So you’ve managed to escape from the evil clutches of a narcissist. Congrats! But the nightmare isn’t over yet. The moment you leave a narcissist, they will immediately launch their flying monkeys and smear campaigns to tarnish your name and reputation.
By talking trash about you, spreading lies, and letting others know how horrible you are, a narcissist will feel vindicated and satisfied regardless of how your relationship ended. These smear campaigns are usually deliberate, calculated, and ugly operations that aim to spread poison in your life and your networks.
Narcissist smear campaigns are one of the most difficult things to deal with after leaving narcissistic abuse. What makes it worse is when they are enabled by their flying monkeys and you get abuse by proxy.
How do you not get tangled up in the web of lies and deceit that a narcissist creates when it’s aimed at destroying you and your reputation?
It really hurts because you think:
- How can somebody I love so much be so heartless and cruel?
- How can they lie so blatantly about me when all I wanted was to love them and look after them?
This doesn’t have to necessarily be a person you’re in a relationship with. It can be your boss or colleague at work. This could be a friend. It could be a toxic parent.
A narcissist has a deep wound, a childhood trauma, that leaves them with such a deep sense of shame. If that pain threatens to come to the surface it will completely overwhelm them. It will deny their entire existence – this grandiose persona they have created – to hide that wounded child inside.
If you start to break away from that narcissistic person and it’s clear they’re losing control of you, they fear you can see them for who they are. And can go from the heroic protagonist one minute to the wounded victim the next. They must win at all costs. By that I mean they have to control the narrative.
They fear you’re going to reveal the truth about them. So, they’ve got to control that and make it their truth, their narrative, which is that they are the victim. You abused them, not the other way around. They are out to destroy you before you can destroy them. And because they want to win at all costs they engage flying monkeys to help them do their work.
I love that term.
“There is a difference between supporting someone and feeding someone’s narcissism. One is support and the other is not.” – Fathom
I’m old enough to remember the Wizard of Oz. For those of you who aren’t, the Wicked Witch literally had these flying monkeys that would go and do her dirty work. And it was only after Dorothy threw water at the wicked witch and she melted away, was the spell broken. The flying monkeys apologized to her and said they were only doing as there were told.
Abuse by proxy
Flying Monkeys are those people who are around the narcissist, also known as Enablers, that do the narcissist’s bidding. They’re either very naïve and get manipulated by the narcissist to believe their story and repeat the lies about you. They may even betray you and tell others that you are unstable. You’re the crazy one, not the narcissist. Or, they may be other toxic people, a little toxic group who are supporting each other and smearing you.
They’ll do this by telling people you’re the crazy one, or you’ve been having affairs. All sorts of campaigns to smear your reputation and your name.
- If it’s a family member it would be that you’re ungrateful or cruel to them. You never thank them for anything.
- If it’s a boss they may smear your name within the industry you work in. It can be a devastating smear campaign.
Countering smear campaigns
So, what do you do in the face of a smear campaign, which is what many of you have been asking me?
The most important thing of all is to walk a line of integrity. I call it the straight, honest line that you walk in the midst of this smoke bomb of lies they have set off around you.
Don’t try to convince them that their smear campaign is wrong. Don’t go on the defensive. You have nothing to defend yourself against. You’ll never win. Don’t engage at all. I mean, any engagement. If you do they’ll feel they’ve got some control over you still.
Was it Kate Moss or Vivienne Westwood that said: Never complain, never explain.
Don’t complain – don’t say negative things about the narcissist to others. Hold your head high. If you start reacting negatively and emotionally, rather than choosing a rational, adult response to this behavior then you play into their hands.
They’ll say: You see I told you he/she is crazy!
Understand that they honestly believe they are the victim and that you have done them wrong. That’s that deeply wounded inner child telling them that. You’ll never convince them otherwise, so don’t engage. Reacting to them playing that dramatic victim role is not only going to hurt you, it’s won’t help you either. If you get as emotional as they do, you’ll fulfill their prophecy that you’re the unstable one.
Want to know more about this? Check this video out below!
How to recover from smear campaigns
“Withhold admiration from a narcissist and be disliked. Give it and be treated with indifference.” – Mason Cooley
Accept that you may lose friends in the process. Some of these flying monkeys won’t come to you later and say I’m sorry, I see the truth now as Dorothy’s did. You need to decide which of your friends are the ones who matter. They’re the ones who believe you and have the same core values as you do. The ones who are as close to your authentic self as possible. The rest you may have to let go of.
If you can go no contact with the narcissist it’s the best way. Opt-out of their game by going no contact if you can. And if you have to have contact because of children then try to limit that to a discussion about logistics, keeping all emotion out of it.
Don’t try and explain yourself. Don’t question their lies because they believe them – it’s their truth. You’re never going to win. They’ll use any emotional reaction to manipulate the situation further. So, try not to react. Choose your response, even if you have to take deep breaths first. And walk that straight honest line – the line of integrity.
You know what they’re saying is not true. It hurts, I know. But you know they are lying. So, disengage. Let flying monkeys go, who are hurting you. Don’t try to feel you have to people please to them or explain yourself. Forget trying to convince them they’re wrong. It’s just not going to help you.
You know, smear games at campaigns are really hurtful because what they do throughout your relationship is to gather and store information about you. Personal stuff they see as your weakness, that they can reveal later if they need to. That weaponry is painful and harmful.
Just stay true to yourself no matter what. Know who you are. Let people go who are joining in. And keep your head high as you keep walking forward. Don’t look back.
If you’re not joining in the game with emotional reactions. If you stay calm and serene, it will become apparent to others after a while, who the one jumping up and down creating drama is. You may even find that if you walk a straight honest line, moving forward with those blinkers on, one day some of those flying monkeys do work out the truth.
Perhaps they will say: I’m sorry I didn’t realize the extent of what you went through.
So, don’t complain or explain. Disengage and keep your head held high. Stay true to who you are and hopefully one day it will all go away. You’ll be left with the friends who matter and be stronger for it.
Written by Vivian McGrath Originally appeared on Vivian McGrath