Flying monkeys are one of the signature tools in the narcissist’s toolbox. Narcissists often amass a large number of them–one or more for each type of “job” they need them to do, such as spying, planting ideas in the victim(s) mind, persuading others to treat victim(s) badly, or a multitude of other long-distance attacks they can get these flying monkeys to do. And don’t forget the extra ones the Narcissists will keep extra flying monkeys on the sideline just in case a new idea pops up that they can use to further the abuse. So, with all of these flying monkeys waiting in the wings to do the narcissist’s bidding, what are some of the specific types of flying monkeys narcissists capitalize on when looking to abuse his victims?
There are actually two categories of flying monkeys comprised of several specific types. The categories are benevolent and malevolent flying monkeys. And nine types of flying monkeys in a nutshell are as follows:
- Devoted minion
- Oblivious accomplice
- Fearful Coerced
- Sycophantic Admirer
- Family enabler
- Online trolls and cyberbullies
- Service Industry
Some of these are obviously benevolent flying monkeys: many are chronic people pleasers who really think they are doing the right thing. They are, in reality, as duped by the charm of the narcissist as the narcissist’s victim. These would be the devoted minions and oblivious accomplices. The malevolent flying monkeys are the ones who do see the harm they are doing to the narcissist’s victim but it gives them pleasure, makes them feel powerful, and gives them a sense of camaraderie with the narcissist. These are often narcissists themselves, getting their narcissistic supply in a more roundabout way. Let’s take a closer look at all of these.
If you are new to the subject of flying monkeys or feel like you need to know more, I have an article you may find valuable on what exactly flying monkeys are and why narcissists need them.
Note: I was raised in a home with a narcissistic mother, then in relationship and married to a narcissistic man for 35 years. Because the majority of narcissistic abuse happened during my marriage, I use the pronoun he when speaking about narcissists. Feel free to adjust the pronouns to fit your situation.
Table of Contents
Benevolent Types of Flying Monkeys
We will start with the benevolent types of flying monkeys because as a general rule, they are the ones that, although severely misguided, really meant good by their words and actions. Unfortunately, meaning well doesn’t always mean it’s okay.
Flying Monkey Type 1: The Devoted Minion
The flying monkey who is actually a devoted minion is usually codependent. They kind of remind me of the aliens in the claw machine at the Pizza Planet restaurant in the movie Toy Story. They are literally in awe of the narcissist and how amazing he is. So, if he has a problem with someone, then he surely has a good reason to.
For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, Toy Story, it is about toys that come to life when the humans aren’t looking. And in this particular scene, Woody the cowboy and Buzz Lightyear the spaceman are trying to hide from Sid Phillips, the crazy, destructive neighbor kid who blows up or otherwise destroys every toy he gets his hands on. So, Woody and Buzz end up hiding in the claw machine at Pizza Planet. You can check out this very short 2-minute clip here, and you will see exactly what I mean by the worshipful attitude of the adorable little 3-eyed aliens!
Because they see the narcissist as “practically perfect in every way,” they believe all of his lies while not believing the actual truth. And because their perspective is so skewed, they don’t realize they are taking things out on the wrong person. Often, they are also not emotionally mature enough to realize that the things they are doing to the narcissist’s victim are incredibly inappropriate.
Devoted minions are probably never really going to see the truth. Ignorance is definitely bliss in their world. But occasionally, they will find their own emotional healing and realize what is going on. And because they were always benevolent in their motivations, they often walk away from the narcissist quite quickly and easily. Because the narcissist no longer sees them as a valuable source of narcissistic supply, he will pretty easily let them go to move on to better sources of supply.
Flying Monkey Type 2: The Oblivious Accomplice
The oblivious accomplice is almost the same type of flying monkey as the devoted minion. They are just as blind to the abuse and devious behavior of the narcissist they serve. While they may not see the narcissist in quite the same worshipful way as the minions, they are more than eager to get the narcissist whatever he needs: information about his victims, documents, supplies, time and resources, or anything else that the narcissist communicates as a need. They are just overly eagerly to assist, mostly because it makes them feel good to be so helpful. They would be just as helpful with anybody else.
The oblivious accomplice flying monkey thinks they are being noble and supremely helpful. But they also do it because they see the narcissist as a good person. Often this is because the narcissist they serve is a covert narcissist who has only shown them their good side. If they know they can get a good amount of supply from this oblivious person, then they will work hard to keep them in the dark about their gaslighting, abuse, lies, blame-shifting, and other common narcissistic behaviors.
