Escaping Your Mother, Part III: Prepare for Flying Monkeys and Healing


In Part I, I presented the problem in an open letter to daughters of narcissists.

In  Part II, I addressed the interior healing necessary to move on from this abusive relationship.

Now I’d like to let you know what to expect once you go No Contact.

Prepare to be admonished by well-meaning people. Those specializing in recovery from narcissistic abuse use the term “flying monkeys” to describe the emissaries groomed by your mother, those believe her tale of woe and victimization.

A reader, Shannon L., shared, “The further I move away from my mother the angrier she gets.  She starts leaning on her flying monkeys more, and then they get mad at me, too.”

My personal best example of the scheming and manipulation by a narcissist—how they anoint their flying monkeys and the emotional fallout that ensues—happened a few months before I finally went No-Contact from my mother.

My husband and I bought a house that closed on December 24, 2013. We had about 4 weeks to clean it up, paint it, tear out some ugly counters and put in flooring. So instead of dinner and Mass Christmas Eve, we decided to get started on the house and have a family meal Christmas day.

I invited my mother: “Our new house closes on the 24th, so we will be celebrating Christmas on Christmas Day.”

Christmas Eve Day was no silent night. It was a day filled with the scrape and crack of breaking tile, the thunderclap of a dumpster landing in the driveway, list making, hardware store runs and worries about staying within budget.

In the midst of it, I checked my email. There was an urgent message from my sweet auntie who lives several states away. I’ll paraphrase:

“Misty,” she began, “you are such a good Christian, a loving mom to your kids and good wife to your husband. I just don’t understand how you can be so cruel to your mother and not invite her to Christmas dinner.”

While my husband and I were gutting an empty house a few blocks away, my mother was weeping on the phone to her sister, describing an imaginary Christmas Eve celebration from which we excluded her. She told my aunt, “They’ve invited me to a ‘fake Christmas’ on Christmas Day.”

This is emotional manipulation at its finest precisely because it works. That short email set off a debilitating swirl of emotions:

Panic attack: My mother has lied again. My aunt believes her.

Rage: She lied AGAIN!

Shame: I’m a bad person. My aunt thinks I’m a bad person.

Confusion: How do I fix this? Why does my aunt believe her?

Defensiveness: I tap out an email explaining the truth, defending myself when I’ve done nothing wrong.

And all of this takes time and eats up happiness.

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No matter how old one is, one expects one’s mother (noun) to mother (verb). But daughters of narcissists live in a constant state of unmet expectations. The Christmas Eve scenario is not the exception, but a snapshot of the intense, constant, day-in and day-out emotional turmoil and shame a narcissistic mother generates as long as you remain in relationship with her.

A narcissistic mother fabricates a crisis out of whole cloth, spins lies and summons her flying monkeys. The distinguishing characteristics of the narcissist’s emissaries is that they do ask your point of view or empathize with you.

So that you’ll recognize flying monkeys when they land, here are some examples of what they say:

“Your poor mother.”

“How can you treat her that way?”

“But she’s your mother, the only one you’ll ever have.”

(Here I’d like to point out 1 in 25 people are born without a conscience. Some of these become mothers.)

“She won’t be around forever. You’ll be sorry when she’s dead.”

People who had loving mothers, whose archetype of motherhood is lovingkindness, say these things. And well-intentioned people whom your mother manipulates say these things. These statements are veiled criticisms of your judgement and character.

Jen B., a reader who left her narcissistic mother, shared, “…most people expect that it is a phase I will one day overcome, that I never outgrew my teen ‘mom angst.’ Or they just want to say ‘But she’s your mother’ as if the entire experience were somehow a personal shortcoming of mine as a daughter.”

Hopefully you’ve fortified yourself for this decision with counseling and/or spiritual direction, meditation, prayer, and a life built upon solid, empowering friendships.

On hearing you are estranged from your mother, stable, nurturing people who are genuinely concerned for your well-being will say things more like this:

“Tell me more about that.”

“How did you come to that decision?”

“I’m so sorry.”

“You are very brave.”

“What happened?”

To clarify, you may have friends and loved ones who both empathize and think maybe you shouldn’t go no contact. They aren’t flying monkeys. Flying monkeys distinguish themselves by their complete disinterest in how you arrived at your decision, and by their defense of your mother’s cruelty.

