Thank you Rev. Sherri Heller for another wonderful article!
On the malignant end of the narcissism personality spectrum, are folks who exhibit an absence of empathy and an intense need for aggrandizing, attention, and admiration. These malignant narcissists harbor extreme expectations, reinforced by a deluded sense of entitlement and ‘specialness’. These traits result in dangerously exploitive, abusive behavior that is carried out with cunning and acumen, aided by devoted followers who are enlisted to successfully dominate and destroy a chosen victim.
In the Wizard of Oz, the flying monkeys are the minions of the wicked witch of the west. They assist the witch with enslaving Winkie County and ensuring her dominion. Similarly, in the parlance of narcissistic abuse, flying monkeys are those who assist a narcissist with ensuring power and control over their target.
Sometimes these enablers are unsuspecting victims themselves, duped by the insidious machinations of the narcissist. Other times they are complicit in the abuse, driven by their own sinister agendas. Whether they are oblivious to the malevolent motives of the narcissist or intentionally motivated, all are deployed to tear the designated target down through triangulation, character assassination, gaslighting, and elaborate smear campaigns.
The Narcissist’s Allies
Sometimes referred to as the Inverted Narcissist, the self-serving, opportunistic sychophant is a co-dependent. According to Melody Beattie in Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, codependency is a term used to describe “self-defeating, learned behaviors or character defects that result in a diminished capacity to initiate or to participate in loving relationships.” Hence the sychophantic codependent fawns, flatters, and worships narcissists to get their primal dependency needs met and deflect from the pain of a tenuous sense of identity. They are bootlickers, lackeys, and puppets eager to please the narcissist so as to symbiotically feed off the narcissist’s perceived specialness.
The sycophants’ agenda is to ward off pervasive fears of abandonment and self-loathing by conforming and upholding whatever agenda the lauded narcissist demands. The sychophant needs the vicarious thrill and sense of ‘value’ obtained through being a narcissistic extension. One might conclude that they are addicted to narcissists. Their obsequious compliance and blind obedience make them stellar flying monkeys in the narcissist’s arsenal, as they live to promote the narcissist’s delusional sense of omnipotence and omniscience.
Other Narcissists aka Apaths
It’s a tag team! Parental abusers, attorneys, billionaire financiers like Jeffrey Epstein, corporate moguls, politicians, and peons on the proverbial food chain can all be narcissists seeking to join forces with other narcissists to carry out nefarious strategic motives. Also referred to as apaths, these collaborative narcissists are emotionally indifferent and recruited by malignant narcissists to ruthlessly exploit, diminish, and destroy chosen targets. The narcissistic cohort may enjoy facilitating abusive tactics such as gaslighting, a form of psychological manipulation in which false information is manufactured and deliberately manipulated so as to make the target doubt reality, memory, and perceptions. Perhaps the apath narcissist revels in performing malevolent services behind the scenes or alternatively, they simply want to dodge being the narcissist’s fodder by assisting with victimizing another.
Apparently birds of a feather really do flock together.
The Archetypal Innocent / Empath
Highly sensitive, the archetypal innocent is a deeply caring empath who scoffs at notions of human evil. Narcissists benefit from the naiveté of these empathic innocents as they are easily eluded by a facade of grandiose virtue, making them eager to satisfy the narcissist’s insatiable whims. Believing love and compassion are the panacea to all ails, the unsuspecting innocent empath is malleable for exploitation. Their denouncing of darkness and intractable devotion to the narcissist makes them excellent enablers as they are brainwashed to believe that those who fail the narcissist are simply not measuring up to a criterion of unconditional loving-kindness. The empaths investment in being the loving ethical one can become perversely grandiose. They support the resounding message that it is the victimized target who is harming the narcissist, not the other way around. Therapists, spiritual devotees, and clergy not versed in understanding NPD are notorious for succumbing to this ruse.
The Other Woman
Enamored by the notion of being the special chosen one the new paramour buys into the fictional narrative that the prior romantic partner is insane, abusive, trivial, or a combination of the aforementioned. By feeding into a disparaging fictional narrative of the narcissist’s prior (or current) relationships, she enables slander and infidelity so as to feel the magic of being wanted and adored. Of course, when the romantic pursuit wanes and the novelty wears thin the other woman is relegated to the realm of unsatisfying supply, eventually to be replaced by a shinier more titillating model. When she is discarded and no longer ‘better than’ the one who came before, she is tortured by knowing that she too is being devalued and vilified. And so the cycle continues.
In the family constellation, parental narcissists use their children to feed their egos. This exploitive dynamic results in an insidious trauma bond. The child designated as the enabler is embroiled in creating distress primarily through triangulation, a tactic in which acrimonious conflict between the chosen target and others is manufactured to divide and conquer. This might translate into alienating the scapegoated sibling or vilifying the non-narcissist parent. The child enabler is enmeshed with the narcissistic parent and is deluded by the belief that by pleasing their parent they can manage the chaos and pain. They are brainwashed to provide the narcissist with supply by spying on family members and participating in the abuse, so as to be loved. Sometimes the child enabler is constitutionally predisposed to experience sadistic pleasure as the parental extension and develops a narcissistic disorder themselves. Furthermore, if the non-narcissistic parent is a compliant, obedient enabler who fails to provide protection, the damaging consequences for the children are further exacerbated.