The devoted minion and oblivious accomplice are the only wholly benevolent flying monkeys on my list today. If you know of other ones, please feel free to share with us in the comments below! But for now, let’s move on to the flying monkeys that fall somewhere in between benevolent and malevolent.
As an aside, are flying monkeys jealous? Click to find out the whole story!
Here is a chart that shows the different types of flying monkeys discussed in this article as well as whether they function in a benevolent, malevolent, or combination of benevolent and malevolent way:
Somewhere Between Benevolent and Malevolent Flying Monkeys
Just like nobody on Earth is all evil or all good, the vast majority of flying monkeys are not all benevolent or all malevolent. And thus the majority of types of flying monkeys will end up on this in-between list. Let’s go ahead and take a closer look at each of them.
Flying Monkey Type 3: The Fearful Coerced
The fearful coerced type of flying monkey is known by their timid, fearful support of the narcissist. They aren’t trying to support the narcissist because they are completely on his side. They are biding their time, doing his will until they can get out from under his thumb. They realize the narcissist is not necessarily a great person. But they don’t have the strength to stand up to him. So they do just enough to make him happy. And they generally serve under the radar, waiting for the opportunity to no longer feel trapped by the narcissist and able to get away from him forever. No contact looks like a good thing to them at this point.
The fearful coerced flying monkey was likely either a minion or an oblivious accomplice in the beginning and then slowly came around to a more accurate perception of what was going on between the narcissist and his victim(s). But because they likely could see how badly the narcissist treated their victim, they didn’t want to end up on the narcissist’s bad side. So, letting fear take control, they allow him to control them just so they keep themselves “out of trouble” so to speak.
If they could get the help they need and realize they have support from others who know what the narcissist is, the fearful coerced flying monkey would probably be eager to do whatever is necessary to get away from the narcissist and heal. They could easily grow to be emotionally mature with the right help.
Flying Monkey Type 4: Family Enabler
I put the family enabler flying monkeys right in the middle of the benevolent and malevolent categories, not because they are halfway in between, but because they can swing to both extremes and anywhere in between.
The family dynamic is a crazy one when you add a narcissist, his victim, and the flying monkeys all into the mix. It takes drama to a whole new level. Let me explain.
In this example, my ex-husband is the narcissist and my kids and me are the victims; then my husband’s sisters would be the flying monkeys, it’s already a zoo. But then, when you realize that most of the narcissists in the family were also flying monkeys to their siblings and other family members, the drama just ramped up even more. There was constant craziness whenever they were all around each other. Thankfully, as the years went on, that didn’t happen so much. Over time, his sisters rarely visited.
The family enabler flying monkeys may or may not know they are contributing to narcissism. My sister would always be kind to my ex husband, no matter when she saw him or interacted with him online. But she knows he is a narcissist and has had some personal negative run-ins with him as well. That is fine. She should be courteous to him, especially in public. But she just really didn’t realize for a while that every time she validated him with kindness, in his mind it validated his abuse. So it encouraged him to get bolder in his narcissistic behavior.
Later, my sister told me she was liking his Facebook posts only because she was supporting our son, who was stuck by court order visiting a father he really didn’t want to spend time with (the reasons for all of that will have to be another article!). That made sense and I told her she was welcome to do whatever she wanted to. She decided not to do it anymore and to encourage my kids personally since they don’t even see their dad’s Facebook posts.
If you want to try to work with a family enabler flying monkey, you will need to test the waters before jumping all in. If they are toxic, you won’t get through to them as long as they are holding on to that toxicity. And they will likely become toxic toward you. Often, they will also become more toxic to the original victim. Those that rank lower on the toxic scale may welcome a discussion to make things less awkward and more unified in the family. And if you can do that, it is always so worth it. Going the extra mile for the sake of family is always worth the trouble!
My sister was grateful for the clarification because she really just wanted to be supportive all the way around. And it was a great conversation. She can still speak kindly to my husband if they are ever at any event at the same time. And she isn’t necessarily condoning his behavior when interacting and encouraging her nieces and nephews.
Flying Monkey Type 5: Service Industry, Helpers
The final benevolent/malevolent hybrid type of flying monkey is the service industry and civic helpers. These flying monkeys want to be seen by the community and all others as a pillar of society, so in that respect, they are a lot like narcissists. But the difference here is that the narcissism isn’t coming from within as much as it is coming from how they need to be seen and willing to take any opportunity. And often, they truly see themselves as doing their best for the community. So, they are willing to do the bidding of the narcissist, even though they may have no personal ill will toward the victim, and in fact, would never intentionally harm others.
