Unmasking Flying Monkeys: Recognizing Their Role in Estrangement

Estrangement from toxic parental dynamics can be a challenging journey for many estranged adult kids (EAKs). As they navigate the path of healing and seek to build a healthy future beyond family ties, one obstacle they often encounter is the presence of “flying monkeys.” Flying monkeys are individuals who act as enablers or manipulators on behalf of the estranged parent or toxic family members. They play a crucial role in perpetuating the dysfunction and attempting to break the boundaries set by EAKs.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of flying monkeys, exploring their motives, tactics, and the impact they can have on EAKs’ mental and emotional well-being. By understanding the dynamics at play, EAKs can empower themselves to recognise and cope with these manipulative individuals effectively.

Understanding Flying Monkeys and Their Motives

Flying monkeys typically emerge in situations where an estranged parent or family member feels threatened by the EAK’s decision to create distance. They are often recruited to perform “abuse by proxy” on behalf of the estranged parent, perpetuating the cycle of dysfunction. The motives of flying monkeys can vary, but some common reasons include:

  1. Loyalty to the Toxic Family: Flying monkeys may feel a strong sense of loyalty towards the estranged parent or toxic family member, and they genuinely believe they are helping by intervening in the estrangement.

  2. Desire for Control: Flying monkeys might be motivated by a desire for control and power over others. By carrying out the wishes of the estranged parent, they gain a sense of influence in the family dynamics.

  3. Fear of Change: Flying monkeys might fear the disruption that estrangement can cause within the family. They may be uncomfortable with the idea of breaking away from traditional family structures.

  4. Guilt and Obligation: Some flying monkeys may feel guilty about their own limited involvement in the estranged adult kid’s life and believe that they can bridge the gap by intervening.

  5. Manipulation by the Toxic Family: In some cases, flying monkeys themselves might have been manipulated and emotionally controlled by the toxic family. They may not fully understand the harm they are causing.


Identifying Manipulative Tactics of Flying Monkeys

Recognizing the manipulative tactics of flying monkeys is crucial for EAKs to protect their emotional well-being and maintain firm boundaries. Here are some common tactics used by flying monkeys:

  1. Guilt Tripping: Flying monkeys may attempt to guilt trip EAKs by highlighting their perceived abandonment of the family or the estranged parent’s hurt feelings.

  2. Gaslighting: Gaslighting involves denying the reality of the estrangement or questioning the EAK’s perceptions and emotions, making them doubt their decision.

  3. Playing the Victim: Some flying monkeys might portray the estranged parent as a victim, appealing to the EAK’s sense of compassion and empathy.

  4. Scapegoating: Flying monkeys may try to blame the EAK for the family’s problems and conflicts, making them the scapegoat for all issues.

  5. Invalidating Boundaries: They may intentionally ignore the boundaries set by the EAK and attempt to force contact or communication.

The Impact of Flying Monkeys on EAKs’ Mental Health

Dealing with flying monkeys can take a toll on EAKs’ mental and emotional well-being. The continuous pressure, manipulation, and emotional manipulation from these individuals can lead to:

  1. Increased Stress and Anxiety: Constant interactions with flying monkeys can cause elevated stress levels and heightened anxiety for EAKs.

  2. Feelings of Guilt and Self-Doubt: EAKs may question their decision to estrange and experience feelings of guilt over setting boundaries.

  3. Emotional Exhaustion: The ongoing emotional manipulation and drama can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout.

  4. Isolation and Loneliness: The presence of flying monkeys may reinforce the EAK’s sense of isolation and loneliness, as they struggle to find understanding and support.

  5. Challenges in Healing: Healing from the trauma of toxic family dynamics can be hindered by the continuous interference of flying monkeys.

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Empowering Yourself: Coping with Flying Monkeys

While dealing with flying monkeys can be emotionally challenging, there are effective coping strategies EAKs can employ to protect themselves and reclaim their autonomy:

  1. Set Clear Boundaries: Establishing and maintaining clear boundaries is crucial when dealing with flying monkeys. Communicate your boundaries firmly and avoid engaging in discussions that breach them.

  2. Limit Contact: Minimise or cut off contact with flying monkeys to reduce their impact on your emotional well-being.

  3. Build a Support Network: Seek support from understanding friends, support groups, or online communities like Breakaway’s Reddit page r/EstrangedAdultKids, where you can connect with others who share similar experiences.

  4. Seek Professional Help: Consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor experienced in family estrangement to process emotions and develop coping strategies.

  5. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote your well-being and help you stay grounded during challenging times.

  6. Stay True to Your Decision: Remind yourself of the reasons behind your estrangement and the importance of protecting your mental and emotional health.

Breaking the Cycle: Freeing Yourself from Flying Monkeys

Breaking free from the influence of flying monkeys is a significant step towards healing and embracing a healthier future. By recognising their motives and tactics, EAKs can navigate the challenges of estrangement more effectively. Empowering yourself with coping strategies and a strong support network can help you stay resilient on your journey of healing and self-discovery.


Remember, estrangement is a valid choice for protecting your well-being, and you have the right to prioritise your emotional health and happiness above societal expectations. As you unmask the role of flying monkeys in your life, you are reclaiming control over your narrative and breaking the cycle of toxic family dynamics. Trust in your decision, and know that you are not alone on this path of healing. The EAK community stands with you, offering understanding, support, and validation as you create a healthy future beyond family ties.