978-1504315326. "[..] ("flying monkeys" refers to a narcopath's enablers, derived from the seminal story of the "wicked witch" in the Wizard of Oz, who sent winged monkeys out to do her evil deeds for her)" 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Lindsay Dodgson (1 March 2017). "7 psychological phrases to know if you're dating a narcissist". "Sociopaths don't necessarily work alone either. If they're really intent on destroying you, they may rely on a gang of "flying monkeys" to make your life miserable. It's a reference to The Wizard of Oz, where the flying monkeys do all the Wicked Witch of the West's dirty work." 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sam Vaknin (2010). "Abuse By Proxy: From Smear Campaigns to 3rd-party Stalking and Abuse". 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Cynthia Bailey-Rug (October 2016). It's Not You, It's Them: When People Are More Than Selfish. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-1365313059. "Definition: Flying Monkeys" 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Sharie Stines (17 May 2017). "The Narcissist's Fan Club (aka Flying Monkeys)". Psych Central. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Joanna Moore (23 Mar 2015). "Are you being used as a flying monkey for a narcissist?". "Extract from: The Faces of Narcissistic Abuse: First-Hand Experiences with Narcissists " 
  12. Shahida Arabi (5 October 2018). "The Narcissistic Conspiracy: Scapegoating, Smear Campaigns And Black Sheep – How Narcissistic Groups Bully Their Chosen Victims". Thought Catalog. "The frontrunners of such a group use enablers or what is colloquially termed “flying monkeys” to ensure that the recipients of such bullying are properly silenced (Stines, 2017). This is also known as “mobbing,” where a toxic individual enlists the help of others to carry out his or her vicious campaign and dirty work against another individual (Duffy, 2013)." 
  13. Sereena Nightshade (19 January 2016). A Pre-Book and a Victim's Guide to Surviving the Narcissist/Sociopath. ISBN 978-1493117956. 
  14. Julie L Hall (16 April 2016). "Raised by a Narcissist? 11 Healing Things to Do for Yourself Right Now". Huffington Post. "Were you a scapegoat or the golden child? Have you acted at times as a flying monkey? Roles are often fluid in the narcissistic family, depending on the narcissist’s agenda. Perhaps you have been the golden child and also scapegoated." 
  15. M. McGoldrick, You Can Go Home Again (London 1995) p. 198
  16. Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 510 and p. 498-500
  17. F. Wittels, Sigmund Freud (London 1924) p. 34

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