Flying monkeys (psychology)

Flying monkeys is a phrase used in popular psychology mainly in the context of narcissistic abuse. They are people who act on behalf of a narcissist usually for an abusive purpose.[1][2] The phrase has also been used to refer to people who act on behalf of a psychopath for a similar purpose.[3]

Abuse by proxy (or proxy abuse) is a closely related concept.[4]


The phrase, originally winged monkeys, is derived from L. Frank Baum's classic children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The wicked witch sent them to carry out her attacks.[5]

Who are they

Flying monkeys can be anyone who believes the narcissist's fake persona including the narcissist's spouse, child, friend, sister, brother or cousin.[6]

According to Atkinson, flying monkeys are usually unwittingly manipulated people although rarely they may be another narcissist working in tandem.[2]

According to Vaknin, proxy abusers can be:[4]


The flying monkey does the narcissist’s bidding to inflict additional torment to the target. It may consist of spying, spreading gossip, threatening, painting the narcissist as the victim (victim playing) and the target as the perpetrator (victim blaming). Despite this, the narcissist does not hesitate to make flying monkeys their scapegoats when and if needed.[6][7]

The flying monkeys may make it seem like the narcissist is not really involved. They are likely to have no idea that they are being used.[7]

Multiple flying monkeys are likely to act as a mobbing force against a victim.[8]

In divorce conflicts, the children can be used by one party as a weapon against the other party.[4]


The 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.[9] Family members may in good faith attempt to sort out the "problematic one".[10] The codependent may seek to participate in the narcissist's omnipotence, or use them as sanction for their own aggressive instincts.[11] Alternatively, others may simply be swept up by force of personality to define the situation along the narcissist's own lines.[12]

See also


  1. How Narcissists Took Over the World Vice Media 12 Sep 2016
  2. 1 2 Atkinson A (2015) Gaslighting, Love Bombing and Flying Monkeys: The Ultimate Toxic Relationship Survival Guide for Victims and Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse
  3. Toner BC, Hathaway AE (2012) Bill the Sociopathic Flying Monkey
  4. 1 2 3 Vaknin S (2010) Abuse By Proxy: From Smear Campaigns to 3rd-party Stalking and Abuse
  5. Carlson, Rik. "The Flying Monkeys of Burlington, Vermont". Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  6. 1 2 Bailey-Rug C (2016) It's Not You, It's Them: When People Are More Than Selfish
  7. 1 2 Moore, J., Are you being used as a flying monkey for a narcissist? 23 Mar 2015
  8. Flying Monkeys Denied C-PTSD and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Website
  9. S. Nightshade, A Pre-Book and a Victim's Guide to Surviving the Narcissist (2016)
  10. M. McGoldrick, You Can Go Home Again (London 1995) p. 198
  11. Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 510 and p. 498-500
  12. F. Wittels, Sigmund Freud (London 1924) p. 34

External links

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