Flying Monkey Autopsy: Thy Brother’s Keeper

In keeping with moving these old needles out into the light and deconstructing them with the benefit of hindsight, this is another flying monkey autopsy.

This exchange occurred on Facebook several years ago between me and a childhood friend of Brother’s — she’s his flying monkey. We all took the same bus to school but her and I didn’t have anything to do with each other outside of that. In retrospect, this dialog is an example, I think, of someone who’s suffered (and probably continues to suffer) abuse, has very weak, porous personal boundaries leaving her extremely vulnerable to manipulation and predisposed to overstepping others’ boundaries (as she does not recognize them anymore than her own) — namely mine.

Flying Monkey
Your brother stopped by- not sure why you are all astranged [sic] but I will miss seeing your face at the family thanksgiving!!

We are estranged (a word Brother likes to use, who she is no doubt parroting) because of shit … just … like … this. Rather than deal with their own problems, they rope people in like this to deal for them.

Thank you. =) That’s more regret than I’ve ever received from any one of those people. That says enough. Please don’t share with me anything about them or bring me up to them again.

Seriously, no Family member has ever asked me why I avoid them or expressed to me anything but anger for my absence. And all my attempts to communicate have been met with derision. There’s no point investing in relationships with people who can’t even bring themselves to meet me halfway. And there’s certainly no point discussing it with a third party they clearly don’t respect anymore than they do me or else she wouldn’t be in the position she finds herself in.

Flying Monkey
Wow- ok- that’s a lot of hatred- should i stop following your diabetic vamp and disappear as well?

I’m not telling her off. See, there’s a smiley emoticon! ? Maybe she’s conflating herself with Family? If there’s any hatred, it’s hers. It must be. She can’t know what I feel. She only knows what she feels and appears to be reading that into my statement, in spite of the emoticon.

And if she’s going to withhold attention from my Danny The Diabetic Vampire comic or me because I asked her to respect my wishes that she doesn’t like and makes no effort to understand then just go already. Outrage isn’t leverage and this isn’t a negotiation.

Recently, I reposted this article: 8 Reasons We May Need to Cut Ties With Family Members to Be Healthy – and I identify with all 8 reasons. And it’s been my experience that the more I explain myself to someone who has an interest in not believing me, the more insane I come across.

It’s no accident that this is the same article Sister would cite as a reason to cut me off after this exchange.

You may do whatever you like. Believe whatever you like. But what is your problem with me that you would presume that I’m hateful and have removed myself from a situation without legitimate reasons? Have I hurt you? Do you want to hurt me?
Flying Monkey
My problem is two fold- one: knowing your brother- he doesn’t have a capacity for cruelty so I can’t imagine him having done something so atrocious that it can’t be forgiven

I’ve directly observed Brother lie, cheat, steal and get away with it — every time. That she can’t imagine him being in any way untoward is her failure, not mine.

More to the point, Brother seemed to become more and more interpersonally exploitative of me and our relationship, taking for granted that we were family and therefore he was automatically entitled to and absolved for whatever he wanted of me — an attitude, shared and encouraged by the rest of Family, that was not reciprocated. If I felt hurt by this – and I did – then it must be my fault, I wasn’t good enough, that I deserved the pain and, further, that my failure to get it together was hurting them. I was (and am) expected to forgive without hesitation but had no right to expect forgiveness in return, much less for failing to do so. And I continue to be “punished” with the silent treatment for that “failure” – a punishment they’re using her to blame me for on their behalf – until, presumably, I learn my lesson, come crawling back and take my place as a proper doormat to make things “normal” for them again.

And it’s not for my lack of trying. I had forgiven Brother and Family in the classic sense, responded to their guilt tripping and shaming, taken their misguided advice to just “let it go” and “move on.” Repeatedly. And the result was more of the same every time, reinforcing the notion that I would always come back for more no matter how badly I was treated. In their broken world, possession is mistaken for love, permission for forgiveness and I had no idea then why it wasn’t working, only that it wasn’t working and that it was somehow my fault but that Family could not or would not tell me how to fix it.

It left me wounded, moving from one deep depression to ever deeper, darker depression until suicidal ideation reached fever pitch and, at the risk of appearing weak, I sought help in my desperation. And, as a result, began the process of actually moving on from them and letting go of them. Because they’re sick like I was and do not empower me to help them (much less me) to be well, only to enable their sickness. I grieve that ugly, inconvenient truth that I might accept it, forgive myself the limitations imposed upon me by those too lost to know better and aspire to that I wish (but do not hope) they could for themselves.