How Enablers are Put to Use by the Narcissist
Itis truly remarkable how the narcissist manages to so seamlessly usurp endless supply. They feign victimization, manipulate facts, disseminate ambiguous rumors (doublespeak), and call the targeted victim’s morals into question. With the aid of their enablers, they infer the target is unethical, unstable, paranoid, and irrational. By mobilizing their vast array of flying monkeys the narcissist succeeds with stigmatizing the target and carrying out their concealed agendas.
The Sympathetic Strategy
Under the guise of altruism and good intentions the virtue-signaling narcissist may encourage enablers to help the supposedly mentally unbalanced target. The seemingly well-intentioned narcissist feigns innocence and may selflessly point out how the flaws and shortcomings in the target are responsible for instigating disputes. When the victim pushes back and conflict emerges, it’s an opportunity for the narcissist to deny wrongdoing and assign responsibility for the alleged infraction to the target. Brainwashed enablers will blindly assist with consummating the narcissist’s heinous intentions, further destroying the designated victim and ensuring the narcissist a position of power and control. This strategy can evolve into a quasi intervention, in which the friends and family of the target are encouraged by the narcissist to come together for the purpose of persuading the unstable target to get help for their ostensible mental disorder.
Acting as a benign intermediary who is simply confiding in another, the narcissist plants seeds of deceit which discredit the target to an unwitting duped third party enabler. In an effort to help the innocent narcissist, the triangulated enabler will pit themselves against the vilified target, culminating in an ambiance of drama and distress. By controlling the flow of communication between their militia of supporters and the target, the narcissist divides and conquers. Dividing and Conquering is the means by which control over a designated target is ensured by creating opposition and discord. Enablers are regularly triangulated and used by the narcissist to further the narcissist’s agenda to control, manage, dominate, and glean sundry forms of supply from a designated target.
The Smear Campaign
In an effort to create chaos and damage a target’s reputation the narcissist will enlist a cadre of enablers to spread rumors and lies. This vindictive crusade is typically ignited when the narcissist’s targeted supply begins to question motives and express antipathy. Consequently, the narcissist will organize an elaborate campaign designed to smear the credibility and reputation of the designated victim so as to ensure a position of power and control. By deliberately amplifying perceived flaws, sadistically criticizing and mocking the target’s behavior, values, interests, and discrediting accomplishments and promulgating outright lies, the narcissist and flying monkeys tear away at the victim’s integrity. In extreme scenarios, the victim begins to cave under the shame of stigma and oppression of the smear campaign. They may start to question their own reality and come to view themself as psychologically abnormal.
Parental alienation is an emotionally violent form of child abuse. When a narcissist parent grooms their child to alienate and reject the other parent, they are maneuvering to establish unquestionable devotion and loyalty from the favored child. By triangulating the child in marital debacles, the narcissist positions themself to appear unblemished in the eyes of their child while corrupting the child’s perception of the targeted parent. The child’s disrespectful oppositional behavior towards the targeted parent is encouraged and rewarded. In divorce proceedings, parental alienation is utilized in an attempt to sway court decisions concerning custody battles and child support. The narcissist will use the child as a tool to either deny egregious allegations or will require the child to manufacture damaging lies implicating the innocent parent of abuse.
Refuse to Collude
By exploiting the desire to be a part of what is collectively deemed ‘correct’ and integral to belonging, narcissistic puppet masters are able to manipulate a militia of enablers and instigate a clashing divide between discordant people and groups. The sophisticated forms of abuse carried out by the narcissist guarantees that those who don’t conform to the collective dogma are subject to intricate smear campaigns characterized by gaslighting, triangulation, and character assassination, fully supported and endorsed by the enabling multitudes. This strategy ensures that the true motives of the lauded narcissist are obscured by upheaval and distraction and promoted by an assemblage of devotees.
To my chagrin, given my childhood indoctrination, I was a magnet for narcissists as both a target and an enabler. It wasn’t until I cultivated discernment, discrimination, and formidable authority that I broke this pattern.
The writer W. Somerset Maugham wrote, “There is no explanation for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it senseless.”
Our instinctual aggression reminds us of our basic humanity and responsibility to ourselves. It imparts that there is cruelty in the world. Even evil. As Maugham states, to deny this is childish. It is also dangerous. It is up to us to assimilate and uphold that truth if we are to eradicate the malevolent schemes carried out by malignant narcissists. If we don’t critically question others’ motives and become intelligently guarded, we remain at risk for being targeted or recruited as enablers of narcissistic abuse.