A LOT is being made of narcissism as deliberate evil as symbolized by charming vampires, merciless terminators and wicked witches orchestrating hoards of flying monkey minions. “They know what they’re doing,” we say. “They just don’t care how it affects who they’re doing it to.” But how aware and, more importantly, in control of themselves are they really?
When I was first introduced to Mother’s boy-husband, Motherfucker, in my early teens, he was a chill dude. Pulled up in a Volkswagon van, followed The Grateful Dead. Earlier same day her and a co-worker of theirs – I think his name was Bernie or something, had a lazy eye – were tonguing their goodbyes as she had apparently settled on this one of many suitors. That’s how chill Motherfucker was. And, when he was stoned, he returned to that chill, half-decent state of human-beingness. It was almost nice.
But as the years with Mother progressed, he became an increasingly neurotic, insecure, extremely passive-aggressive rageaholic. Even when Mother visited with female friends, this guy would take a day off work to monitor her behavior. Her friends hated him. My friends hated him. In the mornings, he would just silently glare at me with this angry eye I could see through the crack between my partly opened bedroom door and the frame, clenching his jaw. Weird. My siblings and I would make ourselves scarce when he arrived home from work because we didn’t know what kind of mood he would be in but a bad mood was a safe bet. He didn’t like us and moved out once because he couldn’t stand us.
To err is human. To forgive is divine, but to repeat is stupid.
For those of us estranged from our families during the family fetishized holidays shoring up the end of the year, the pressure to forgive and forget can be especially pronounced. Society at large tells us that – to borrow a turn of phrase from the poet, Alexander Pope – to err is human; to forgive, divine. And that the victim is the perpetrator, the betrayer, the pariah should forgiveness be withheld — to be pitied, subjected to public scorn and, ironically, unforgiven for being unwilling to forgive. Rather than emphasis on understanding and compassion, this is institutionalized blaming of the victim that I think most of us were raised to believe, wrongly.
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.
Like many (if not everyone) recovering from narcissistic abuse, I deal with my share of flying monkeys: enablers manipulated into serving the narcissist as their minions who seek to restore the status quo. And I find few things more validating than reading, hearing or seeing the recordings from other survivors of exchanges with the narcissistic abusers and flying monkeys that they’re dealing with. So this Flying Monkey Autopsy segment is for sharing and deconstructing my own contributions with a dash of reflective analysis for good measure.
The first flying monkey cooling on the slab is from my final email exchange with Sister.
Re: So Much For An Easy Morning
This is the email subject under which Sister begins her message to me.
Translation: You’ve inconvenienced me.
I had removed Sister and several dozen others from my list of so-called Facebook friends that I felt I didn’t have meaningful relationships with or were professional contacts that I felt didn’t belong connected to a personal account of mine.
Translation: I don’t give you permission to leave me.
Never mind what precipitated my decision to unfriend her. She’s telling me from the get go that my reasons aren’t important to her. Only the results.
The infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges …
— John Milton, Paradise Lost
Mother steps out the backdoor of her newly installed, manufactured home with a pot of warm leftovers. From a few yards away, peering out of the window of the dilapidated camper trailer that I lie forgotten in, I can make out the steam rising from the food as she pushes it with a large wooden spoon into the dishes of grateful dogs, hungrily lapping it up. Lucky them, those obedient pets. They haven’t failed her as I have. Haven’t disappointed her. I haven’t eaten in three days and resigned to the idea that my lifeless body won’t be found for many more days to come, mere feet away from where Family breaks bread and give smiles to one another. At least the maggots will eat as well as the dogs. For that, they can also thank Mother.
“Oh god! Oh god! Oh god!” Mother is crying out, punctuated by her boy-husband, Motherfucker’s grunts. The window’s open so that the entire neighborhood can receive each explosive thrust of this howling tryst, especially Father well within earshot just next door. Wheels on the metal bed frame are catching air, slam slam slamming against the floor. The second floor. Beneath ground zero, my friend, Steve, gives up, gets up from the couch he was trying to sleep on in the living room and goes to my room where I’m laying in a fetal position with a pillow wrapped around my head, also trying to ignore the punishing humpfest upstairs.
“Are they ever gonna stop?” He asks, exasperated.
Mother’s eyes grow round with horror as she looks upon me transformed into a monster. I must be terrifying but I feel nothing. Nothing but an endless serenity disconnected from the chaos playing out before me on the big screen in a darkened theater. The movie being shown feels unreal, strange like a dream. Only, it’s not really a movie.
The term scapegoat is derived from the Book of Leviticus 16:8
And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel.
Azazel, meaning “for complete removal” in Hebrew, has become translated to scapegoat in English over the millennia since. The sins of the people would be given to this animal and banished to the wilderness. The other “for the Lord (the Hebrew god, YHWH)“ goat, I think, can reasonably be interpreted as the favored Golden Child in the narcissistic family dynamic. It bears mentioning that both goats are sacrificed but only the scapegoat has a fighting chance, albeit a very poor one.
Sobbing uncontrollably like a weepy, open wound that just won’t heal, I’m sitting, wilted in defeat, across from a counselor at Tacoma Community College who is patiently, very patiently, listening to me blubber out word sounds. He’s a professor and, as it happens, a psychologist. After a few minutes, he leans forward and says to me, “I think you should cut contact with your brother until you feel that you’re ready to contact him again.”