Flying Monkey
Second is just my personal belief in family- I was raped, beaten, and kidnapped by family- all of which I have let go of and moved on-

This … is … quite fucked up. Why would anyone share an awful detail of their past like this with someone they’re trying to bully? This is not an expressed belief in family to do right (they obviously do not!) but rather her belief that she has done right by herself in forgiving them even though there’s no indication of remorse on their part or that they wouldn’t wrong her (to put it mildly) again if given the chance. But is this even forgiveness? Assuming this horrendous abuse is true (and I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that it is), she’s not only not let go of it but weaponized it. What she’s doing here is a version of one-upping, of “if you think you have it bad, know that I have it much worse”; therefore, “I deserve sympathy, compassion, to be heard and you don’t, so shut up.”

Flying Monkey
daily I care for my 88 year old grandma not because I want to but because it is the right thing to do-

Let that sink in. She takes care of her grandmother, not because she actually cares to, but because she feels obligated, pressured by someone or something to believe that being a caretaker is her responsibility or she’s a bad person. In fact, it isn’t her responsibility and the bad people would be those who insist that it is but do nothing themselves to care for her grandmother. What makes her look bad is her using this shaming technique of theirs (that worked on her) on anyone else. She is perpetuating the abuse done to her in her normalizing of it, as though it were a reasonable expectation. It’s not.

Flying Monkey
so, when people tell me they have legitimately denounced family, family which obviously misses them – I am hesitant to believe because I know what I have lived through and what I have forgiven and I know that it is easier to give up and blame than repair the family bonds because repairing bonds means forgiveness and realizing that like yourself, no one is perfect.

To be clear, I expressed that I have “legitimate reasons” for “removing myself from a situation” — not that I’ve “legitimately denounced” Family. She’s making this about her and her experience while outright dismissing me and mine as invalid. Whatever her experience, choices or whether she believes me or not doesn’t change my situation — because it’s not her situation to affect change in.

Here again, she expresses her delusion that it is her responsibility to repair her own family dysfunction and so it must therefore also be my responsibility to fix mine. That it is by my own personal failure that it is broken to begin with — a wrong and insidious notion Family (and her family too, I’m guessing) insists on being true which is the problem with them. When they, themselves, demonstrate a willingness to resolve this issue, I may reconsider my relationship with them but not until.

Flying Monkey
So no, I don’t want to hurt you, but I also am not going to lie to you- I found your response very aggressive compared to the Happy Thanksgiving I posted – to me that aggressive of a response expect a response and so I responded honestly.

It’s a safe bet that whenever someone assures us, unsolicited, that they’re being honest that the opposite is actually true. What I think she means by my being aggressive is that she was hurt by the truth that I’m estranged from Family that she could before take for granted was the kind and caring unit it looked like, inferred that I must be the aggressor to have hurt her, that I stole this comfortable lie from her so I must be a liar for it, and is responding in kind.

Fair enough. What about my response did you feel was aggressive? Don’t just be honest. Be specific.

She never specifies.

Healthy families (and relationships generally) lack the nasty passive-aggressive tendency to triangulate conversations like the one you’re facilitating for my family here. It results in divisions so it should come as little surprise that I am divided from them. This is probably the opposite of what you seem to be trying to accomplish – not that it’s your business to. If anyone in my family has something to say to me they all know who to reach me directly and they choose not to. Though the silent treatment has really become more of a blessing than punishment at this point.

Your concern for my family’s feelings might be touching if it extended to my feelings as well but all you seem to do is accuse me of things I’m not responsible for nor guilty of – just like they do. Every single person like yourself that my “loving” family sends my way to castigate me in their stead believes they’re being helpful, that they’re doing the right thing by guilt-tripping and shaming me, presumably back into submission to the aforementioned “loving” family. Whatever they may have expressed to you is entirely moot when it is belied by their actions – the most salient among these being: them using you to do their dirty work for them. I wasn’t the one who shared my family problems with you, never made myself out to be a victim to solicit your sympathy or provoke you to well-meaning albeit misguided actions like this. Nor was I the one who simultaneously made me out to be an ungrateful jerk whilst they convinced you that they cared about and missed me but, for some mysterious reason, are helpless to do anything about it by themselves.

Utterly ridiculous. I don’t miss these people or their weird, skulking behavior at all. I’m not asking you to agree with my decision, only that you respect that it’s my choice to make. Thank you.

Flying Monkey
OK- just so you know though- your family said nothing- it was I and only I that enquired [sic] to you- and I only mentioned you to [Brother] who said nothing more than you were estranged and he hoped it changed someday. It’s none of my business and certainly none of my concern. Thank you.