I know that sounded pretty fuzzy. Let me try to explain. In this example, let’s say there is a therapist that has been seeing two people who are having issues with their relationship. This relationship could be a married couple or even any combination of family members. One is narcissistic and the other has codependent issues that exacerbate the narcissism. The therapist sees both react harshly with each other and tries to make both sides see what is going on. But it seems one side just won’t budge.
As a therapist, she feels like her job is to show empathy to both sides and try to help them to discover some common ground. In doing so, she listens to the narcissist’s lies about how they are a “victim” of the actual victim. And they give the fake victim even more empathy in order to make them feel heard and understood.
The narcissist feeds on this empathy based on their act of victimhood and multiple lies, gaslighting, and manipulation. So, they keep on going, knowing they will continue to get support from the therapist. While the true victim just gets buried in having to show empathy and support for absolute lies and fictional events that never happened.
The therapist has no idea they are making the abuse so much worse because they just think that everyone deserves to be heard and understood. That’s not unreasonable to believe that way. In these cases, the therapist is absolutely benevolent. But if you switch things around a bit to which the therapist is a narcissist as well, and then you have a malevolent team working together to totally bury the victim in the guise of a safe therapist’s office.
This same example can be used in many other scenarios. Take the same two people seeking help and put them in the office of a priest or pastor who is either unfamiliar with narcissistic issues or is a narcissist themselves. Other examples could be a manager at work, doctor, police officer, or literally anyone in a service industry.
Narcissists like to hide in service industries because people come to them with trust that they didn’t have to earn. And that means we have to be cautious to make sure that whoever we are talking to is a trustworthy person. You are not truly safe until the person/people you are seeking help from have earned your trust.
Check out my article on 45 examples of narcissistic behavior to see some key ways that it becomes easy to identify narcissists in all walks of life.
Malevolent Types of Flying Monkeys
Finally, we have come to the worst of the worst types of flying monkeys: the malevolent ones that know exactly what the narcissist is and what they are doing to the victim in order to team up with the narcissist. I want to believe there aren’t many of these types walking around. And that, if there was some way they could understand, they would turn away from this evil stuff. Let’s take a look at what malevolent looks like in terms of flying monkeys.
Flying Monkey Type 6: The Sycophantic Admirer
The sycophantic admirer doesn’t necessarily admire or worship the narcissist as much as themselves. The definition of sycophant is someone who praises someone in a higher position than them to gain more prestige and power for themselves.
When you combine that definition with the fact that the sycophant is only trying to get ahead himself (or herself, make the pronoun work for your own situation), then they are functioning on almost the same level. Except that the narcissist is functioning out of needing to destroy his victim, while the sycophant doesn’t really care about the victim as much as getting the glory he needs from the narcissist. And because he needs that glory, he will do whatever is necessary to appease the narcissist. Not because he truly admires him and wants to please him. But because he is playing him to get his own sense of status.
And this is what makes the sycophant admirer flying monkey a malevolent creature. He is willing to destroy the narcissist’s victim for him for his own selfish gain. He could very well be a narcissist himself. And he may or may not know that the narcissist is a narcissist. But he doesn’t care. He just wants what he wants. Pure evil.
Speaking of evil, most of us don’t want to call out evil in narcissists. And that is fine, because we don’t really know what is in their very guarded hearts. But there is an excellent book that talks about the evil of narcissism and helps you to determine what level of craziness you are experiencing so you can heal accordingly. The name of the book is People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck, M.D.. This book does not deal with narcissism in particular, but generally bad behavior. My therapist says this is actually an advantage even when dealing with narcissists because the focus is on dealing with the behavior rather than a title.
The thing I liked best about this book is that Dr. Peck talks about the fact that nobody likes to talk about people in the context of evil. And we shouldn’t! It is a slippery slope. With that context, he writes this book dealing more specifically with the behavior rather than the person being evil. It is a perfect balance.
This book is a national best seller with amazingly good reviews. You can click on the book right here to learn more.
Flying Monkey Type 7: Bystander-turned-accomplice
A bystander by nature is not going to get involved, especially in awkward or unpleasant situations. And the bystander-turned-accomplice is certainly no exception. So, how do they end up jumping up to obey whatever their narcissist tells them to do?
The bystander-turned accomplice type of flying monkey gets involved because they feel threatened, cornered, or otherwise coerced into doing the narcissist’s bidding. They could be manipulated by guilt. Maybe the narcissist did them a huge favor at one point and now it’s time for them to pay up. Or, maybe the narcissist has some dirt on the bystander that will cause him to act to avoid the world finding out. Regardless of what it is, the narcissist knows that he can get this bystander to jump into action, whether he fully support him or not.
