This one isn't going to be easy to explain, but I shall do as best I can.
The World Book dictionary's definition of the word "empathist (which has been corrupted through the years by the young - myself included)" is: A person who maintains rapport with others through empathy.
And now the definition of the word empathy: The quality or process of entering fully, through imagination, into another's feelings or motives.
The etymology is derived from the Greek word "emp'atheia," meaning, "en" = in + "p'athos" = feeling.
¤Puts down dictionary¤..."and there ya go!" ...J/K!!! Actually, I believe that whoever wrote those definitions was using their imagination to try and describe an ability that quite frankly, they didn't possess.
Empathy isn't JUST a relation to a person, place, or thing...but a bond formed of psychic feelings and impressions. An empath is blessed AND cursed, with the ability to form a bond, made up purely of feelings with another person, place, or thing. Some of the abilities that are empathist staples are as follows, and in no particular order...
1) Heightened (stronger) emotions.
2) Comprehensive understanding over a broad scope of (if not ALL) emotions.
3) Capacity for want/need of self-sacrifice - giving, basically.
4) Excellent communicatory abilities.
7) Emotion reception.
Empaths are "all about" feelings. They can pick up feelings (and some thoughts) from others, about things, experiences, and feelings they do not know (by learning, experiencing, and feeling) through that bond. It comes as first nature for an empath to do this - as natural as a thumb on a human. So natural infact, that often an un-trained empath has no control over this ability and can do it involuntarily. This can often be mis-interpreted as: an act of previously spying (snooping around) on someone, coincidence, evil, or just plain being "weird." But those who don't have this ability but know those of us who do, KNOW that we carry this great responsibility as best we can. This is both a gift AND a burden.
Being an empath, means living a life where you face not only your pain, but the pain of others as well. Luckily, the same can be said of the good times; and feelings of happiness as well. Being in a position to be able to help those that seem often beyond help, because empaths can experience their pains which most others could never understand. Often being made into loners by their powers, and ostricized from society because of it's inability to comprehend empaths; or their gifts. Empaths have very rich (if occassionally eccentric) personalities, flairs for the dramatic, senses of character, and strongly rooted codes of honor, morality, and humanity. Healers, feelers, listeners, speakers, writers, poets, romantics, and visionaries. All these things, empaths are; and so much more.
The only three downfalls that empaths possess with consistency, are as follows...
1) Being tortured by the pain they feel from others, through the bond they form. Empaths with heightened emotions can sometimes feel someone else's pain, even STRONGER than the person who's experienced it, first-hand.
2) Being mis-understood by others for their abilities. Being mis-understood by others for being different, which is often caused by the effect that empathy has on an empath's personality. And being mis-understood by others for seeming too good to be true...or too good, period!
3) This is a tragically sad truth, but empaths (who have a deeper understanding, sense, and capacity of and for love) more often than not, have the damndest time, finding someone who can love them. They can love SOOOOOOO deeply and so quickly, that they scare the other person off - sometimes even accused of being obsessive or having fake feelings. These feelings are not fake, but it COULD be called obsessive behavior. This is because an empath (by their gift) can cut down the amount of time it takes to know someone emotionally, mentally, and spiritually...FROM years, TO weeks or days or yes...even hours. This being said, it can be (to an empath, anyway) like they've known and loved you for years...so would it be so wrong to be obsessive over someone you've known and loved for THAT long? But the truth still stands as their (in my personal opinion and experience) biggest weakness. Empaths are often times doomed to be able to do all they want, EXCEPT, what they need (and want) to do the MOST...which is simply to be with someone who can not only accept them for what, and who, they are (hard enough, sometimes), but also be able to return that which empaths command with un-equaled grace and ease...love.
As you could try and "empathize" (a little empath humor :) with us on this, being an empath is a HUGE responsibility. We are the owners and guardians of a great power. Wards to a knowledge that only our archetype possesses. As opposed to psy-vamps (Psychic Vampyres), we use our abilities for the better of all the world. Although both our kind need acceptance and love to keep going, we prefer to earn it...instead of taking, or making all things involved in it's aquiring become fake.
I probably shouldn't mention this, but some of us rare or more developed empaths have a couple of psy-vamps traits. Here are a few listed below...
1) Emotion projection. How'd you like to get vengeance on that guy who picked on you in high school, by making his g/f either hate him or love you? Now you (basically) can, with this nifty and dispicable discipline!
2) Stonewall of ("UGH, I prefer to call it 'indifference!'") apathy.
3) E-bomb. Yep folks, the good ole "E-motion bomb!" Imagine what it's like...for an empath dealing with all their downfalls for extended periods of time...with no solice and understanding, except that which they find in the drying spots in their saline soaked pillows, to build up negative feelings of regret, un-founded guilt, apathy, and anger against a world that can't or WON'T accept them. Now imagine it building up inside them like a pressure cooker with the lid welded shut! Now imagine how much more "explosive" emotion an empath feels. Makes for quite the fireworks display when one of these beauts goes off. Last time I remember an E-bomb (psy-vamp style) going off...we called it...COLUMBINE!!!
Ultimately, all I've done is summarized what an empath is, and can do. To understand all an empath's details and intricacies however (let alone KNOW them), you'd have walk a mile in their shoes. But to walk in an empath's shoes, you'd have to BE an empath, yourself. And since only empaths can walk in the shoes of others, I'm afraid to say, "you're shit outta luck." =|
Well it is my supreme hope in finishing this entry, that you have learned enough about empaths to be able to understand, be compassionate with, like, and maybe even accept and love them.