So she immediately concluded on her own that I was angry for no good reason without ever asking if or why I was? Doubtful. This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it’s always precipitated by some “woe is me” act of feigned helplessness that manipulates people to take corrective action on Family’s behalf and it’s the same narrative they seem to be telling themselves and every other of an ever dwindling number of mutual acquaintances that comes in contact with them.

I apologize for reacting as strong as I have, [Flying Monkey]. I don’t like being told what to do as I’m sure you don’t either, I got defensive and it got the better of me. As you’ve previously said, I’m sensitive – not that that’s any excuse. I’m sorry.

My attempt at burying the hatchet. I never hear from her again which is not unusual after a mutual acquaintance unravels like this and inevitably chooses a side that’s never mine.

Several days pass before I, uncoincidentally, start receiving email copied (not actually addressed) to me from Brother in some half-assed attempt at contact??? Which would seem to indicate that she, indeed, concerned herself with this issue and made it her business. And how could she not, given the inclination beaten into her by assholes in her own sick family to fix shit she neither broke nor was requested to help repair.

Before this exchange I did not imagine that she was half as messed up as she comes off in this dialog anymore than she probably imagined that the family of her friend was as messed up as it is. But it makes a bit of sense, given the nature of Family to attract others as screwed up as we are — a dysfunctional pattern of sickness that is, for my part, taking years of working through my own issues to break from with fallout like this all along the way. Work she presumes I must not have done since Family remains broken.

But I’m tired of being right and I just unload on her.

The other shoe dropped … like it always does. You didn’t honor my wishes for you NOT to speak of me to them, [Flying Monkey]. You knew my brother and I didn’t get along but you chose to mention him anyway. It seems to me that the only thing you really “miss” about me is my being a prop to make someone that you do care about look better and you’re angry that I took that away as though I had no right, much less reason to. If you thought anything more than that of me then you would’ve given me the benefit of the doubt, maybe asked me a question or two. But you didn’t.

No, this was more inquisition than “inquiry” on your part. What you passed off as “honesty” was actually your intention to punish me. You lecture me about cruelty without showing me one shred of compassion. You preach forgiveness and yet are unable to forgive me, someone who has never violated your trust or your person like those you present as proof of your forgiveness. Without any sense of irony, you have the audacity to wonder why I’ve chosen to be away from people who seek to impose their will upon me without regard to my well-being or interests. You are deceptive and disrespectful towards me. Who you say to me you are does not comport with what your actions demonstrate your being. And for all these reasons I don’t feel safe around the family you want to believe actually cares about me.

Do you care about me? Do you even like me? Your answer is precisely what my family feels towards me – as a thing that belongs to them rather than an autonomous person with his own thoughts and feelings. It must be. Because they treat me exactly the same wrong way you just have and it is undeserved, unjust and very disappointing.

I’m a nice guy. Up until now, I believed we got along well, you and I. But that polite performance was a lie contingent on what you mistakenly believed my proper place and function was to you. And that is your problem, not mine. Until it is otherwise, rather than helping to mend a rift in relationships that you (like me) were never empowered to resolve by those who encouraged you to believe you would be helping them do just that, instead you join those others who don’t belong in my life nor deserve to. I wish you no ill will, [Flying Monkey]. I just don’t need the noise. It’s unnecessary. Maybe you’ll understand.

And then I blocked her. I had enough of this nonsense. She didn’t, however, and this incident, while she’s never named, in part precipitated the fallout with Sister months later.

She might’ve done all the things my Family who she adores is either unable or unwilling to: empathized as another from a, shall we say, difficult family, at least tried to understand where I was coming from, respected me even if she didn’t or didn’t agree with me and expressed disappointment with the whole affair and maybe we could’ve remained in contact — but she didn’t. She overstepped her bounds and presumed to teach me a lesson that she had no context for and no right to and ended up causing for herself the very problem she was trying to solve for her friend, Brother.

For my part, I didn’t have to engage her at all in this. I knew better from the outset; however, I think I was taking the opportunity to try to understand her motives in being Family’s latest dupe and decided that our Facebook friendship to be a reasonable cost if it all went bad. I think we ended up being victims triggering one another. Another crack in the world. Another win for Family.

If I could go back and do this differently, I would’ve refrained from giving her any reactions (with which she dutifully regurgitated back to feed Family) and remained Socratic, simply sticking to the dispassionate questioning, ignoring her behavior and rewarding the answers, taking the onus off of me and making it about her instead — which is what she wanted, I think. She was still in the wrong but perhaps more compassion on my part would’ve yielded a better result for both of us.

Sam Vaknin describes how flying monkeys are recruited and manipulated.





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Escaped Hippie Gamete, Art Geek, Sci-Fantasy Nerd, Political Junkie and Code Monkey.

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