34591b29d9cc5fcf38acdd54618ceb5bOnce having extracted oneself from regular, persistent emotional abuse, a keen sensitivity to emotional manipulation develops. Not that one needs to go No Contact from every person who offers a perceived slight. Rather, it’s as if a fog lifts, clarifying relationships. Healthy, loving people become more attractive. We begin to be drawn towards these people.

In addition to counseling or spiritual direction, find activities that help you create a sense of self and grow in confidence. 

For me, it was tennis. Tennis helped me establish a circle of healthy, optimistic friends and increased my strength and confidence. And I found a job—writing—which affirms the validity of my own thoughts and ideas, a much needed dose of affirmation after decades of being gaslighted.

An acquaintance, Nick— not his real name— was more jaded.

“Frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘healed,’” Nick told me. “But I would be scared to admit that in public, nor would I want my mother to glory in my damage.”

The lingering fear that our narcissistic mother can somehow still hurt us is reminiscent of the closing scene of the Stephen King’s “Misery”, when Paul Sheldon, now healed from his trauma, has a vision of his abuser, the long dead Annie Wilkes, pushing a dessert cart towards him. Recovering from narcissistic abuse is a lifelong process of healing, one that leaves us looking over our shoulder.

A friend, Melissa told me, “I definitely feel more at peace and calmer not seeing or talking to my mother. But there’s always a feeling that she’s plotting something terrible as retribution.”

It’s been two years since I went No Contact. In the beginning, I was confronted on every side. Friends of my mother’s I hadn’t heard from in years sent me letters compelling me to forgive her/go to confession/attend a healing service. Read about the religious implications of going No Contact here.

Relatives I cared for stopped talking to me. But eventually the flying monkeys stop showing up. Some of them will go on to be abused by the narcissist and have their own moment of clarity. But don’t wait for it. Live life well. Be happy. Strive to be a conduit for the kind of love and appreciation you never received.
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Rumi wrote, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

Allow your wounds to fill with light.

Take your gift of sensitivity, of reading unexpressed emotion, and use it to benefit others. Accept their weaknesses, anticipate their needs and be a force for healing in every life you touch.

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46 thoughts on “Escaping Your Mother, Part III: Prepare for Flying Monkeys and Healing

  1. profound read. Each time I think maybe I am making all this up, you say something a mother has said which brings a flashback. healing is a life long process, but what we have to do is try to grow from it and not do the same to our children. Much love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nancy

    you NAILED it! I salute you! I love you! … and you LOVE tennis! (NOT lafffing here) I feel your pain … but RECOVERY is really GOOD! Each & every day! xo

    Like

  3. Terri

    Thank you so much for being vulnerable enough to share. I love that light shines through our wounds. I am such a fan of your writing.

    Like

  4. Gail

    You should have had her come over Christmas eve and put her to work! Life is too short to be around people who make you wilt! You want to be around people who make you bloom, so I see no problem with not having her in your life. Just because she is your mother should not make it any different. Even in small doses it sounds like it would not have worked unless maybe if she received counseling and changed.

    Like

  5. April C

    I had a Christmas Eve experience too! My family wanted to go to church for Christmas Eve and asked my parents if we could celebrate with them on Christmas Day (celebrating on the Eve was a reminent from days when we had to divide the holiday between my parents and my in-laws – no longer relevant). My mother threw a fit and “cancelled Christmas.” How dare we desire to spend any part of Christmas celebrating Christ’s birth?! I stuck to my decision though and she changed her mind about two days before Christmas.

    July will be the one year mark of going No-Contact. It’s been so healing – such a revelation!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Escaping Your Mother Part I: An Open Letter to Daughters of Narcissists – A Word, Please. . .

  7. Carla Bell

    My sister…I have just devoured all three parts, and relate to everything you write. I spent my 20s traveling the world, just to put oceans of distance between myself and my mother. I finally went no-contact at 40 (…and a big Yes! to the magical wisdom that descends at that age!), when I had three young children, and suddenly realized that I was, in partnership with an enormously kind and patient man, FAR surpassing her in maternal abilities. I don’t really know if she is dead or alive…I figure that news will find its way to me somehow. Meanwhile, I have a happy marriage, three teenagers who know for certain that they are loved, and while neither life, nor I, are perfect, I am keenly grateful to be living in the REAL world. Thank you for expressing yourself so well. Your words will help many people get out of their toxic relationships with their narcissists. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tish

      Hello Carla,
      I find your comments very comforting and that you were able to move on from your relationship with you mother and you were able to establish a happy family.