This is one case where the flying monkey is certainly not trying to do good for the narcissist’s victim, so benevolent doesn’t fit the bill. But he isn’t gladly working with the narcissist and supporting him and they aren’t particularly trying to destroy anybody, making him not really malevolent in the context of narcissism and flying monkeys. He is basically a disinclined and skeptical assistant.
This flying monkey is not invested in his narcissist; so, he will escape back to the sidelines as soon as he realizes he no longer needs to fear the consequences of not doing the bidding of the narcissist. Or changes his circumstances enough to no longer have to worry about the dirt the narcissist has on him. This could be that he cares less about being outed than dealing with the narcissist. Or it could mean he has dealt with his issues and no longer feels shame or guilt about it, making it a moot point for the narcissist to continue holding it against him.
Flying Monkey Type 8: Online Trolls and Cyberbullies
Let’s first learn the distinction between online trolls and cyberbullies. The difference is basically the intentions of the troll or bully. In the case of online trolls, they just say edgy and inappropriate things to set people off and get a reaction. Most of the time they don’t know their target, allowing them to behave badly without consequence in the real world. Cyberbullies on the other hand, tend to know their victims to some degree. And their attacks are specific to the person they are attacking. Regardless of their differences, the narcissist can use both of them greatly.
Narcissists can use online trolls with very little pressure put on them because by nature, online trolls like to provoke and push into people, usually in nefarious ways, regardless of whether they are just having fun with it or like to destroy others as a hobby. Thus, they will jump at the slightest suggestion the narcissist puts in their mind.
This “relationship” between the narcissist and the online troll flying monkey could continue for many years, as long as the troll doesn’t get bored and the narcissist is getting a good amount of supply. But as soon as one of them gets bored, they will part ways easily.
Now, let’s talk about cyberbullies. Narcissists don’t have to twist their arm very much to get them to do his bidding either. The narcissist can just put a bug in the ear of the cyberbully and his mind will race with ideas that he can use to make this attack on the victim his own. The narcissist will love that he is getting to abuse by proxy and barely lifted a finger to make it happen. This is one of the most toxic situations of all the types of flying monkeys. And unfortunately, it may not stay cyber, especially if everybody involved is not local. Do what you need to do to stay safe!
Flying Monkey Type 9: Reciprocal
The final flying monkey type I want to talk about today is the reciprocal flying monkey. This one is also one of the most toxic flying monkeys. They are often narcissists themselves and form a partnership with the original narcissist in order to get mutual supply. They don’t care who they are abusing to obtain their narcissistic supply. Just like the original narcissist, they don’t see people as people. They see them as objects they can use to get what they want from.
As long as the reciprocal flying monkey can get a good amount of supply by doing the narcissist’s bidding, they will continue to work in tandem with the narcissist. But if either one of them feels like it’s not worth it anymore, they will easily part ways to move on to greener pastures.
There are many different types of flying monkeys which allow the narcissist to use many of them in conjunction with each other and with multiple victims for a near constant stream of narcissistic supply. There is an added benefit of feeling justified and vindicated in their behavior when they have accomplices. While I have listed nine types of flying monkeys here, I’m sure you can think of or have even experienced some different ones. Feel free to share those in the comments below!
I would love to hear how you managed to work through the flying monkey situations that your narcissist put you in. Are you still dealing with them? Believe it or not, I still see some of mine on occasion and they are still playing games on behalf of my ex even though none of us are in regular contact anymore! If you are still dealing with them years later, are you happy with the way you are doing that? Or, upon thinking about it later, do you wish you had done something different? Please feel free to share below.
Are you just now in the beginning stages of recognizing narcissistic abuse in your life and not sure where to go or what to do next? Or maybe you are in the middle of the trenches, trying to make sense of the craziness swirling around you as you work your way through. Or, maybe you are in the end stages and just need some confirmation that you are where you need to be as you are nearing the finish line of healing. I can help you start to put the pieces together to get quickly on the path to healing, make sure you are where you need to be as you progress on your journey, and finish well as you make your way to the light at the end of the tunnel. I have many resources you can check out here, but if you would like quicker, more direct guidance specific to your situation, a direct consultation may be more helpful to you. I am currently booking about 9 or 10 days out; you can check out the various consultation options here. (I am hoping to add more consultation slots in the next few weeks so we can get the time frame down to 3-5 days from the time you schedule until you get your consultation.)
I know things may seem impossibly difficult right now. But healing can begin right away. You don’t have to be under the thumb of your narcissist anymore. Many have gone through this process before and emerged in wonderful ways! I have been able to help others who have gone on to help people in their own corner of the world! And I can’t wait to hear your story of healing as well. Keep in touch!
Blessings and hugs,