It would be both cruel and inhuman to keep on saying, ‘You, the patient, are this very moment bringing sickness upon yourself’, that is, perpetually to resolve the actuality of the sickness into its possibility. It is true that he brought the disease upon himself, but he did that only once; the perseverance of the sickness is a simple consequence of the fact that is what he once did its progress is not to be referred every moment to him as its cause. He brought it upon himself, but one cannot say, ‘He is brining it upon himself.’ No so with despair. Every actual moment of despair is to be referred back to its possibility; every moment he despairs he brings it upon himself; the time is constantly the present; nothing actual, past and done with, comes about; at every moment of actual despair the despairer bears with him all that has gone before as something present in the form of possibility. This is because despair is an aspect of spirit, it has to do with the eternal in a person. But the eternal is something he cannot be rid of, not in all eternity. He cannot rid himself of it once and for all; nothing is ore impossible. Every moment he doesn’t have it, he must have cast or be casting it off – but it returns, that is, every moment he despairs is not a result of the imbalance, but of the relation which relates to itself. And the relation to himself is something a human being cannot be rid of, just as little as he can be rid of himself, which for that matter is one and the same thing, since the self is indeed the relation to oneself.
- Søren Kierkegaard Guest Series: The Sickness unto Death (1849)