      Like

  8. revengestar

    It’s like we all have the same relatives, no matter where in the world we live. I am very sorry this happened to you and still shocked about how stupid the flying monkeys are. Why is YOUR responsibility to provide fun, support and companionship to your mother, who is a grown up? What they really say is ”accept her for the monster she is, suck it up to the abuse and stop rocking the boat”. I have never been angrier in my entire life with her and the rest of my shitty family (enablers ganging up against me) so i started my blog about getting no contact with ALL of them or dying! enough is enough!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is spot on: “What they really say is ”accept her for the monster she is, suck it up to the abuse and stop rocking the boat”. Watch future posts. I may be quoting you! Can I ask how you found my site? I’ve had a tremendous uptick in views the past few days.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. revengestar

        I put ”narcissistic mother” as a tag. Feel free to quote me and use whatever you like from my site (please with credit of course). Your blog is very good, i am not surprised at all you get many views!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: How to Lock Her Out: Healing for Daughters of Narcissists – A Word, Please. . .

  10. Monica

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am in my late 50s. I have gone through a couple of periods of minimal to no contact with my mother. I was recently persuaded by one of her “flying monkeys” to re-engage her and invite her to a few family functions. Well, I’m sure you know how that turned out. I am now regretting my decision and recovering from my exposure to her again. I was reminded very painfully that narcissists never change. Your writing is giving me the courage to disengage once again, hopefully for the last time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Elaine

    I am struggling here. This is all so true. My sibling, an unaware flying monkey, said some of those things to me last week. They have suffered less abuse and are also able to compartmentalize more successfully. We had been LC for a couple of years before finding out we were expecting a third child. A girl this time. So things are ramping up. We know it is best to go NC. But I am struggling with how and the fear of losing my siblings. For them it will be easier to maintain the status quo. They know she’s ill but take the path of least resistence. Easier without children. And I cannot hand her my daughter. I just cannot. So the time has come but not the deed. For now, deep breaths and reading lots of stories like this.

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    1. Hi Elaine,

      I can speak to what happened to some flying monkeys in my experience. When I withdrew from my toxic mother and finally went no contact, I received the usual flac from relatives who wondered, “How could you!?” But without me in the picture, my mother had to focus on someone, demonize and manipulate someone. Who’s left but the flying monkeys? Keep your side of the street clean, “They go low, we go high” so to speak, and I promise at least one of your siblings will take your place as the scapegoat, and will come to understand your pain. Nothing substitutes for experience. I hope you have a good counselor, therapist or spiritual director in your corner. Be well.

      Like

  12. Thank you for confirming my experience. It has been 16 years since I saw my mother and 14 years since I saw her enabler my father (he came to an Aunts funeral that she skipped). My husband and I have been married 38 years and have been in marriage counseling this past year. We have both come to realize that I had a narcissistic mother and he had a narcissistic father. I am finally understanding that the lack of love and mothering I received from her was because there was something wrong with her not me. I was very lucky to have had 2 grandmas who loved me unconditionally. I always felt like my mother was more of a sibling than a parent. I was closer to her own mother than she was. Same with my dads mother. The last year of my grandmas lives my parents moved from michigan to arizona. We had my dads mom living with us after we took her out of the nursing home they had put her in for their convienence. My grandmas died within 6 months of each other in 1999. I wrote my parents a letter telling them how I felt about their abandonment of their mothers during their last year and they sent my letter back to me marked up with red pen ,circling the word I, and telling me to “get over it”. It has taken many years. This past week in counseling when the therapist said I had a narcissistic mother it hit me hard. It is hard to accept you will never have a mothers love. I found your essays on the internet and found comfort in them. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Karla

    Holy mess!!! So I have been in counseling for a little over a year now and was searching the internet for suggestions on letters to toxic parent. (Mother) I came across this and it hit home. Thank you for writing and when I have more time I am reading more of your things. Currently I am about to start writing my mom a letter. That is the only way I feel like I will get semi heard. Not sure I will go full no contact but it will be ALOT less than what it is now.

