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Flying monkeys

In the movie The Wizard of Oz the Wicked Witch of the West is served by flying monkeys. The monkeys have no voice, no free will, and faithfully and blindly carry out the orders of the witch. If we have someone in our life who has a personality disorder more than likely they have flying monkeys involved with them. They can be family, friends, work associates or anyone else relationally linked between the two of them and us.

A classic story of flying monkeys comes from one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Toxic Parents by Dr. Susan Forward. One of Dr. Forward’s clients was a grocery clerk who had the good fortune of winning a ski trip to Aspen; a trip he would never have been able to afford on his income. Excitedly he called his mother with the good news only to have her collapse in tears when she found out he wouldn’t be home for the holidays. Somehow he still found the gumption to go despite her manipulation and guilt. However Mom’s scheming and desire to punish did not stop. Rather than enjoying the crisp mountain air and perfect slopes he spent most of his free vacation in his hotel room apologizing and placating his furious siblings for hurting Mom. His mother never said a word. She didn’t have to. She let her children do the dirty work and speak for her.

A flying monkey at your employer might be as associate who whispers in your ear, “The boss is angry with you. You better watch it.” An acquaintance might call to inform you that a mutual friend was upset when she found out that you went away for a weekend of R and R and didn’t invite her. You know how much she is going through right now. A little trip would have cheered her up. How could you be so insensitive and inconsiderate?

Because people with personality disorders are ruthless, have no empathy, and view people as means to an end they will use flyng monkeys to be their arm extended and further their destruction when they are not around to do it themselves. When we come to the conclusion that for the sake of our sanity and emotional health we must go low or no contact with the disordered person it may mean letting go of a constellation of people who are their proxies inflicting the same quality of pain and madness on us as the “witch”. Since the flying monkey dynamic often plays itself out in families here is a Web site of family therapists in the Dayton area:

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