An empath kind of like a telepath, except that instead of others’ thoughts, they receive others’ feelings.
Instead of receiving thoughts through your “head” or mind space, they often receive emotions, feelings and sensations through their body or “bodily field of awareness” (just like emotions and feelings are felt in the body by the emitter-person).
Perhaps by way of the infelicitous naming (empath – empathy), I keep encountering the misunderstanding that an empath is someone who is very empathic (perhaps to the point of burning themselves out). That’s like saying that a telepath is someone who is very thoughtful, to the point of their head exploding – it’s not necessarily true and misses the main point.
An empath is someone who receives others’ feelings from the “ether”, so to speak, like a telepath receives thoughts. The empath does not have to empathise (deliberately put themselves into another’s shoes) for that any more than the telepath has to think.
It’s more a passive process of simply receiving, out of the blue, or upon focussing on someone with your senses, emotions or mind.
Just like a telepath can be thoughtful, or not, depending on whether they decide to exercise their capacity for thinking, an empath may be empathic, or not, depending on whether they choose to exercise they (non-psychic) ability for empathising (deliberately taking another’s perspective.
Just like a telepath may include some of the thoughts they receive from others in forming their own thoughts and conclusions, an empath may use the psychic information they receive both in their thinking and in growing their capacity to empathise; but receiving this material and using it are still two distinct, in part independent processes.
I hope that this makes the difference sufficiently clear.
If you had been in doubt, does it for you?
If you need examples, many are sprinkled into the empath how-to articles.
For a more literary or metaphoric account of what it’s like, you can read this piece on Hemingway.