    Like

  14. Pingback: Get Your Own House in Order: A Guide for Daughters of Narcissists – A Word, Please. . .

  15. My father revealed himself to be the worst kind of flying monkey a few days ago.

    An astute examination of the situation has revealed that the only recourse is to go no contact with both and grey rock in emergencies. Not a hardship, really, considering the lack of interaction I’ve had with either of them since my epiphany last summer about our true family dynamic.

    I think the hardest hurdle will be accepting once and for all that their little kindnesses here and there will never blossom into the loving support and understanding I was denied since birth. I have been an ego extension for them and a pet. They are not capable of more.

    Now, to convince myself that I deserve the “more” part and can deal with it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am my own counselor.

        I have done a mind-boggling amount of research in neuroplasticity, neurolinguistics, epigenetics, the mind body connection, body language and physiology, the placebo and nocebo effect, intuition, meditation, hypnosis, holistic healing techniques, NPD, codependency, CPTSD, HSP, biophysics, neurophysics, praxeology, Visual Motor Rehearsal, Jungian type theory, behavioral influence and manipulation, and dozens of metaphysical and spiritual disciplines with a conclusive emphasis on vibrational reality. All of the above was conducted in conjunction with an exhaustive personal investigation into demystifying and healing a slew of physical and metabolic diseases resulting from a lifetime of cell-killing stress and anxiety. I even reversed poor eyesight.

        I achieved every scrap of success without a single medication or physician’s input. Not bad for a kid once assiduously groomed to be an emotional servant to a neglectful narcissistic father and a manipulative hypochondriac mother. If anything, “seeking treatment” of any kind has either halted my progress or sent it reeling backwards. Reveling in my own power was always the answer. 2017, look the fuck out.

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  16. Dear Misty, I have struggled with the mother-daughter relationship for decades, always blaming myself and looking ways to make my mother happy — just so that I could feel a glimmer of fleeting approval and possibly love.

    In 2015, I was diagnosed with cancer and it turned out to be related to a hereditary syndrome that is not a disease, but that causes a strong predisposition to cancer. My mother passed the genetic defect onto me (she has been lucky — she is cancer free), just as she received it from her mother and I have possibly passed it on to my children. Rather than step up to the plate and support me and my family during the crisis of diagnosis and treatment, she made the entire experience about herself. And she still does. Just last week, while I was traveling to see my oncologist, she told her friends “I have the same disease as Kristen.” They took it to mean she has cancer. The flying monkeys launched.

    At the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t realize she was a narcissist, or at least I didn’t understand the label. I did call her out — shouting over the phone after a particularly toxic email showed up in my inbox.” I screamed, “why does it always have to be about you?”

    And that was the first step in my understanding. Ten months later, feeling despondent, rejected and desperate, I went to a counselor seeking peace from what I thought was cancer-induced anxiety. It turns out it was mother-induced anxiety.

    Things have been particularly rough the past few months, especially as I have been putting new boundaries into place. Yesterday, I hit the bottom. My husband, recognizing my pain, googled “narcissistic mother” and found these posts. He read them. And then passed to them to me. When he returned from work, we talked about them. He credits your writing with helping him to understand me better. I credit your writing with putting into words all that I have felt, yet not expressed.

    When it comes to gaslighting (a term I’d never seen until yesterday), I’ve been doing it to myself for years.

    I’ve got another appointment with my therapist today.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Christi A Salchak

    I have left a narcissistic sister. Your articles have touched my heart, especially this one. You have put the heart wrenching mental torture that I have been through into words. I am sorry that you have gone through this but your writing has helped others who will follow. God Bless You.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. James

    This is a great read. Thank you Misty and all who have shared their experiences

    My lessons from narc mothers is this:

    Lesson 1 – even decent Flying Monkeys will sacrifice you/your family

    My father is a good decent man except when it comes to my mother; then he is a Flying Monkey.

    Lesson 2 – narcs never change. Never, ever, ever.

    Narc mothers are like Lady Macbeth: ‘Your hand your tongue look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it.’ Ingrained. Narc parents = narc grandparents.

    Lesson 3 – protect your loved ones in the hardest way, by complementing your narc mother

    Having witnessed my mother try to destroy three families around her (mine is her third attempt), I appreciate the deepest challenge of narc mothers is not your maternal relationship (being realistic, that bond is soon dying or dead), its the relationship your mother manipulates between others and you. She will use flying monkeys and lies and civility and anything dubious provided it camouflages herself and steers others against you.

    You have to come back with positives first, about your mother, before reality can be revealed and understood.

    This was hard for me because it is much the same as my mother’s covert aggression, I suppose, but in the end it reduces your mother’s effectiveness to turn your children and others against you.

    Too long, sorry, just wrote as my heart felt

    James

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  19. Hi There…
    In the last year God has been able to finally show me and begin to untangle the web of deception and self depletion woven by what I finally recognize as a narcissistic mother.
    About 5 years ago He led me to knowledge of her suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder which is a more clunical diagnosis (her and many members of my maternal family -generational iniquity). I am sure I too was stuck somewhere in this disorder before Jesus finally won me to his saving grace.
    I discovered your blog as God connected me to Angela at The Silver Lining…and her recent share of links to others walking through this deep pool of necessary self- preservation!
    She came across my own writing on the topic of narcissism in spiritual terms and explanation, relaying how the disorder is caused by being heavily influenced by a Jezebel spirit.

    It took me walking away from a highly abusive marriage to a narcissist (also an addict which made it dangerously toxic) to finally also have the strength and desire to finally put my foot on her rump and push her away. I haven’t gone no contact because she doesn’t stalk me, instead she plays the victim in silence waiting for me to finally pay her attention. She also knows I’m done because God gave me the courage to tell her to her face, in love, who she is. This was for me because as it goes, they never see themselves for who they are unless God gets ahold of them.

    I applaud you and everyone else in this thread who has been able to walk away from the pain and manipulation to get themselves healthy!
    May the Lord love you all back into a vibrant, blessed and beautiful life!

    Like

    1. It is clear the Lord loves us back to health after we disengage from an abusive relationship. I found I could never be whole as long as I was continuously victimized by my mother. My well being has improved leaps and bounds in the 3 years since I went no contact.

      Prayers for the journey, Stacey. Keep in touch.

      Like

  20. I’m 33. I have, by the grace of God had a type of gradual awakening that started in 2011. I used to be very reactive and my mother used that to portray me as horrible but as you probably well know, I learned from the best. I overcame the behavior all on my own and then began to see other relationships in my life more clearly.. My father is a narcissist as well and I had known it about him. Just this year I put boundaries in place, he got mad and quit speaking to me. A few months later when I had innocently gone against my mothers wishes in favor of my own, she lashed out at me and for the first time I saw her clearly. As she stood there berating me. Calling me names. Telling me nobody would ever stay in my life because I always run people off… I thought you are wicked, lady. Before I would have been scrambling to make her happy again because the way she withdrew her love was unbearable and I desperately wanted it back but now I know I ever really had it. Friends, my husband , they all tried to tell me for years.. I would defend her… but now I see. She has refused therapy and told me I’m crazy so I can get therapy. She doesn’t need it. I have not had therapy up until this point. Just been fortunate to see it on my own.. but now that I realize I have been abused and all my memories are false I will be getting it. He is 3. My mom and my brother who is a flying monkey/Golden Child (ironically he is a giant screw up) have already publicly bashed me on social media. They take all that they are guilty of and make it mine. I’m a bad mother, I’m a liar, I’m crazy and I’m on drugs and they are concerned for my child’s safety. They have already called child services on me once and of course the claim was found to be unsubstantiated but they are threatening it again. And my mom is talking about how I have abused her since I was 12 and she can’t live like that and wants nothing more to do with me but finds ways to get word to me that she plans to go after custody of my child.

    I’m tired. I guess this is just my winter. Thank you, Misty. Your writing is wonderful.
    Love, Missy

    Like

  21. nancy

    Misty …. I was just scrolling thru the “angst” that readers are willing to share on your blog … and noticed you posted as recently as TODAY! I “salute” you & your sharing of your own (sometimes) baby steps to achieve NC … your BLOG resonates as you have actually “walked the walk…” and “lived thru the abuse…” … some generated by “flying monkeys” … my own narcisstic mother passed away a few years ago … and I still find myself trying to correct (in my mind) my own childhood behavior to gain her approval .. when you don’t experience a mother as a mothering influence … it’s a profound loss of self.

    in my case … I tried to over correct with my own children… a fallout from beating myself up for not measuring up to “whatever…” my mother expected from me … I got LUCKY … and my children actually still speak to me and love ME … and I was a single working mom with not a lot of quality time to share with them … but I believe they always knew I totally LOVED them unconditionally … they turned out to be awesome loving mothers to their own children… AMEN!

    Like

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